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Female Bullies in the Workplace

I read an alarming article about female bullies in the workplace in the May 10th print edition of The New York Times. This article, “Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work,” reports that “40 percent of bullies are women” and they choose “other women as targets more than 70 percent of the time.” Women are often targeted because they’re perceived as less confrontational and “less tough than men.”

The Workplace Bullying Institute claims that almost 40 percent of all (male and female) workers have experienced bullying. (Bullying involves verbal or psychological hostility for at least six months.) Unfortunately, many employers are not dealing with this problem.

It’s not surprising that the stresses and pressures caused by the recession are bringing out the worst in people. With many men dropping out of the workforce, women have become the working majority. But will the increasing female workforce result in an more and more female bullies?

As The New York Times article points out, bullying is caused by numerous factors, including “frustration, personality traits, perceptions of unfair treatment” and a variety of stresses. Some women feel that supporting their female colleagues will backfire and aggressive behavior is necessary for career advancement.

The article mentions some corrective steps, such as encouraging women to work for a common cause and coaching programs that include role-playing exercises and group discussions. Creating an environment that’s nurturing and supportive may help eliminate bullying.

I highly encourage you to read “Backlash: Women Bullying Women at Work” and tell us your thoughts. Have you encountered female bullies at your company or firm? If so, how have you handled the situation?