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Show compassion for ‘copycat’ co-worker … up to a point

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  "There is a new woman in our office who has started to copy everything I do. She tries to dress like me, look like me, and act like me. After complimenting my clothes, she asked where I bought them. A few days later, she showed up in a duplicate outfit. She looked in my purse to find my make-up, then went out and bought all the same brands. Today was the last straw. I had an apple for a snack yesterday afternoon, so this morning my coworker showed up with apples. She never brought apples before. I am getting so irritated that I can’t stand to be around this woman.  What can I do about this?"  —Don’t Need a Clone

Answer: Your copycat coworker sounds both weird and annoying. But since you have to work with this pathetic person, you might as well view her imitation as a bizarre form of flattery.  

You can’t stop her from choosing clothing and makeup similar to your own. And you can hardly tell her not to eat apples. However, you absolutely must prevent her from going through your belongings.

If you have any further evidence that she is looking in your purse or examining the contents of your desk, make it explicitly clear that this is not acceptable.  If your desk has a lock, start using it.

Should she ever start doing really creepy things like calling you at home or showing up in unexpected places, you should immediately talk with your boss or human resources manager.  Your unwelcome admirer probably isn’t a stalker, but you can’t be too careful.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah August 21, 2017 at 5:07 am

I feel so much better reading all these comments knowing I’m not alone. I’ve been working with this girl for 8 years and when the copying first started, it was so subtle I didn’t really notice it. I’d share my “shopping intelligence” with her, like where I got what I got or which websites are having a sale, stuff like that. At first I didn’t mind she ended up with the same items that I got. Friends share, right? But over the course of a few years (especially toward the end of her marriage), the copying became more and more obvious and annoying.

The turning point being one morning we showed up at work wearing the EXACT same outfit from top to bottom — earrings, sweater, shoes, and bag. Same brand, same style, same color, same everything. From that point on I stopped sharing with her where I shop. But it’s not hard to figure that out especially if something is designer. I started to find her behavior a bit stalker-ish when she seems to know everything I post on FB even though she never “likes” any of the posts. When she saw I got three pairs of shoes on FB, she had to go out and buy four. You know, petty things like this.

She told me the Hermes bags (which I own a few) are “fugly” then a month later she dropped like $8,000 on one, saying their bags have “grown on her.” So I got on Invisalign, and guess what? She suddenly decided her teeth needed fixing too and got on Invisalign as well. She overheard me chitchatting about face masks with another colleague, and guess what? A few days later she messaged this colleague out of the blue recommending a face mask. She would keep track of how many halter neck tops I have (“Oh, is this your sixth halter neck this summer?”) and ordered similar ones if she couldn’t find the same. When a few guys at work asked me out on dates which I turned down, she would go and ask them out. I think it has officially crossed the line of annoying and become creepy.

Turns out everyone in the office has noticed it years ago but no one dared to say anything to me because they thought she and I were “best friends.” Now they warned me that if I’m dating someone nice, I should never introduce him to her because she’s “the kind of person who would steal your boyfriend” — apparently she had done so before I started working here. People like her are waaaay past copycats — they are out looking for someone to replace so they feel less pathetic and miserable about their life.

People say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but honestly I can do without a lot of this so-called flattery.


Anonymous February 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Me too!! It’s been three miserable years and I feel like I’m watching my identity being stolen. My copy cat mimics my accent, my hairstyles, buys my clothes, buys my perfume and it’s the little things I thought no one notices about me that she copies. Everyone thinks I’m being petty but they just don’t understand how annoying it is. THIS IS NOT FLATTERING AT ALL


Lisa February 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Wow..thank you all for sharing..I was beginning to feel like I was going crazy. I work in a small office and literally share an office with my co-worker (split with a partition)..but everything I do..she does. When I started, she was ok..seemed really nice..then slowly but surely it was like watching someone steal your identity. She would ask where I get my clothes and try to dress just like me. My professional email signature is rather unique and she literally copied the same thing and added one word. I always eat lunch at my desk,.she says to me one day: “You never go out, you just eat those microwave meals”…I said yeah, I buy my lunch for the week and that way I don’t have to go out. Well, for someone who used to go to lunch everyday when I first started, guess who came in to work one day and said, “I pulled one of your moves and brought my lunch for the week”,..what’s creepy is that it was LITERALLY the same exact kind of microwave meals. Its just been a series of things. At first I was like well maybe she has low self esteem and tried to be empathetic for her but then I saw that she was using this to her advantage by asking questions and then either going to do the exact same thing or making it seem as if she ‘used” to do the things I do now as a way to make it ok. I feel too weird to say anything to my boss about it because (1) it feels weird to verbally share with another person and (2) we are both older than the boss so it feels petty, but I feel that it will ultimately get to that point. I have gone to her and tried to express that if we continue to do things the same way, the boss will miss out on our unique individuality that we both bring to the table. This went no where. In fact, she tried to imply that she was “scared” of me. I was like WTF?Then she says “I mean that respectfully” and Im like yeah, that’s weird, and I mean that respectfully. I don’t like being like that with someone but I don’t know what else to do.


