How to Avoid Being the Workplace Bully

It can be hard to admit, but sometimes, we’re not as nice as we should be. Falling into bad habits such as office gossip and failure to include new employees can seem harmless, but they’re actually examples of office bullying. And especially between female employees, office bullying has harmful, lasting effects.

Here at GovFem, though, we’re determined to pick each other up and encourage a culture of female empowerment amongst government employees. So maybe you are guilty of accidentally being a mean girl. That’s okay. We’re here with some great tips on how to not let your competitive nature get the best of you, and what to focus on instead.

Remember that we’re all fighting the same fight. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you’re a woman in the workforce is that you’re not alone in your struggles of inequality at the office. It’s okay to be frustrated at the pay gap, or the fact that a male coworker with less experience got a promotion that you’re more qualified for. These are the challenges women in the workplace face, and they’re not isolated incidents. They’re also not something that should be shrugged off.

However, while these things may make you angry – and maybe you want to take it out on that new girl who you’re convinced is already making a move for your job – take a moment. Remember that the reason you’re feeling competitive isn’t your female colleague’s fault. It’s not really your fault either. Sadly, it’s just the system that we live and work in, and while changemakers are busy fighting the good fight for gender equality, you being mean to a female coworker isn’t helping anything. It may sound cheesy, but we really are all in this together, and trying to bring down another woman in the office is doing the opposite of what needs to be done.

Walk a mile in her shoes. If you’ve worked for your organization for a considerable amount of time, it can be easy to avoid the new girl, or any woman in the office you think might be a threat to your position. It’s understandable to feel defensive of your job and the work you had to do to get to where you are, but it’s important to understand her perspective. If she’s new to the office, she’s probably (definitely) nervous, scared, and desperate to make friends. Remember your first day? It’s scary to start a new job, and even scarier when the other females in the office are seemingly avoiding you.

Don’t let jealousy get the best of you. Instead, reach out. Compliment her awesome work ethic, or how cool her last job seemed, ask her how she heard about the position. Make an effort, because the smallest show of companionship can go far to bolster morale.

Even if there’s a coworker who’s been at the office for years, but you barely know her last name, it’s worth it to take some time to get to know her. Build a network at your office of strong, empowered ladies. That way you can create a domino effect, and before you know it, you may have an agency with all-female leaders.

Turn your negatives into opportunity. As we’ve already discussed, there are many issues plaguing working women in modern society. Collectively, we all face sexism in the workplace. And no matter what shape or form it comes in, it can feel toxic and draining. It can be tempting to give in to the pressures we feel from male coworkers, and while dragging down a female coworker, enacting gossip about her, or purposefully excluding her from things may seem like an opportune way to make yourself look better, it’s not.

Alternatively, make the most of those awkward situations and come together as women. Bond about ways you wish your office culture could improve, and then see what you can do to enact such change. Implement a culture of positivity, and of bringing each other up regularly. By making a habit out of always trying to say hello, grabbing coffee, and offering yourself as a mentor, friend, or helping hand, you can change the perception of how women are viewed, become a team of strong women that cheer each other on, and make strides towards gender equality all in one breath.

In a world where climbing the ladder to success can often bring about images of clawing and fighting one’s way to the top, it’s important to remember that we’re stronger together. Avoid being a workplace bully, and concentrate your energy on improving the workplace for generations of women to come. I promise, it’ll be worth it.


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Great article! However, I disagree with your following statement: ” Remember that the reason you’re feeling competitive isn’t your female colleague’s fault. It’s not really your fault either. Sadly, it’s just the system that we live and work in,…”

I find, for myself, that when I accept responsibility for my own behavior and improve on my behavior I earn more respect from both genders. I believe what’s wrong with our government, politics and society is that no one accepts the blame.


I agree with Nena, too. We are not helpless victims of “the system”; there are tools and resources available that can help us develop better communication skills. I recommend “Crucial Conversations” (Vital Smarts) – if you’re able to take a hands-on course, it’s wonderful, but you can also read their literature and access materials on their website. We had a terribly mistrustful, competitive environment in our office when I came aboard five years ago. Now that all of us have been through the CC training, it’s much improved. But regardless of which type of communication training aid you choose, the first step has to be accepting your share of responsibility for the problem and working on fixing yourself. And as Nena said, the result will be better communication and relationships with everyone, regardless of gender.

no bully articles, they are stupid

It would be my luck that when the new employees started and I was buried in work…that a government would label it as bullying. REALLY??? Ridiculous.

richard regan

Many times “taking care of yourself” particularly for women translates into covering-acting like a man. 61% of all workers cover in the workplace including 45% of white men. We would much better off recognizing and embracing the differences among our colleagues by “taking care of everyone” as opposed to “taking care of ourselves.”