• Thu, Jan 26 2012

10 Signs You Are An Office Mean Girl

According to a new Washington Post article, the office mean girl (or woman) is still very much alive. According to Cosmopolitan editor Kate White,82% of her readers agree that women have, in fact, gotten meaner. Selena Rezvani wrote, “While workplace studies show women are routinely underestimated compared to men, we don’t give much credence to the fact that women hampering other women is also to blame….Many of us have witnessed the man who comments on a woman’s hotness just as she leaves the room. But what about the woman who criticizes another’s appearance (Did you see what she was wearing in there?) or frowns on a woman’s unapologetic use of power (Just who does she think she is?)?”

Woman-on-woman bullying has increased in the last few years as women have officially become 50% of the workforce for the first time according to the Shriver Report. According to a 2007 Workplace Bullying Institute survey, though the majority of workplace bullies are men (60/40), female bullies target other women 71% of the time. Additionally, female bullies more frequently engaged in under-the-radar behaviors such as sabotage (53.7% of female vs. 39.9% of male bullies) and abuse of authority (50.2% vs. 44.7%), as compared to the more observable form of verbal abuse engaged in by more male (57.5%) than female bullies (47.1%). One reason women may take on other women: “They’re often less confrontational when attacked,” says Gary Namie, Ph.D., cofounder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, an advocacy group. “They tend to turn their backs on bad behavior in a way men might not.”

Rezvani said women, especially those at the top levels in their careers, may be experiencing some sort of “sexism amnesia.” She wrote, ” They may forget what it’s like to be junior, to have little sway, and to be underestimated as a young woman. When they finally do get to the top, they adopt the mindset of those around them and gloss over their past struggles. Even harsher is the sink-or-swim school of thought whose club motto is, “I was treated like dirt on my way up, so you should be too.” ”

Now hopefully, you aren’t one of these mean girls but if you are worried you may be or think you have one in your office, here are some signs to look for.


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  • Lastango

    That seems a very good list indeed! One telltale sign: the more attractive she is, the more you hate her.
    The application of all this meanness can come in subtle flavors. Here are a few:
    == You ensure your subordinates don’t develop relationships with higher-ups.
    == All their work goes through you, so it appears you had valuable input.
    == When a report goes up the chain, you make sure none of the contributors have their names on it. Only the department name appears — and of course, you make sure you are the face of the department.
    == You don’t pass on your insights or skills. (This is excellent technique, because it’s undetectable.)
    == You exclude subordinates from key meetings. They only know what you tell them, and top management never hears them talk.
    == You undercut your staff with vague remarks that are difficult for others to see through. If the president thinks Susan is a real asset to the company, you reply that “Sue (never ‘Susan’) is coming along well, and I hope she can improve her professionalism.” Similarly, “Cathy (never ‘Catherine’) has been able to contribute to the projects she’s been part of so far.” Susan isn’t ready for real responsibility — and may never get there — which is why you’ll be picking someone else when a slot for a promotion comes up, and Catherine is a plodding workerbee, not a leader or a createive force.
    == You like turnover. For anyone to challenge you, or for them to be acknowledged by anyone who matters, they have to be around for a while and establish themselves. You find ways to grind them down so they’ll move on.
    == You hardly every talk to them one-on-one. Not only would that beneath you, but it keeps your mystery level high. Mystery is one of the many structural ways you intimidate them.
    Following these ways, every day can be Halloween for miserable witches clawing their way to the top. Secure in their lofty perch they can focus on job #2: finding their Prince Charming who loves them for the beautiful person they really are!

  • AStewart

    There’s a woman in my team at work like this, I think she reacts badly to me because she’s a 40-something mother whose kids are flying the nest, whereas I’m the young 20-something who’s come in on a temp contract and taken part of her old job. Really, I’m supposed to allocate her work but she won’t let me by “doing it herself” as she “actually knows what she’s doing”. I’m also fairly certain she hides bits of work until they’re too old so I get in trouble for not having allocated then to anyone – every now and then she’ll go “Do you know anything about the REALLY old emails in the box?”.
    She also constantly makes swipes at my upbringing and education, always making snide comments and insinuating I went to a rubbish university (University of Manchester, England – it’s part of our Russell Group like your Ivy League!).