Pat January 31, 2017 at 5:25 am

This happens to me as well. I work in a small office and I feel like I am shopping for the entire office. The ladies are always asking where I get my clothes, shoes, jewelry it does matter. What is irritating is when they come to my office door and just stand there with something on identical or as close as they can possibly get. I have told some of them that it is irritating. Now they just lie and say my husband bought it. Yeah right! I was told yesterday it is the highest form of flattery. I responded BS. I told them that from now on I will go out and make my purchase and call them and let them know where I got my items from. It may be petty to so.e people. However I don’t want to walk into an office and everyone is dressed alike. One lady told our COO that I copied her after she commented that we dressed alike. I’m sorry. Petty or not. I quickly snapped and said ” Do I look like I am trying to dress like her?” I could write for days…


karen December 12, 2016 at 9:57 am

I am sorry everyone is going through this but relieved that it’s not just me that’s experiencing it. I’ve been having the same problem with a co worker for the past 8 months- doing everything I do copying my hair, clothes even stories I’ve told about my family she retold and put her family into story and retold it to my coworkers who all looked at her and said “wow- someone else just told us that same thing last week”…….???? It doesn’t feel like flattery it feels creepy & stalk-ish. Maybe with a shirt – you can feel flattered that they liked your style but not with trying to adopt your entire life and make it theirs and flaunt it as if you won’t notice. I can’t stand it.


Lakee October 30, 2016 at 11:33 pm

I shared this phenomenon with my male cousin and he laughed and thought I was being slightly petty. I get how it can sound and I understand imitation as flattery; but this co worker, I just have a feeling I should watch out for. Okay, story is I started this job and the CW was there 3 weeks before me. Within our group, I felt a connection with her. Easy to talk to and I thought helpful. Soon, I noticed during conversation, if she was not accepting of a changing rule, she would speak for both of us. That’s a red flag for me. I can speak for myself and I did not share her views, I think you should be adaptable and flexible to change. But, the kicker is that I am a witty person as well as charismatic, so I’ve been told, and during conversation, I May say something funny or a cliche of some sort. Next thing I know, she’s using my quotes or witty sayings during meetings and huddles to make herself look good to our VP and team leader. I wear lipstick to work, makeup, and dress very nicely, I’m a little more high maintenance than the others. Next thing I know, she’s all dolled up next day, depending on what I’ve worn. She constantly asks me for help and takes credit as if she is knew the process all along. I drink tea and when I started, she was on the coffee wave with everyone else, now she’s a certified connoisseur of teas??How so, because she overheard me talking with some other ladies about the different kinds of teas I fancy and why!?? Seriously, I like to help but I refuse to take the back seat while someone else uses all that I am as a stepping stone. I know I have the presence to set the bars high, and usually, I’m disliked by a few insecure women, so I’m used to that wherever I work but this is ridiculous. I already have a CC, called my son. LoL… Sorry this sounds so petty but I can truly relate to these posts.


Cheryl October 28, 2016 at 10:28 am

My fashion sense is different from everyone I work with. A few months ago I had high lights put in my hair and due to it having natural curl I stopped blowing drying it and let it dry naturally. Within weeks, 4 girls either had high lights put in or started wearing wigs that looked like my hair. Thought it was odd, but then another one started dressing like me. She doesn’t wear exactly the same thing but what I wear that sets my outfit apart she has tried to duplicate. It is scary. A few years back a married co-worker that I became friends with took things to a whole new level. I was always telling her that I was looking a handsome, bald headed biker, I was at that time seeing one. Then I became involved with someone who lived in another state. She was planning on taking me to the airport to go see him, I gave her his number just in case of emergency. When I got off the plane he asked me why my friend had sent him a picture of herself? Told him I didn’t know. My visit went horrible by the way, when I returned and she picked up at the airport I had forgotten about the picture she sent. She had also left her husband. The next day at work she was no longer speaking with me and was now texting him all the time. She actually did go to see him as well, she could have him. It didn’t last, the next thing you know she is date a “bald headed biker” exactly what I told her I was looking for months prior. They even married, they are both huge now. One of my co-workers told me that, “she was always trying to be you”. Flattery is one thing, obsession is another and to loose a good friend because you want their life is scary. I use to have such anger toward her but now thanks to God, I feel pity. People can never be happy when they cause others so much unhappiness. She betrayed my trust in so many ways.


