Stress causes irrationality, frustration and sometimes, our demons get the best of us. Remember that bully on the playground at recess who would ruin the rest of your afternoon because they called you a mean name, stuck their tongue out or stole your lunch. Transfer that bully 15 years later to the office. Ouch.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, it really exists) says that 37% of workers have been bullied. It further indicates that although it’s mostly men who are bullies, a good 40% of the bullies are women. The approach male bullies take is a “egalitarian, mowing down men and women pretty much in equal measure. The women appear to prefer their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70% of the time.”
An article in the New York Times reinforces the backlash this is causing, so is it naive to think women should be able to rely on each other and stick together? Women treating other women badly affects not only our morale, but how can women break through the glass ceiling if they’re avoiding verbal and emotional assaults from other women at work?
Why Women Choose Other Women as Targets
One suspect reason “is probably some idea that they can find a less confrontative person or someone less likely to respond to aggression with aggression,” said Gary Namie, research director for the Workplace Bullying Institute, which ordered the study in 2007. Another finding showed that women may sabotage one another because they feel that helping their female co-workers could jeopardize their own careers.
Let me interject by saying women have strived for equality for five decades. Women make up 50% of management, professional and related occupations according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group. Nonetheless, Catalyst’s census last year found only 15.7% of Fortune 500 officers and 15.2% of directors were women. Hard to argue with the facts.
Research on gender stereotyping from Catalyst suggests that no matter how women choose to lead, they are perceived as “never just right.” In addition, women must work twice as hard as men to achieve the same level of recognition and prove they can lead.
As women we feel we have to be aggressive to be promoted. Then once they are promoted the need to be a nurturer, collaborative and in touch with our emotions step in. Unfortunately, I think a lot of women constantly struggle with a gender balance in the workplace, which is where some of the confusion and need to bully might arise.
Is Bullying Necessary to Get Ahead?
In order to get ahead women do not need to bully their co-workers by withholding information such as promotions.
I firmly believe there is no need for bullying. There are many women who didn’t need to step all over people to get to the top. They weren’t passive, but they weren’t bullying asses. I encourage women to work for a common cause. Stop trying to be something you’re not and remember to be true to yourself while exercising both masculine and feminine qualities as you find a balance. A company that really respects their employees won’t care about the gender differences and will hire the right person for the position, regardless of gender.
Have you ever been bullied at work? If so, how did it affect your work?