April 30th, 2012

Why Women Are The Worst Kind of Bullies – Forbes

By Ruchika Tulshyan, Forbes, April 30, 2012

Women can be nastier bullies than men, at the workplace. What’s the best way to deal?

When Lady Gaga declared her hero was Emily-Anne, the 18-year-old pioneer of WeStopHate.org against teen bullying, I could completely identify. I had a flashback to my traumatic adolescent years. The memories alone made me feel like Emily-Anne could be my hero too.

However, I didn’t expect bullying to be so prevalent at the workplace. Adults are facing it pretty tough, with woman-on-woman harassment on the rise. Thirty-five percent of Americans reported being bullied at work, according to a 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Women make much nastier office bullies than men, says psychologist Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Institute.

Workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination, found the same study. Girls are taught to be critical about each other from adolescence, and it’s particularly vicious among working women; from playing favourites to badmouthing colleagues. Common careers where women face bullying? Law, finance or any other job where “women feel the need to be hyper-aggressive to get ahead in a male-dominated environment,” says Dr. Namie.

Debra Falzoi, a communications coordinator who was terrorized by a female boss at a Boston university, says:

“My female bully lied and gossiped about me and others. She used all indirect tactics. I have seen men also use indirect bullying tactics, but they’re much less frequent, and they have seemed solely to protect their ego rather than proactive moves to sabotage.

Falzoi eventually quit her job after reporting the harassment. Her boss did nothing, despite multiple complaints against the same woman.

Samantha Brick, a British journalist, wrote a story titled: ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty’: Why women hate me for being beautiful. ‘ It went viral, supplemented by comments questioning her beauty. Some readers even called her “ugly as a troll.” I’m not going to debate her story, but I thought the Financial Times Weekend published the best response to the media maelstrom. The controversy showed how women sabotage the careers of other women by being unsupportive, it said. The columnist highlighted “rope ladders,” where women climb to senior positions, then promptly haul up the ladder right behind them. While some tactically avoid helping other women in their careers, others can resort to passive-agressive behavior to protect their interests.

“Women bullies will often befriend you and then air all your secrets later, in boardrooms or at office gatherings. I’ve had patients that just can’t trust again after being humiliated like that at work,” says Dr. Namie. The problem persists, as there are no anti-bullying ethics or law in practice, unlike legal protection against sexual harassment or racial discrimination. Less than one percent of co-workers will stand up when they see their colleagues tormented, fearing their own jobs.

There’s only one truly effective way to report workplace bullying: treat it like a business problem. Dr. Namie says:

“Report to your superiors and make it a business case on how the bully is affecting your productivity and driving up absenteeism. The minute you talk about how emotionally traumatized you are, you’re unlikely to get any help.”

Your managers could brush it off by saying it’s a cultural difference or clash of ideas, he says. Follow your instincts if you think you’re in a hostile work environment, and report it the right way. The only time when you should leave your job without making a case is if you work in a small family-run business, according to him.

Link to the original article.


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  1. cm says:

    The combination of

    Narcissism and

    sadism, being in a fairly isolated position like a classroom, and
    religious justification gave this bully many outs for her awful
    behavior. An even worse combination are female bullies put in the position as, “mentor.” I had one of these as a student teacher. She was supposed to be my mentor and instead humiliated me in front of the students by telling them that I didn’t know anything, told my University adviser that I was hopeless at the job, sent 4-5 page-long e-mails nightly, yelled at me for at least one hour after school each day, and followed me home one day.  All of this despite the fact that I earned following reviews from my university adviser and every single other teacher I worked with at this time.   Of course, she had other people convinced that she was just fine.  The strange thing was that the students all saw right through her. The other great part was that she justified her narcissistic/sadistic behavior by believing that she was a servant of the Lord. It amazes me that we allow people to treat others this way in a “helping,” profession. My university finally pulled me out sighting a hostile work environment because of her, but the ‘old girl’s club in this instance meant that the bully was essentially shielded from any recriminations.
     I had a great deal of trouble finding another cooperating teacher and when I did, I found out after a month that the university and the previous cooperating teacher had told the new mentor about how I was not a team player. When I was sick for three separate days, she fired me and told the district’s HR department  I was untrustworthy.  Finally, I hired a lawyer.  Though I am on track to finish my degree, it  6 months later, $40k lost in income, financial aid, etc, and I won’t be able to apply for jobs until after the main hiring periods.  Before hiring my lawyer, I gave up and figured that I would never have a chance to teach and I’d have to give up my education and hope I could tutor somewhere.  I still worry that I will not be able to ever work in my state and cannot simply move as teaching does not pay enough for me to start all over.
    Even after speaking to my lawyer, I honestly thought that i would not ever have a chance to win. At that point, though, I had nothing to lose and had given up. the whole thing has left me very concerned about any future in my profession, my health has suffered, my finances are shot to heck, my long-term live-in romantic relationship ended  because of the stress, and I don’t think I will be able to trust anyone ever again.  In short, I lost my relationship, my career, my health, and my optimistic spirit because of the repeated bullying and the fact that these institutions run by women seem to foster and support it. Now, the university is a bit scared of me but I constantly must look over my shoulder to make sure that they can’t find any fault with me to deny me my degree and certification. Despite all of this, my university, both “mentor” teachers, and every other person I have worked with have given my good reports.I am a skilled and educated teacher and I won’t be able to work because the club kicked into gear and one woman’s mental illness was ignored and her cruelty to her students and to me was allowed.  It sounds paranoid, I know, but it is not paranoia if they really are out to get you.  The question I ask and that other targets will ask, is why me?  I don’t know why. I was younger, more educated, the kids liked me, I was courteous, (never over-familiar,) polite, cordial, professional, and hard working. I was happy when i started with my career ahead of me, a loving fiancee, and fairly minimum debt and she couldn’t stand it.  She decided to destroy my career.
    She succeeded in her task, I’m alone, in debt,  grieving  after a breakup, my blood pressure is still high, i have experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life (I’m in my 30s), I have headaches and horrible nightmares and after all of this, I may still not be able to find a job. the whole situation is hope. My advice to targets: remember they have all the power and you have none. Going to your boss is not going to be a a fair situation: they are part of the same cabal and none of these people have your best interest in mind. It is easier to side with the bully than the whistleblower and that is what they will do.  Even my lawyer said that it would be very difficult to prove unless it was so egregious that it is on film and multiple people would testify to it. Don’t try and get them to like you, don’t try to be rational.  Many places require you to at least file a report with your superior, so do that, but do it with the knowledge that you will probably have to leave the job.  Next, get a lawyer and do not back down. Either way, you will not stay a that job, so you may as well leave on your terms and with some fight left in you. That is why I support federal and state anti-bullying in the workplace laws. I also support the and the formation of unions independent from the university that have power much like workplace unions have.

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