Michelle March 9, 2016 at 7:40 pm

This site has confirmed everything I have been going through for the pass six months. I just flat out told the person to back up give me my space. Constantly copying my hair styles, life style and everything I do, to the point what ever I eat , so sickening.


HOTMOM March 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm



jacinda September 30, 2016 at 4:51 pm

u hit the nail right on the head!! im going through the same situation- this lunatic even laughs like me now! i straight want to tell her to find her self…fast! my husband thinks im being petty.. but im gonna lose it!


Heather November 16, 2016 at 3:07 pm

I hear ya! So glad I found this site. My boss started dressing like me this past year and copying some of my mannerisms. It’s highly irritating and she doesn’t even seem phased that she is doing it! She asked me a year ago where I buy my clothes and then started coming to work dressed as me! I have my own style and so it was obvious when she started dressing like me. Today at work one of our coworkers said, “Oh you two look like you have the same shirt on”. I stayed quiet but almost spit nails! But I can’t say anything because she is my boss. Seriously, she has no clue she is being a copy cat??!!


Monalisa June 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm

It’s slightly comforting to know I’m not alone. My copycat coworker started with compliments on clothes/shoes that turned into inquiries of where I bought my items to inquiries about my personal life and listening in on my phone conversations and giving me her opinion on the topic. I was so creeped out and uncomfortable and although I would give her the cold shoulder, she wouldn’t stop. I finally sent an email and CCed my supervisor letting her know I was very uncomfortable with the things she’s done and to please stop.

I thought bringing it to light would end it but today she showed up with the same pair of shoes she asked about that can only be purchased online. I’ve been stalked before and don’t take these actions lightly. I don’t feel flattered in the least and don’t know what else to do except try my hardest not to look at her. It doesn’t seem fair though. I’ve been here much longer and now I’m stuck feeling uncomfortable every work day not knowing what her next stunt will be.


Bastian December 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I have one of those….but the seniority is different….I’m the new girl and the “old” girl has copied my hair, make up, clothes, attitude. I take pride in being different, it’s what makes me unique….she is infringing on my personal space and it makes me feel uncomfortable-It could be flattery but in all honesty I would rather she compliment me and just go on her merry way.


Carolyn Wilson July 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Susannna..I cannot believe your workplace copycat..i share the same story..minor deviations but hence i’m looking for an answer. I been working at the same place for 28 yrs. and this co-worker has been copying my style for 28 years. Now that I am in menopause feel like retiring.early bc she actually makes me sick and I literally cannot take it anymore. More recently, I purchased reading glasses with a chain..thought nothing much except that she wont copy this, well this past Thursday she walks in my cubiicle with glasses and a chain..I probably looked like i saw a ghost, i was speechless..My question is how do you address such a trivia issue ..i know it’s spiritually, i know she’s jealous, i know she’s fashionably challenged bc left on her own style, she really looks a mess..her mom and aunt drives the same car type of car I drive, she is now eating what i eat for lunch..her relatives have items like mine..i have prayed and reasoned with myself that it is nothing but mere jealousy but I’m really getting tired of her..i just don’t get it a mental illnes and she never compliments me..further she came into my last apartment many years ago and ditto hers the same..i vow to never ever let her into my newly built home…her actions are causing me to heavily dislike her alot..she’s not the only one in my life but the biggest copycat..My family is not tired of me talking about her but they say take it as a compliment..but i really can’t..she follows everything after me except Jesus Christ, Bible study, sexual immorailty- she’s seems demonic 2 me in a sense..write me back to let me know how you are doing with your issue, maybe it could give me some hope…


