Workplace Bullies…Female Bullies can Easily be on Par With the Male Bullies

Female Bullies are Capable of Being Some of the Meanest

female_boss_staff_meetingThe results of a survey by the Workplace Bully Institute in 2010  of 1,000 American workers that was released by the Employment Law Alliance found that 45% of respondents had been bullied at the office by means of verbal abuse, sabotaging job responsibilities, abuse of power, and the undermining of employee relationships. Of the 45% of bullied respondents, it was reported that 40% were women.  It was further revealed that women who were labeled as bullies tended to be gender bias in selecting their targets.  They were inclined to target other women 80% of the time as compared to their male counterpart who selected female victims only 48% of the time. The same study showed that workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Subsequent surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute and other independent studies confirm the findings of subsequent surveys  that woman-on-woman bullying is definitely on the rise. It was hoped over the past thirty years the old male-dominated workplace that the rise of female leaders would create a softer, gentler kind of office, based on communication, team building and personal development.  But instead, the irony of the very women who complained for decades regarding unequal treatment in the workplace are now dominating the professional lives of women by management techniques characterized by high school “mean girls” all grown up behaviors due to a sense of insecurity and an attitude by the female bosses they have “something to prove.”
This comes as a major surprise to many female employees who are expecting support and open communication only to  discover, after a few short months, their female boss resorts to fault finding, moodiness, constant criticism about the victim’s work, and sabotaging of assigned projects.  In a poll in Today Magazine it was reported that three quarters of men, and women, said they would much rather work for a man than a woman. While a 2008 University of Toronto study of 1,800 U.S. employees revealed that women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.  If the male dominated, bonding attitude exists in the corporate world one  has to ask themselves why is the “professional sisterhood”  clearly missing?  There are predominately two types of female bullies that can be paradigms to this style of abusive and nonproductive style of management that may help to answer this question.

The “Queen Bee” Bully

QueenBee Lapto

The “Queen Bee Syndrome” was coined in the 1970s after a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan that examined the women’s movement in the workplace.  The results of the 20,000 respondents of Psychology Today and Redbook were published in 1974 in Psychology Today. They found that women who achieved success in the male dominated corporate world had become obsessed with maintaining their authority,  in spite of the improvements made over the years with regards to women in positions of power, ( i.e. 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16% on Boards of Directors, as reported in Kellerman’s book “Women in Leadership”).  The Queen Bee lives with the constant threat that her perch may be knocked out from beneath her by her counterpart.  Maintaining appearances is a preoccupation and by portraying her “Large and in Charge” demeanor she is able to remind everyone of her prestigious position.
Queen Bees are are less overtly confrontational than their male counterparts, but they are bullies just the same.  What makes Queen Bees so effective and aggravating is that they are able to exploit female vulnerabilities that men may not see, or by using tactics that their male counterparts might never even notice.  They tend to view women under them not as comrades but as threats to be countered.  Unlike a male bully a Queen Bee spews her venom in more covert and very subtle ways.  This is why the targets never see it coming and the bully’s remarks catches them off guard.  Her sarcastic and condescending remarks that serve to criticize the target’s style of dress, ideas, and level of performance assaults the victim’s self-esteem, confidence, and career without leaving any fingerprints. It is also important to point out that a Queen Bee’s favorite means of degradation is the annual performance review that leaves little chance of rebuttal but yet has the potential of impacting the victim’s career in future positions.  These distinctive traits of  an inept and abusive management style are typically performed behind closed doors in order for the Queen Bee to deny plausibility. There is no question that the Queen Bee is a creature of circumstance, encircling her potential victim in much the same way a shark encircles its prey.

The Two-headed Snake

Two headed snake bullyThe Two-headed Snake is a term coined by Gary Namie of the Workplace Institute for a workplace bully that basically presents a pleasant, professional persona in the presence of people they are trying to impress.  Even to the face of their target, the snake is cordial friendly, hard-working and cooperative.  But this person is a loathsome creature that says and does things to hurt their target behind  the target’s back.  The snake’s agenda is to advance their own goals and condemn the target, who is usually someone that the snake feels is in the way of the snake’s professional, and perhaps even personal, advancement.

Because of their phony, two faced personality it is extremely difficult to identify the snake’s true tasteless nature.  Even once a few people start to recognize the snake for who/what they are, it is still difficult to get others to believe that the snake can be as bad as portrayed because the snake still appears to be a good person to all others.
The bully is notorious for taking credit for projects that they actually had little if any contribution toward.  When the target isn’t present, the snake is doing all they can to make the target lose any hint of credibility by sabotaging the target’s work, making rude comments about the target and, downplaying the target’s achievements. The snake will think of ways to make her target the scapegoat in case something goes wrong.
The snake is a liar and will take a snippet out of a larger conversation and use that minor element of truth to create an avalanche that will completely ruin the credibility of their target.  The target has no clue that the snake is maligning their reputation behind their back because the snake is friendly and helpful.  This helps her get information that the victim might not openly volunteer.  She will then use that confidential information to anyone that will listen around the water cooler including the immediate supervisor.  Like the Queen Bee, the snake is able destroy the victim’s credibility through covert and sabotaging behavior in order to protect her position within the organization.

Sources: WBI
About Ron Watkins:
Ron Watkins,President of Mountain Sky Consulting has degrees in Clinical Psychology  and Behavioral Psychology.  His 25 years as a management consultant has provided him with the insight and experience with addressing the behavioral problems related to Workplace Bullying.  He can be contracted at 828-508-9140 or ron@mskyconsult.com in Asheville, NC.




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