Are You a Mean Girl at Work?

Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, authors of Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal, say they still exist and they've gotten craftier than ever.

“While it’s natural to assume that most women support other women and want them to succeed, that’s not always the case,” they write. “In fact, studies show that many women believe it is their female associates who are most threatened by the prospect of a woman in power. This is the next level of feminism. It’s time to take an honest look at how we treat one another in the workplace and strive for greater professionalism and support for one another.”

Mean girls come in all shapes and forms. Ask yourself if any of these “types” of mean girls ring true for you:

Meanest of the mean: The women who feel they must be mean in order to survive. An Ice Princess who’ll put on the charm for anyone who is in a position of authority, but she’s vacant and demeaning to everyone else.

Very mean: Tough on the outside and insecure on the inside. The office gossip who spreads rumors to make other women she doesn’t like look bad.

Passively mean: She fears confrontation but her mean comes out indirectly—though exclusion, omission and avoidance. She’ll “accidentally” exclude you from a meeting where your attendance matters.

Doesn’t mean to be mean: These are the women who are extremely self-absorbed and unaware of how their unconscious, inconsiderate behavior affects others.

Doesn’t know she’s mean: Self-righteous and controlling, these women boss you around they think you need the benefit of her knowledge.

Brings out your mean: You’re a nice girl, but these women drive you crazy with their incessant talking, constant questions, unending drama and sometimes bad behavior. Remember, it’s not your job to render justice in the office.

Group mean: The workplace clique that finds strength in numbers and who are all equally insecure.

Crowley and Elster say it’s important to examine your own behavior while dealing with difficult personalities at work. If you’re combating the meanest of the mean, keep a cool distance from her. But if someone brings out your mean, remember that personalities vary widely and it’s not possible to like everyone you work with. In the end, acceptance and space can cure almost all. That, and a stiff drink at happy hour.


Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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