Susanna April 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I have a copycat who does not wear the exact same things I wear, but copies the style of clothing I wear. I know this sounds like it could be a coincidence, but when she started here, she wore baggy, shapeless clothes, flat shoes only, and no colors at all – only beiges, browns and blacks. Now, she’s pretty much imitated my much more tailored style and wears heels and pencil skirts regularly. She also shops at the exact same stores I do, even though one of them is online. I know for a fact, she did not shop here before, as when she first started here, I asked her what stores she liked so that I could buy her a giftcard, and none of my stores were on her list. It’s not just me that notices her change, it’s my coworker too. If she liked what I wore, and would say “Hey, that’s really cute” or something like that , it would be one thing. But she never says anything about what I wear and just shows up wearing something similar the next week. She’s even tried to copy my hair color, but it looked awful on her because her coloring is so different from mine. Anytime I talk to anyone she always tries to get in on the conversation, and she copies my figures of speech and my mannerisms. She and her husband bought the same car I did (color & everything) a few months after I got mine. When I went on a major vacation, she and her husband went on one 5 months later, even though they never go anywhere. I know it sounds petty, but to go through it day after day is really aggravating. I’ve wondered if there isn’t some mental disorder that makes people do this. I’m almost hoping she’ll see this post and recognize herself.


Law Firm Manager June 29, 2011 at 11:59 am

Copycats exist in every work place. A coworker gets a cup of coffee. You decide to do the same thing. You are a copycat. A coworker decides not to work hard. You decide not to work hard. I mean hey why should I work hard when the other person is a slacker? You are a copycat. A coworker says I am going to go to the local event. What a great idea, I had no idea about the local event. I will go, too. You are a copycat. You see someone wearing clothing in an amazing color of burnished ochre and happened to find something the same color and you buy it because it is such a pretty color. You are a copycat.

Granted, having noted this, there are varying degrees of copycats. The question becomes why is this person copycatting you to such an extent? I would state from the onset that you don’t want to go into analysis over this frustrating issue. However; there are two choices, social discomfort and mental illness.

Social discomfort – Ignoring that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; (notice I omitted using the words annoying, weird, bizarre or pathetic) the copycat may simply have absolutely no fashion sense and focused on someone who does. You. I am sure it must be more than strange to find someone wearing the exact same clothing as you. Prepare a mental agenda of thoughts, and speak with the copycat. Explain in a gentle manner that you noticed that she was wearing the exact same thing that you wore and wondered why, as people may think it unusual that you both purchased the exact same article. You may find that she is struggling to find her own identity and can give her a few tips. The first is to try not to buy the exact same thing as you or any other employee does. There are demarcation lines with this. Bottom line, Kmart is Kmart. The same articles that are there for one, is there for all. The same dress suit is a different thing all together.

Take the negative and make a positive. (What an amazing idea office coach!!!!!!!) This does not mean you have to be friends with the copycat but organize a dress up/down color day at your business. In my younger years we used to do this all the time. The colors for Friday are black and pink. Our group was challenged to find clothing in our wardrobe with those colors. We would all have lunch or dinner together after as a bonding initiative. Some of us look horrible in colors selected so we would opt out of the dress day but opt in for the dinner.

Mental Illness –The copycat may be going through a depression or some other type of psychological and/or personality disorder which is creating a problem with “boundary identification.” The copycat is “mirroring,” to an extreme. At this point, you MUST involve your Supervisor and/or Human Resources Department.

How do you make this determination? Here is the part that sends me on the pathway to the second option.
You state the copycat looked in your handbag to see what makeup you use. IF this is true, and you have verifiable proof, it is a caution sign. Obviously, no one should go into a coworker’s personal possessions without consent. Anyone who would, in their own mind, justify such an action, is in need of help. It does not matter if you had your handbag open in full view, a coworker does not have the right to go through your personal possession. There is a boundary issue. The Human Resources department should be advised of this and consider getting advice from their EAP or counselor/therapist to obtain proper criteria to handle this issue.


Susan June 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

She said she “looked in” her purse, which is not the same thing as “went through” … it may sound weird in context with the other copycat moves, but if they were friends it would be ok to comment on something you saw in someone’s open purse… reporting her to HR seems rather extreme and could cost her her job.
In my daughter’s middle school “copy cats” are usually just insecure girls trying hard to fit in with the right clothes, hair, makeup, even the food they pack for their lunch!
I know the workplace isn’t middle school, but I feel sorry for the socially awkward and would have patience … unless, as Marie said, it gets wierder/stalker-ish. I would also mention, re: the clothes, “I appreciate that you like my taste in clothes, but next time, why don’t you at least buy a different color so we don’t look like twins if I happen to wear that outfit the same day you do… it embarrasses me.”


Melanie June 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

OP should not wait for stalking to begin to report the co-worker. She should report to management that co-worker went through her purse. Co-worker should be disciplined for that.


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