Are You a Mean Girl?

For some people, high school never ends. Instead of letting go of their catty ways, they continue to bring their nasty attitude into their work and personal lives. To some degree, it’s shocking. Many of us assume that mean girl behavior might be something that people grow out like terrible AIM names (here’s to you, xXxRosaVixen1991xXx), but the trouble is that many hold on to their bad habits because they think bullying works. 

To be fair, it’s hard to argue in this day and age that bullying doesn’t work, especially with the USA’s current commander-in-chief and the litany of reality show stars whose claim to fame is based on being the nastiest, most cunning cast member. In the long run, however, mean girl behavior doesn’t pay—those attempts at power grabs often result from low-self esteem and lack of personal and emotional control. 

Stopping mean girls does not necessarily get easier with age. What do you do if the aggressor is your boss who takes pride in demeaning their staff? A colleague who is hell bent on getting you fired so they can get a promotion?  What if one of your friends is the mean girl and you’ve been enabling their behavior without realizing? What if you are the mean girl? Consider the following and decide for yourself: 


1) You’re busy, tired, and completely uninterested in doing grunt work. Surely this sort of thing can be foisted off on the new hire, right? Besides, they’re eager to please and it’s not like they’d know any better. And if they don’t accept your work, tell them that they may not be a good fit for the company, after all. That will inspire them. 

Art by Meagan Guild

Art by Meagan Guild

Bullying is not leadership. Dumping work on others is not mentorship. While you might think you have progressed past filing, managers notice their employees who take pride in their work, even the sorting-through-last-quarter’s-financial-folder-for-an-entire-afternoon work. New hires are generally eager to please and excited to help but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to give them your grunt work. Remember what it was like to be the new kid in the office, navigating politics and water cooler conversations on top of, oh right, work.  Not so great, right? 

2) With apps like Wut, Yik Yak, and Confide, being able to discuss work and relationships with your friends under the guise of complete anonymity has become easier than ever before. So, yes, it goes without saying that you’ll chat about your coworkers sometimes and, well, if no one knows that you’re the one doing the shit-talking…

Cyberbulling is becoming a more and more visible problem in today’s workplace. Unfortunately, due to the anonymity on many social media apps, it’s harder and harder to trace who is responsible for saying what. That said, cyberbullying is no different than any other relational aggression and can cause severe distress to the victim. Hiding behind a computer doesn’t make your words sting any less.  

3) As a concerned employee, it is important to tell your superiors if you think that your coworkers may not be pulling their weight. So, if one coworker happens to be late to work a few times, perhaps it’s best to tell your boss that you don’t think this coworker has the drive to last. The corporate world is cutthroat; no one has patience for second-best. 

Who died and made you the queen? It’s not your responsibility to determine who is and isn’t fit for the workplace; that belongs to your boss. Trust your boss to make the best decisions for the company. Even if you don’t agree, it’s not your place to throw a colleague under the bus. 

4) Gossip isn’t necessarily an evil, right? Right? Right. 

 Come on now. You know better. At least, you should. 


If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, then it might be time to re-evaluate your behavior. But what if you’re the one who is victim of mean girl politics? Steady on, you have the fight the problem head first. 

There are resources available to help you. In the US, Doctors Gary and Ruth Namie founded the Workplace Bullying Institute, which provides information on how to combat bullying, fight discrimination in the workplace, and maintain a healthy work environment. 

And while it’s sometimes easier to look the other way, don’t be a bystander. Report bullying behavior to Human Resources. Call it out when you see it. Resist the urge to dump all your grunt work on the intern. Whether you’re protecting victims, fighting against someone who is bullying you, or stopping the aggressive mean girl behavior that lurks in your heart, it’s important to create a better work environment for everyone. In the long run, bullies don’t win.