The taboo of women-on-women bullying

Social movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up are igniting change and bringing women together. Yet, it remains taboo for women to speak out about woman-on-woman bullying at work. [Via Forbes]

Why talk about it? When writing this I was trying to remember the last time I had heard or read an article that shone a spotlight on woman-on-woman bullying.  I couldn’t.

The Workplace Bullying Institute found that women who report to women experience a greater number of bullying, abuse or job sabotage incidents.  And even then they found women bully other women up to 80% of the time. It is a taboo subject that barely gets mentioned.

It is said that women who have ambitious career aspirations take on what’s referred to as “toxic masculinity” which is adopting characteristics usually associated with men to climb the corporate ladder.  From acting even more aggressively to keep up with their male counterparts, to not being supportive of other women trying to rise and everything in between. It’s no wonder there hasn’t been a #metoo equivalent but for women who have been bullied by other women.

Irrespective of whether I agreed with all the theories and conjecture raised in this article, I believe it’s a subject we should talk more openly and explicitly about.

Very early into my career, I was on the receiving end of such behaviour, over a prolonged period of time.  It was a small company and the senior leaders were not unaware that it was happening. Even to this day I have never really talked about it because I was so embarrassed that I let a woman, literally half my size, bully me. Contrary to popular belief, it can happen to anyone, even those you believe would ‘never stand for it.’

The effects of bullying are devastating, I can tell you that first hand.  Irrespective of the gender of those doing it, we have a responsibility to stamp it out quickly if we see something or an issue is brought to our attention. 

Is there someone in your team or wider organisation who has a reputation for being a bully? If so, my next question is, are you prepared to do something about it?  Believe me, the challenges it faces for you is nothing compared to the agony it causes for the person whose being subjected to it.

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