Women who bully other women at the workplace
A lot has been said about the hard, unfair, and sexist manner in which women are treated at the work place. Not much has been said, however, about women who bully, intimidate, and generally make life hell for other women. Sisterhood can take a backseat while the ladies battle it out, although often it is a one-sided battle.
If you are unable to consider the bullying potential of a female, there are two examples of women who epitomize the quintessential workplace bully; one is a fictional character from a movie, while the other is larger than life.
Miranda Priestley, a character essayed by Meryl Streep in the film “The Devil Wears Prada”, epitomizes a boss and bully from hell. She consistently belittles her intern Andy Sachs [played by Anne Hathaway] and makes every day of her working life full of stress and no reward.
Ekta Kapoor, one of the sole female producers of both film and television serials in India, is a self-confessed slave driver and bully, although in a solely professional context, she clarifies. Ekta is known for her strict standards and unpleasant temper, and woe betide anybody who disagrees with her. Whether her attitude is part of a ploy to gain some respect in a male-dominated industry, remains to be seen.
Both the onscreen bully and the real life “businesslike” bully exude similar behavioral traits displayed by an average workplace bully, which are both feared as well as hated by the people who endure them.
There are three primary myths pertaining to female bullies at the workplace need to be dealt with immediately, a) women can’t bully b) women only bully other women and c) this bullying only occurs between highly ranked women and their juniors. All of the above are untrue. Women are equally, if not more capable of bullying colleagues, especially other women.
Women bully women for a variety of reasons, but insecurity appears to be the leading reason for this toxic behavior. This explains why new employees are often at the receiving end of bullying, especially if they are [according to the bully] good looking, well qualified and more adept at their work than older employees. Sexism is not just restricted to men and women, it occurs within women and other women as well.
Women are considerably more focused on bullying other women purely on the basis of physical attributes and external appearance as well. There is no escaping from a female colleague who constantly sniggers and passes rude remarks about someone’s outfit, make up, and even their hairstyle. On the surface, this appears to be a non-issue, but if consistently targeted, could cause acute distress and disturbance to the targeted individual.
If a female bully feels threatened by a female colleague who performs more efficiently at the workplace, or quickly becomes popular with fellow colleagues, she will go out of her way to challenge the credibility of the person by gossiping, spreading slander, even starting secret hate campaigns at work against her. Repeated behavior of this sort might succeed in misleading others to participate in the bullying process.
Social media and social media networking platforms are the bully’s new best friend. Workplace bullying and politics often make their way to internet pages and websites, and there have been reported cases of women who have digitally altered and uploaded photographs of their “rivals” in order to belittle and humiliate them.
Female bullies at work are rarely physically abusive, but make up for the lack of physical abuse by meting out extremely hurtful verbal abuse towards their female targets. The saying about emotional wounds taking longer to heal than physical wounds stands true as bullied women whose plight is not addressed, are likely to become depressed and feel demotivated.
The most effective way to deal with a female bully at work is to confront her head-on, direct confrontations are never peaceful, but they will get the issue out in public for sure. It is helpful to enlist the help and support of fellow colleagues and supportive seniors who can act as mediators in the peace-making process if there is to be one. It is important for the bully to know that they are not being productive or mature with their intimidation tactics, and that the person whom they are bullying is no longer going to tolerate it silently. In the rare instance that this solution-oriented move fails, file an official complaint and begin investing in your peace of mind.