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Let's Talk About Workplace Bullying

When I first read the story about Mitt Romney's prep school hair cutting adventures in yesterday's Washington Post, I knew it was going to be big.

Now get ready for an onslaught of stories about workplace bullying, because that's going to be on like Donkey Kong, too.

I'm going to beat the press to the proverbial punch this morning by saying that yes, workplace bullying is still a pox upon us, but now women are rivaling men for the coveted title of Biggest Workplace Bully. That's right: Women-on-women violence is all the rage these days. A recent Workplace Bullying Institute survey finds 3 in 4 women who are bullied at work are being bullied by other women.

Women are going after each other more often on the job, all the time. I'll let WBI's press release explain:

What attracts the media to woman-on-woman (WOW) bullying is the fact that women are targeted at a higher rate by female bullies (71%) than by male bullies (46%). Yes, women are crueler to women than they are to men, and that must be explained. But don't forget that 60% of all bullies are men. 31% of all bullying is men-on-men, 29% is WOW. Why is there so little interest in the more frequent variety of same-gender bullying? Because it's discounted as routine, expected, predictable. WOW sounds mysterious, counterintuitive, and, I think, somewhat prurient.

This news might not be shocking if you've worked on staffs comprised mostly or exclusively of women. Working exclusively with women can feel like a 1980s John Hughes movie with its gossip, backbiting, passive-aggressiveness and cliques. I've worked on all-female staffs a few times in my life and looking back, they were the worst jobs I've ever had. But were these workplaces bad because they were comprised solely of women, were managed poorly, or something else? Therein lies the debate. But I tell you this: If I were to interview for my dream job tomorrow and noticed that I would be working only with women, I would not want the job anymore because I would be worried about the potential for reliving scenes from 16 Candles, and I'm getting too old for that. Men add a needed balance to the work environment, and vice versa.

Even Forbes magazine is getting in on some recent women-on-women analysis. Come on, ladies. Can't we all just get along?

So who is to blame for this (wo)mano-a-(wo)mano trend? DNA? The ERA? MBAs? PTAs? MTV? DMV? ADD? Jersey Shore? Well, we can't blame the UFC, because its president says no to female fighters. So far. I guess we ladies will just have to keep settling our scores by the printer, then.


  1. I'm currently on my third workplace bully: all three have been female, and two are minority. One person has a high school degree, one has a master's, and one has a doctorate. The common denominator is that they are all insecure, which is not my problem or a problem that I have to solve.

    In my first job, I did nothing and just endured the bullying, which was very bad for my health. In my second job, I tried documenting/reporting all the interactions, which didn't help me at all. In this job, I've tried forgiving/keeping a positive attitude. Guess which strategy works best for me? Forgiving/keeping a positive attitude seems to infuriate (as Oscar Wilde said) my current bully. From my second week on the job when she told me, "I don't like you, and I didn't want to hire you" to now, my strategy has confused her. I have only gone to HR once when an accusation she made was totally ridiculous. Of course, my bully is buddies with our department's HR advisor, so I'm sure my complaint went straight to file 13, but it felt good to report her.

    With my first bully, I outlasted her, and with my second bully, I quit that job to change careers. I really love this work, now, so I decided to try keeping a positive attitude and forgive my bully for her bad behavior. As I said earlier, the bullies' problems are neither mine nor mine to solve. I go to work, do my job, and keep a positive attitude about my life. Using this strategy, I've had the people and resources I need each day to keep moving forward.

  2. I believe, when it comes to bullying, gender is hardly an issue. But it really appears to be more unacceptable when you put down your own category. All the same, this practice should be prohibited. This makes the office atmosphere stressful, which can affect productivity.


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