If you believe bullying only takes place on schoolyards and cyberspace think again. The workplace is becoming the new high school and woman-on-woman harassment is increasing. The Work Place Bullying Institute conducted a survey in early 2012 asking 1,598 individuals about their first hand experiences with workplace bullying. According to the survey women torment women in 89% of the cases. Not only were women the chosen target for women bullies, men also choose to bully women in 63% of the cases. In most cases the bullies were female bosses and 18% were coworkers. Psychologist and cofounder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, Dr. Gary Namie says that women make much nastier office bullies than man because “girls are taught to be critical about each other from adolescence and it’s particularly vicious among working women.” He also says law, and finance are common careers where women face bullying. Dr. Namie says, “women feel the need to be hyper-aggressive to get ahead in a male-dominated environment.”
While investigating woman-on-woman bullying I found most women were eager to tell their stories under anonymity. One woman told me about her encounter with a woman boss who told her “nice would only get her so far.” She says after that first encounter her boss subjected her to taunts and rants that soon pushed her to leave the company. Another woman described her age and the boss praising her work as one of the triggers that caused her to become a victim of bullying. Although she chose to fight back she eventually decided to resign. In workingmother.com a 32 year-old mother descried her suburban Iowa middle school female co-workers as the “mean girls.” She said they used gossip and exclusionary tactics to leave other women like her in the cold. Dr. Namie says this type of behavior is typical for women bullies who “tend to direct their energies toward splitting up the work team, using divide-and conquer games or pitting worker against worker.” Apparently workplace women bullies aren’t openly abusive. Robert Sutto, a professor of management Science at Stanford University describes women as being subtler then men. He also says women are better at reading emotions.
The Cost of Bullying
Bullying in the workplace is costly to the company and causes irreparable damage to the victim mentally and psychologically if not taken seriously.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace bullying causes $3 billion in lost productivity and a staggering $19 billion loss in employment every year.
Keeping a healthy workplace and addressing bullying tactics will help increase collaboration and ultimately improve the bottom line.
What can victims do?
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) 2012 survey 54% of all respondents said despite their efforts the bullying continued. In a 2010 WBI survey 41% of women targets quit and another 25% were terminated. The WBI suggest implementing a 3-Step Action Plan to help combat bullying.
• Name it! Legitimize Yourself!
• Take Time Off to Heal & Launch a Counterattack
• Expose the Bully
It’s important to understand that exposure could ultimately end your career but remember health and happiness comes first. I also have a few more suggestions for woman-on-woman victims of bullying.
• Remain calm (Do not write emotional Facebook or Twitter rants about your employer or coworkers it shows a lack of self control)
• Document all instances of mistreatment
• Build a support network
• Start a innovative club with other coworkers that promotes collaboration
• Educate yourself on workplace bullying and your companies policies
• Maintain an impeccable work ethic
• Get counseling
• Don’t try to change the bully. The company is responsible for managing mistreatment of employees.
Currently a national grassroots legislative movement to enact an anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) is taken place. So far, 21 states since 2003 have introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill. However no laws have been passed. The coordinators of the bill are encouraging victims who have experienced bullying to join the campaign click here for more information.
The 2012 election helped to introduce the largest amount of new women in congress with a total close to 100- the most ever elected. Now, women make up 20% of the Senate. Women are not only taken leadership roles in congress their also bringing their talents to the boardrooms of major corporations. Most recently Catalyst reported that women hold 3.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 4.0 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions setting a major record for women. The women who have made it to the top of the corporate and congressional ladder credit hard work and women mentors who instilled confidence.
Woman-on woman bullying hinders the entire women movement. Become a mentor to a future corporate woman leader and instill confidence instead of emotional distress.