I read in an article over the weekend that according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (is there an institute for everything?) when women bully others at work they target other women 70% of the time, while men tend to target women and men equally. Workplace bully-like behavior is an ugly thing on its own, but the fact that women undermine each other and are nasty to each other more often just plain sucks. (I was going to write something more eloquent, but this topic doesn’t deserve it.)
This isn’t the first article written about how terrible women can be to each other in the workplace and it’s not the first time I write about it here — my post about being tired of dealing with bitchy women at work is one of the most popular on this blog. Every time I think about this topic I go through the list of reasons/theories for why women have such a hard time supporting each other in the workplace: (the author of the article I mentioned has a similar list):
Scarcity theory — we think that there are only a few positions of leadership available and we don’t want to help other women get there because it will mean we won’t.
I-had-to-fight-and-you-should-too theory — women at the top believe that younger, more junior women should fight their way up the ladder without any extra help.
Don’t-want-to-play-favorites theory — if I help you, others might think I am playing favorites because we’re both women.
Women-don’t-know-how-to-compete-at-the-office theory — we haven’t been in the workplace for long enough to figure out how to compete with other women without bullying/undermining/being bitchy to them.
I would never suggest that as women, we should support each other simply because we’re women. That’s as ridiculous as being nasty to each other just because we’re women. But I do think it’s important to think about our interactions at work and be consious of how we might be altering our behavior when dealing with other women. The only way to prove the theories above wrong is to stop acting on them.
I like to end depressing blog posts on a good note, if I can — yes, I’m a little cheesy that way — and I have one. Here it is: I think as we gain more and more leadership positions at work, start and run more companies, lead and grow more teams, run for and get appointed to the highest political offices, we’re beginning to chill out a bit in ways we deal with other women around us. It’s about feeling confident, in my opinion, and it undermines all the theories above:
If I am confident as a woman in my position at work, I don’t worry about helping other women get to the top and then having them replace me.
If I am confident, then I know that my fight to get to the top has only made me stronger and I relish the opportunity to pass on my wisdom to other women.
If I am confident, I don’t worry how others may percieve my support of other women and don’t much care if they think I am playing favorites.
If I am confident I know damn well how to compete, on the sports field or at work, with women or men.
OK, I am drinking a lot of women power Kool Aid right now, but I really do believe this. And before this becomes the longest and most boring posts of this blog’s history, I am going to stop writing and ask you to share your thoughts: Have you every been bullied by a woman at work? Why do you think women do this? Do you think as women, we’re getting better at being supportive of each other at work or do you think it’s a lost cause?
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