In her article in the Wall Street Journal, “When women derail other women in the office,” Rachel Emma Silverman comments on Peggy Klaus’ article in the New York Times, “A Sisterhood of Workplace Infighting.” Both discuss an estimate that female office bullies who commit verbal abuse, sabotage performance or hurt relationships, aim at other women more than 70% of the time. Both discuss the psychological reasons why women hurt other women and why they don’t protect them.
Of course, women abuse, harass and sabotage other woman at work. Sometimes they’re overt and sometimes they’re stealthy, sneaky. Isn’t that your experience?
More important than distracting questions and considerations about how much they do it, why they do it or do they do it more or differently than men, are:
- Do you recognize the early warning signs of bullies?
- Do you know how to stop them skillfully?
Women often say that other women aren’t as overt about bullying; they’re more likely to be covert, stealth bullies. Some of the common tactics and perpetrators are:
- Sneaky, manipulative, backstabbing.
- Forming cliques, starting rumors, mastering demeaning put-downs.
- Pretending to be friends, but bad mouthing you behind your back.
- Negative, whining, complaining “professional victims.”
- Passive-aggressive behavior.
- Nit-picking, control-freaks, just as much as men.
How about Meryl Streep and other unsavory characters in “The Devil Wears Prada?”
Some are splinters, rotten apples and cancers – at all levels in your organization. They need removed just like men who bully.
As I show in my books and CDs of case studies, “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks” and “Eliminate the High Cost of Low Attitudes,” bullies are not all the same, but their patterns of behavior, their tactics, are the same – whether they’re men or woman. That’s why we can find ways to stop them.
Ignoring the problem or begging, bribery and appeasement simply reinforce low attitudes and behavior at all levels. A major part of the problem are conflict-avoidant leaders, managers and co-workers who think that if we all talk nicely to each other or try to make bullies happy, they’ll stop bullying.
If we don’t stop bullies, they’ll think we’re easy prey. Like sharks, they’ll just go after us more.
When women and men learn how to stop bullies in their tracks, we develop strength of character, determination, resilience and skill. We need these qualities to succeed against the real world bullies we face – men or women.
Of course, individual coaching will help you design tactics that fit your specific situation.
Often, the strong and clear voice of an outside consultant and coach can change these behaviors or empower managers and staff to remove these bullies. I’ve often helped companies and even non-profits and government agencies create and maintain behavioral standards (team agreements, ground rules for professional behavior) that promote productivity.