Work can be stressful for the best of us.
Especially now with the return to in-person work environments, there are lots of factors to consider.
This can be an especially difficult time for women returning to work who are expected to continue juggling home life and work responsibilities.
But no matter what the reason, none of us should have to put up with exploitative, abusive or disruptive behavior.
For that reason, I’ve put together this list of some of the top signs that a woman in your office is unstable and insecure.
15 signs of an insecure woman in the workplace
1) Sucking up to superiors
One of the top signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is brown-nosing.
All of us like to be on the good side of our boss or supervisors.
But when it goes too far it becomes the unfortunate habit of sucking up.
Nobody liked the teacher’s pet in school; and nobody likes suck-ups at work, either.
They give the boss compliments even when it’s undeserved and they constantly judge and perform interactions only based on the power dynamic.
It’s cringe and it’s obvious.
The main reason isn’t usually that this individual is just a “jerk”; the main reason is usually that she’s trying to cover up for deep inner insecurity.
“Employees who are constantly looking to please and receive praise likely have an insecurity issue,” notes Eric Kristian. “Wanting to receive praise is fine, but others need external validation to feel worthy. This is in part linked to low self-worth.”
2) Backing down on commitments
People who are confident in their work performance and abilities do what they say they’re going to do.
If an emergency comes up, they’re delayed or they have to cancel they will let you know ahead of time and try their best to cover what they fell through on.
When dealing with an insecure woman in the workplace it doesn’t work that way.
She will often back down on commitments, and usually at the very last moment.
This becomes a big problem when it starts happening frequently and may contribute to her poor reputation and a host of other insecure behaviors she starts exhibiting.
What’s even sadder is that an insecure woman may begin using her stereotypical femininity as an “excuse” and relying on misogynistic male tropes about women being scatterbrained or undependable in order to get away with screwing up.
3) Playing the blame game
Along similar lines, another of the clearest signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is when she often blames others.
No matter what happens it seems to turn out that someone else messed up.
When the going gets tough or a project goes sideways because of a mistake or oversight she made, an insecure woman points the finger at someone else.
One or two times of this will usually just annoy an office or worksite, but after it happens five or ten times you will find employees actively trying to get the perpetrator dismissed.
Nobody enjoys being pegged for something they didn’t do, and insecure women who do this are toxic and intolerable.
So are insecure men who do this.
It’s just not acceptable in any way. Period.
4) Nitpicking others
When a woman doesn’t feel good about herself at work, one of the top signs is that she wants all the praise but none of the responsibility.
She’ll only do something if it’s easy and quick.
But then she’ll spend half the rest of her workdays undermining and nitpicking other employees who do take on responsibility.
It’s petty and it’s infuriating.
If you’ve had to deal with it then you know what I’m talking about.
And by the way, here’s why it matters when a woman does this in particular:
People don’t want to get angry at a woman or be rude to her.
There are still chivalrous guys out there.
And as for women, if they clash with a fellow member of the fairer sex things can get downright ugly…
“To subconsciously uplift herself, an insecure woman will negatively attack other women and perhaps even men. Such effects of insecurity can make her personality very unpleasant,” writes gender expert Gaurvi Narang, adding: “She will be quick to identify and point out the things that other people lack.”
5) Being easily offended
Let’s be honest, sometimes things happen at work that is legitimately offensive, especially to women.
Things like disrespectful catcalls, misogynist jokes, stupid comments about their relationships from office gossip girls (and guys) and so on…
That’s fair and it’s not cool. So when a woman reacts angrily to stupid rumors and gossip then you can’t really blame her.
But one of the biggest signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is a woman who simply gets offended by everything.
It’s word-policing and nagging and shrill criticism 24/7.
No matter what other colleagues do, it seems like this insecure woman is on their case and has them as suspect number one.
Needless to say, this creates a super toxic environment at work.
“This will change your behavior and make you feel like you’re walking on broken glass continuously. You know the tiniest thing will set her off.”
6) Toxic positivity
The only thing worse than someone who’s constantly depressed and negative is someone who smiles 24/7 for no reason.
Everyone knows what I mean.
That woman in the office with a brittle voice and permanent smile who ignores everything you say and condescendingly nods and smiles no matter what.
It’s extremely frustrating and extremely fake.
“I bring a smile with me most places I go,” says Steve Erry. “But pretending that you don’t sometimes have crappy days is like looking at the soggy grey clouds rolling overhead and thinking, damn, this sunshine is gorgeous.”
In other words, it’s fake and it’s annoying.
It also means someone is insecure and putting on a front.
Being a downer everywhere or putting people down is awful, but constantly forcing positivity and bright and cheery interactions even when things are a little somber is borderline aggressive.
Everyone wants to say: “Hey lady, just chill.”
But they know that even if they did she would just smile cheerily and say “Well, I hear the weather will be getting better next week! Always something to look forward to!”
Whoever thought someone being happy could be so goddamn annoying?
7) Writing cheques she can’t cash
The insecure employee wants recognition and kudos upfront, so she will often make promises she has no intention – or way – of keeping.
Writing checks that her behind can’t cash is par for the course.
And it leaves the rest of the work crew constantly high and dry.
“Absolutely, I’ll have those charts to you by Friday,” she promises.
One week after Friday they’re still not there and you’ve asked twice, at which point she says people need to stop treating her in such a sexist way.
This victim game is no fun for anyone.
And the result is that people begin not believing anything this lady says.
You now have a missing link in your company or work crew since people no longer bother even believing that she’ll send them an email, much less partner on a project or help out with a client.
8) Being passive-aggressive
Passive aggressiveness is like a harmless-looking cat who you pet and then get a two-foot scratch across your arm that takes three months to heal.
Passive-aggressive people act perfectly easygoing and kind one day and then turn into absolute psychopaths the next.
The result is that nobody knows if they can trust them and nobody wants to be around them.
Listen, all of us have bad days.
But none of us have the right to unload verbally and emotionally on people around us in order to manipulate them.
Passive aggressiveness isn’t just someone being stressed: it’s sociopathic manipulation.
“Passive-aggressive behaviors, such as giving backhanded compliments, ignoring a coworker, delaying a project until the last minute out of spite or purposefully excluding a team member, can taint the entire workplace like a dark cloud,” writes Baltimore Sun columnist John Boitnott.
“If being passive aggressive is a chronic behavior for you, it can be difficult to be aware of when you’re doing it, and even harder to make a change.”
9) Starting drama
There’s so much drama as it is you’d think that we’d all be cool with letting sleeping dogs lie.
One of the worst signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is when she is constantly starting drama.
Things about coworkers’ personal lives, rumors about the boss quitting that turn out not to be true, complaints to HR that are bogus, big personal monologues about crazy things happening in her life.
You know, that’s great honey.
But while you star in your own personal soap opera, the rest of us have work to do!
10) Judging others by their salary
As self-love coach Jennifer Twardowski writes, authentic, secure people don’t rely on material things.
“While they may enjoy material things, they don’t see it as ‘if I just have this one item, then I’ll be happy.’ They also don’t rate other people based on the material items that they have or don’t have because they know it doesn’t hold much meaning.”
When a woman is insecure she begins gravitating to topics like salary, raises, and bonuses like a moth to a flame.
She will gossip about it in the office, try to start drama over it, and subtly – or overtly – judge you based on what you make.
If you make more than her she’ll suck up to you or play passive-aggressive games to get your attention (including flirting).
If you make less than her she’ll look down on you or try to get you to do her dirty work.
It’s enough to make you ignore her whenever possible.
11) Unjustified complaining
Some days you just want to vent.
I’m right there, sister.
But a woman who is very insecure or upset in a work environment will become known for unjustified complaining.
