Leadership coach Peggy Klaus says a recent study by the Workplace Bullying Institute (?!?) finds that female bullies direct their dysfunction at other women more than 70 percent of the time.
The behavior? Verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority and destroying of relationships. Explains Klaus: "While women have come a long way in removing workplace barriers, one of the last remaining obstacles is how they treat one another. Instead of helping to build one another’s careers, they sometimes derail them — for example, by limiting access to important meetings and committees; withholding information, assignments and promotions; or blocking the way to mentors and higher-ups." And yet, writes Klaus:
Despite all the money spent annually on women’s leadership conferences and professional development programs, you’d be hard-pressed to find a workshop on women mistreating one another at work. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge proponent of women’s leadership programs. But teaching career skills is not enough if we ignore one of the most important reasons for holding these events in the first place: learning to value one another so we can all get ahead.
It's also interesting that recent research shows that girls who are bullied at a young age are more likely to remain victims than boys. In other words, if you're getting beaten up at age six, you're probably going to be teased and verbally threatened at age ten. What are the chances some of this stays with you when you're 22, or 32?
Of course, you'd think that if there are multitudes of women out there who have experienced sabotage and abuse, there would be a a horde of women willing to speak out against bullies in the workplace. Except that means admitting a woman mistreated you, Klaus explains. "We fear that bringing our experience into the light and talking about it will set us back to that ugly gender stereotype we have fought so hard to overcome: the one about the overemotional, backstabbing, aggressive (and you know what’s coming) bitch."
So what's the answer? A push for females to be kinder and gentler in the workplace? Or a course called Dealing With Bitches 101?
A Sisterhood of Workplace Infighting [NY Times]
Girls Twice As Likely As Boys To Remain Victims Of Bullying [EurekAlert]