Women who bully women at work is not a new topic on this blog. A segment on Good Morning America today addressed the topic of female bullies from a different point of view. The piece looked at the female target and how women tend to differ from men when subject to workplace bullying. Some of the more interesting gender-specific perspective notes made in the piece included:
- Women are taught to be non-confrontational and this tendency to not fight back makes them especially vulnerable targets.
- Women, more so than men, tend to take negative interactions personally, concluding that the attack was directed to them specifically, as opposed to directed towards the individual standing closest to the bully at that moment.
- Women do not complain about an existing problem and, when they do, they aren’t as persistent as maybe they should be.
So, do women make better targets? Or, are they just more vicious bullies?
It’s an interesting idea. Women are better than men at bullying others and at being bullied by others. Well, I suppose that there’s something to be said for being better at something. Ok, not really. So why do women fall into both roles with ease? Are we genetically predisposed to these opposable positions?
Gary Namie, Ph.D, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, offered the following tips to those being targeted by workplace bullies:
- Get support from family and friends. Talking about the problem eases the burden and lowers the chances of stress-related illness.
- See a doctor or a therapist, especially if you’re having stress symptoms, such as sleeplessness and appetite loss.
- Get witnesses to help you build a record of the bully’s actions for a future complaint.
- Confront the bully with the same toughness he or she showed you. This should be done with a single witness or as a group.
It’s interesting to note some of the ways in which these suggestions would be particularly effective for female targets. The first suggestion, for example, is a very gender-specific technique. Research proves that women are biologically programmed to talk about their problems, whereas the male brain actually reacts to stress by reducing his desire, even restricting his ability, to “talk about it.”
Similarly, the tendency to garner group consensus prior to acting is a female-specific trait. Males, on the other hand, tend not to seek group consensus before executing a decision. This idea of “power in numbers” also is seen in the final suggestion, which encourages a victim to stand up to the bully–but to be supported by either a single witness or by a group.
To read more about Jerks at Work, you may want to read these earlier posts: