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Are women the worst workplace bullies?

If you are a female working in California or anywhere else across the country, you likely have experienced workplace bullying. But have you ever analyzed the sources of that bullying? Specifically, have you ever broken down your own workplace bullying experiences by gender; i.e., by whether the perpetrator was a man or a woman?

The reason why this may be an eminently important question is that a recent article on the Pocket.com website reports that ongoing research suggests — strongly — that women bully each other far more at work than men bully women.

Classic female bullies

Female workplace bullies appear to fall into the following three broad categories:

  1. The aggressive woman (okay, so the article used the b-word instead), also known as a queen bee, who holds a high-ranking position in the company or firm and thinks nothing about “verbally assaulting anyone,” especially other women
  2. The two-faced passive-aggressive women who makes not-so-subtle comments or sends not-so-subtle emails that rudely suggest other women’s incompetency or poor work ethics
  3. The tuned-out indifferent woman whose life, both at work and at home, is so busy that she “doesn’t have time for anything” and likely is engaging in payback for all the late-afternoon emergency assignments she herself received while she was moving up the ranks

Female-on-female bullying causes

While no research suggests that all women become workplace bullies of their female coworkers, especially those whom they supervise, nevertheless, a troubling number of studies show that a large number of women do in fact evidence female-on-female workplace bullying tendencies. Researchers advance various theories, including the following, as to the reasons behind this:

  • High-level woman still represent a rather dismal minority of the workforce. Consequently, many of these successful women may see helping and mentoring other women as a direct threat to their own hard-won positions.
  • High-level women generally gave up a lot in their personal lives in order to achieve their positions. Consequently, they expect no less career dedication on the part of all women following them.
  • High-level women represent a historically marginalized group. Consequently, they may have internalized some stereotypically negative ideas about women in general.
  • High-level women often tend to see themselves as “one of the guys” instead of “one of the gals.” Consequently, they often believe themselves to be uniquely unlike other women and have no sympathy, or even particular empathy, for what they view as “softies who nice their way upwards.”

Know that if you work for a female boss or supervisor who bullies you, you are not alone. Unfortunately, female-on-female bullying represents a type of sexual harassment that few employees report and few employers do anything about.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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