In some cases, she may vent about things that barely even matter like how a vending machine down the hall doesn’t have good chocolate bars or how the parking lot is always too full.
Well, great…we all noticed that already, girl.
Unjustified complaining brings everyone down and reminds us of all of the things which aren’t very great in life.
As I said, the only thing more annoying than this is complete toxic positivity at all times.
12) Offloading work onto others
Another of the top signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is offloading work onto others.
Whenever possible, this lady will try to get other folks to do work instead of her.
Even when doing that particular task is literally in her job description.
However, it will turn out that for whatever reason she’s never quite available to do it; and her plea for you to help her just this one time almost always avalanches into months of being shunted work from her pile onto yours.
Work that you don’t have time for.
The consequences of this are difficult because workplaces depend on cooperation.
And when people begin to feel they are being used by a colleague or boss they start tuning out.
13) Bragging frequently
If somebody just had a big win and they want to celebrate, go for it!
But routinely bragging is a lot different.
It’s grating, awkward and annoying.
When a woman in the workplace feels insecure she’ll often resort to this:
Listing off her accomplishments in a loud tone;
Back sassing coworkers and even superiors with “do you even know who I am?” type behavior.
And overall being a frustrating, egotistical person.
“People who are constantly bragging about their great lifestyle, their elite education, or their fantastic children may very well be doing so to convince themselves that they really do have worth.”
14) Extreme entitlement
One of the most important signs of an insecure woman in the workplace is actually hard to realize on the surface.
If you meet someone who’s very entitled you would expect it’s because they’re confident and well put together, right?
Well, generally it’s the opposite.
Entitlement is a refusal to prove yourself and do what everyone else does to earn their place.
It’s demanding you get yours “just because.”
And when an employee is acting this way it’s usually to mask inner sadness and insecurity that’s going on beneath the surface.
So on the exterior, they bark orders and put their feet up, because inside they feel like shit.
15) Being overly focused on looks
Men can totally fall prey to this too. But insecure women tend to get very focused on looks at work.
When a woman feels she is being undervalued in her job or not getting respect or attention she may turn to that age-old, cliched tactic that women have been trained to focus on.
This can be pleasant for guys in the office or around the job site, but it ends up becoming frustrating – especially for other women – that someone is so focused on their hair, nails, outfits and style that they barely pay attention to the job.
Looking great at work is…great. But having that be the only thing you care about is usually a sign of very low self-esteem.
“One thing I’ve learned is that people who become hyper superficial typically get that way because they believe that good looks are all they have to offer.”
Why can some workplaces be especially difficult for women?
I’ve worked with many women and found them to be charming, wonderful coworkers.
But the rare few who have been a problem for me brought up thoughts about exactly why.
And what I realized is that many of the most toxic women I’ve worked with had been shaped into that by the problems with the system which produced them.
What I mean is that most people want to work together and be productive, but when women who have been raised to feel on the defensive and less valued in a male-dominated environment often start displaying insecure behaviors.
In an insightful article for the Chicago Tribune, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett observe that women do have it worse than men – on average – in terms of promotion and recognition.
As they note:
“Women in female-dominated industries suffer from what has been called the glass escalator. White men in these fields rise more quickly than equally qualified women (and nonwhite men) in position, pay, and benefits.
It may seem that women in female-dominated industries would have a leg up, because female supervisors would be eager to promote members of their own sex, but they don’t. Intriguingly, female supervisors favor white men when it comes to promotion.”
This reality can lead to many women beginning to feel like the world is against them.
This can contribute to significant insecurity and a very hard time at work.
When you feel you aren’t being recognized or that you are being stereotyped because of your gender, it’s very hard to remain “cool” about it.
This leads to many of the insecure behaviors I’ve listed above.
In other words, if you’re looking at the top signs of an insecure woman in the workplace, keep in mind that solutions to these problems are going to have to come by fixing the root of the problem.
And that root is that women are still not valued equally to men.
And that needs to change before anything else will.