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.