Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s March 26 blog entry on Time.com dealt with the issue of female-on-female bullying in the workplace. Executive coaches at Challenger Business and Executive Coaching have seen this issue often and work tirelessly to modify these behaviors.
Bullying in all forms is a serious HR concern. However and unfortunately, it usually only becomes an HR issue when a male is bullying a female or vice versa, because it crosses into sexual harassment or gender bias issues. Same-sex bullying, on the other hand, is more often overlooked.
There are two reasons for this: 1) the victim is too scared or intimidated to come forward with bullying claims, and 2) management tells the victim to “toughen up,” dismissing his or her problem. Ultimately, the victim gets blamed.
In most cases, the victims of bullying just leave their companies, choosing to take on the sometimes long and difficult process of finding a new job than staying in abusive environments. Of those who continue in their jobs, some get so worried about making a mistake and incurring more bullying that productivity, not to mention morale, suffers greatly.
There are several reasons why workers bully each other, but for women especially, the notion of being a so-called “brilliant b*tch” serves as reason enough to put down their co-workers and underlings. “I’m a strong, ruthless female, and I’ll do anything to get ahead,” a female manager might say, as if asserting this legitimizes bullying behavior.
In addition to this “brilliant b*tch” theory, the bullying may come from inexperience and lack of developmental coaching. If an employee gets promoted and finds herself with two or three people at her beck and call, she may, without management coaching, use bullying tactics simply because she knows no other method.
Eventually, the best course is to develop HR policies that directly address same-gender bullying, much like harassment or discrimination policies, and foster an environment in which a victim feels comfortable coming forward.
Moreover, executive coaching minimizes ineffective and sometimes abusive management styles and can help eradicate these very real problems in today’s workplace.