A 2007 study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that 58% of bullies in the workplace are women. Female bullies choose their own sex to bully 70% of the time. Sound crazy? Yes, and you can learn how to recognize workplace bullying and know what you can do about it.
Ladies, how are we ever going to break through the glass ceiling if we are clawing our way over each other to get through it? I mean, where is the camaraderie and support that women should be giving each other especially in times of need?
Years ago, a good friend suffered from what would be called workplace bullying from another woman. ‘Kim’ was working on her master’s degree while applying for the doctorate program at the same school. Kim’s advisor, a woman, was extremely jealous of Kim’s relationships with other professors and her outgoing personality. Long story short, Kim did not get into the doctorate program. Why? The department chair told Kim her ‘female’ advisor single-handedly convinced committee members that Kim would not be an asset to the program. End of story? No. Kim attended graduate school elsewhere and is a well-published formidable leader in her field.
What are some reasons women bully other women?
A 2008 census done by Catalyst, a nonprofit research group, found that “women make up more than 50% of management, professional and related occupations, and yet only 15.7% of Fortune 500 officers and 15.2% of directors are women.” With stats like this no wonder women are behaving as cut-throats with other women. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not justifying destructive behavior I am looking for understanding.
Women are tired of being mistreated and ignored. They are no longer tolerating lack of respect and recognition. What’s the result of this frustration? Women attacking other women! Why? Because it’s safer than attacking men!
Why do women find it easier to bully women than men? Women are less apt to strike back - especially if the bully is her boss. Another reason – since so few women make it to the top their main objective is to prevent other females from toppling their conquest. One mistake in understanding the reasons women bully other women is to assume it’s because they are vulnerable. The real reason is the ‘other’ woman is known to be a go-getter, competent and smart. All qualities that promoters notice. So, when the quota for women at the top is small, one way to reduce the competition is to eliminate it.
Friend or foe? How to tell
1. Women bullies treat men and women differently. They communicate better, share more information, and provide more opportunities to men.
2. Your lady boss uses a strategy that messes with your head. This can be anything from obvious stares to rude comments made to “supposedly” out of earshot employees. All this to undermine your confidence and, as an added bonus, make you paranoid.
3. The female bully has little respect for a positive attitude. Shame on you for looking at a problem as an opportunity. Negative seeds sound like this - she reminds you that ‘so-and-so’ is not finished yet. You hear things like, “Sue seems more interested in gossiping than getting her work done on time.”
4. She wants you to be afraid – of HER. Playing the fear card is intimidation. Mind games are especially abusive since they keep you guessing about what is coming next. Does it work? You bet and she knows it.
Being bullied? Take these steps
1. First you have to recognize and admit to yourself that you are the target of a bully. This isn’t easy but necessary before you can move forward.
2. Name that bully. Call it bullying or emotional abuse. HR responds better when there is a name they can write in their report.
3. Research your HR and legal options. Taking action from a source of power is always the best alternative. Depending on the seriousness of the bullying, you need to discuss it with another person, first, who has the influence and authority to remedy the situation with whatever means possible.
4. Gather the statistics on what this bully is costing the company. You’re smart – figure out the time lost, the mistakes made from being under stress, absenteeism, turnover rates, and lost productivity.
Dealing with bullies requires a systematic approach. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a bully follow the above steps, set your boundaries and influence your situation.