Dealing with Workplace Bullying
“Oh, so that’s why you were hired.”
That phrase was said to me within the first month of starting a new job a while back, and, no, the person behind this quote was not referring to my experience, skill or personality. This person was attacking my physical appearance as the sole reason of me being hired. Of course being newly employed, I awkwardly laughed it off without knowing what else to do, but I will never forget that quote or the intentions behind it as it was probably one of the most insulting things to say to anyone … especially to a young woman new in the ‘real-world.’
Questions of ‘Was I acting ditzy? Did I do something that led her to react so catty or rude?’ In the end, I realized it was her way of attacking me in an attempt to knock me over, an attempt to belittle me. The majority of my past and present colleagues do not act in such a derogatory demeanor, but there were some who did as well as tales about from others in completely different fields and companies. No one is perfect, and not everyone will like everyone they meet in his or her lives, but what was said to me is considered workplace bullying.
My goal of this blog post is to encourage women not to attack one another in the workplace. Times are hard, but when aren’t they? With men still making more than women who are equally qualified in most sectors of the workforce, is it not expected that women are not only intimidated but even terrified of other equally qualified women working beside them with new ideas, angles and backgrounds?
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: “Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the equal, if not main, breadwinner in four out of 10 families. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2013, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.
After looking at the statistics, you see that women make 22 percent less than men on every dollar earned. Most men tend to be in higher management roles, so you have full-time women working under male managers, while more than likely making less than fellow male colleagues doing similar tasks. These women are constantly trying to prove themselves with or without consciously knowing it in the sense of being damn good at their jobs. Of course the same can be said to non-management males. Because of this, women may see other women as competitors in productivity, or maybe just as easy targets to belittle them so they no longer pose an uncontrollable threat.
According to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, “77 percent of currently bullied targets are bullied by perpetrators of the same gender, i.e., man-on-man and woman-on-woman.” Female bullies, though less in number than male bullies, make up 31 percent of the workforce, but they target other women in 68 percent of cases. So, of the female bullies out there in the workforce, they are after other women. Why is this?
Regardless of the reasons, be it competition, insecurity, or being easier targets than men, I take my quote from Ms. Norbury in the movie “Mean Girls”: “…but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Not that this is the specific situation at hand, but it does get at what I’m playing at. Working together instead of against one another in a professional and respectful environment may help females gain ground in the workforce versus the other way, which is to take down other women’s self-esteem and energy.
If you are ever in the situation where a fellow coworker says that you were hired because of the way you look or your age and is attempting to imply that you are too dumb to work with them, remember you are not alone in this scenario. Be stern, and professionally tell them that what they said will not be accepted and is immature. If they keep it up, take it to higher management, and if it still continues, go for legal advice. Don’t just laugh awkwardly like I did! If I had said something right then and there, perhaps my experience would’ve been a more positive one, instead of one that suffocated my desire to do what I love. But as time moves on, so does the hurt feelings. Experience and the notion of not letting anyone walk over you fills the once-confused and grey void.