Women Bullies – Yes Women Bullies Exist in our Society from girls to women…

… and our Society allows this behavior beginning in Kindergarten to the C-Suite.

In the March/April 2011 issue of Diversity Executive Magazine, Author Natalie Morera writes an article entitled, Research Finds Most Workplace Bullying Victims Are Women.

Research conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute has found that 35 percent of U.S. workers report being bullied at work, and an additional 15 percent have witnessed it. Further, 68 percent of bullying is same-gender harassment; 58 percent of bullying targets are women; and 80 percent of the time, female bullies target other women. The woman in this article finally quit her job due to the bullying at her workplace. (2010-2011 results from Zogby Research Studies)

“Of those bullied, 58 percent are women, and 80 percent of them are bullied by other women.” Did this statistic get your attention?

If it didn’t it should have! This behavior is so not acceptable yet we let it happen over and over again that we even need to have a Workplace Bullying Institute – yet the outcome for women is that is how women are socialized! I just don’t buy that as I believe it is a convenient excuse for women to be mean and spiteful to those that may threaten their status. It truly doesn’t matter what the context is whether it is boys, grades, clothing, sports or promotions in the workplace…those who believe they deserve and are entitled over another person will do whatever it takes to put someone else in a precarious place so they can cast themselves in a better light.

Morera (2011) continues in her review, “The style in the C-suite that enables bullying is laissez-faire,” he said, meaning executives tend to take a hands-off approach to addressing bullying. This indifference to bullying lets it thrive.

“It’s either positively rewarded in the militaristic, command-and-control model — people revered for their aggression — or it’s treated with indifference, and therefore that’s tacit approval and it’s allowed to continue,” Namie said. “In either case, bullying is done with impunity because it’s so rarely stopped. Rarely does management intervene and actually say this is destructive for people, employee health and the organization.”

According to Namie, bullying affects business in the form of turnover and absenteeism. It can generate lawsuits, as well as workers’ compensation and disability costs, he said.

“They all get away with it,” he said. “Bullies bully with impunity. They almost always get rewarded. That’s what’s sad.”

In an article written by Tim Crothers of the New York Times, April 12, 2011 entitled Green Hope Soccer Phenom Gets Her Kicks On Her Own.

In this article it features, Indi Cowie of Cary is regarded as one of the best youth girls’ soccer players in the world and the world’s best female freestyler.

Can you imagine the dedication to these sports it has taken Indi? It also was noted in the article at Green Hope High School’s talent show how that they spelled her name incorrectly… and then again her name would be misspelled in the subsequent article in The Green Hope Gazette. This seems like this is no big deal – yet a world youth young woman’s name should be spelled accurately. In a team sport such as soccer the article went on to say,

“At the beginning of one game, I got the ball and beat three girls to score a goal, and my coach pulled me off the field,” Cowie remembers. “He said, ‘You should have passed.’ I said, ‘But I scored a goal, Coach.’ He sat me out for the rest of the half. At halftime he asked me, ‘Are you ready to play properly?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I did the same thing, and he took me off the field for the rest of the game.” Cowie was 10. She recalls another match during which her teammates screamed at her to pass every time she got the ball. She still scored a hat trick.”

I understand that in a team sport we are supposed to engage our team members to help us win and yes it is up to a parent, teacher, sports coach, manager, supervisor, and the C-Suite to stop the discrimination and bullying behavior. The solution is it begins with each individual being acknowledge for their uniqueness and the practice of allowing negative behaviors to be dealt with in present time of an incident rather than let it get out of hand. With social media and other areas where there is competition, we know it has caused innocent suicides in teens, and forced job loss to those who were not on the ‘A’ team as the women bullies focused on keeping others down rather than cheering them on as any true sports team would.

In the HBR article by Marcus Buckingham, (2005) entitled On What Great Managers do, there is a quote from Michael Jordan based on “The old cliché is that there’s no “I” in “team.” But as Michael Jordan once said, “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there is in ‘win.'” It is a lesson those who are in the business of coaching girls in school and in the workplace that they teach this concept and put an end to this socialization of women. Women can be nasty. 

The article about Indi continues,

“Cowie sees herself as belonging to a world where legendary attackers like Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are celebrated for their talent and, yes, their selfishness. Her parents think it’s partly the Scot in her: Cowie is stubborn. But she admits it hurt when she once received an anonymous phone call from a girl saying, “We all hate you.” When she checked the caller ID, she realized the call came from a teammate.
“Maybe that’s why I like freestyle so much,” Cowie said, “because I don’t have any teammates to worry about.”

“Girls’ soccer becomes toxic sometimes because there is so much jealousy,” said her mother, Judith. “Over the years, Indi would wonder what was wrong with her, and there would be tears, and I’d keep telling her, ‘I know it’s been tough on you, but it’s going to get better.’ She’d say: ‘Will it, Mum? When? ”

In closing, Indi, I feel your pain – I too have been there and I was no superstar in sports. I may be one of those silent women in the audience and in the workplace yet you bet I am rooting for any woman who can be the great person she is! I wish the bullies no harm – yet they truly need to look at their own self and figure out what they need to do to be nice and stop the cycle of negative harm to themselves and others. Shame on the competitiveness of all the adults who let this behavior exist! It is time to change this outrageous harassment and bullying of other women.

Morera, N. (2011). Research Finds Most Workplace Bullying Victims Are Women.
Diversity Executive Magazine. http://www.diversity-executive.com/article.php?in=1132

Buckingham, M. (2005). What great managers do. Harvard Business Review, 83(3), 70-80.

Crothers, T. (2011). Green Hope Soccer Phenom Gets Her Kicks On Her Own. New York Times, April 12, 2011. http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/04/12/1123748/soccer-phenom-gets-her-kicks-on.html

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About Linda Savanauskas

An accomplished talent management professional with experience in curriculum design, development of learning strategies, and professional skills development training programs for the workplace. Collaboration in training programs includes small and medium size businesses (SMB) to larger organizations from Raleigh to Charlotte, North Carolina. Virtual instructor led training can be offered to any location.