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Are Women Worse kind of Bullies than Men?

June 6, 2017 in Careers


Our workplaces are thriving grounds of bullying of the worst kind. Whether it’s physical bullying, catcalling, mistreating or badmouthing, workplace bullying continues to be a significant problem.

While men and women both are prone to bullying, woman-on-woman harassment is on the rise. According to a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, more men (62%) are bullies and women are the most frequent targets of bullies (58%). Women bullies more often target other women employees.

Understand their Motive

Many women believe they would never bully a co-worker or a close friend. However in male-dominated offices, women who have succeeded tend to take on stereotypically male behaviors. They learn to be more aggressive. Once you throw in their natural jealousy of each other, it’s a perfect mix for workplace turmoil. Recent research shows that women are more prone to bullying by another woman than by a man.

Bullies target people who pose a threat to them in the workplace. Often the bully target is smart, competent, well-liked and self-assured. Women who feel invisible choose to uplift themselves up by knocking others down to hide their insecurity.

“Women bullies will often befriend you and then air all your secrets later, in boardrooms or at office gatherings” says Dr. Namie. Power, aggression, insecurity, and jealously fuel the bullies desire to put down others.

Most adult bullies act the way they do to make up for some shortcoming of their own. Many times it’s because the bullies themselves feel inadequate in some way. This would include issues related to frustration, personality traits, perceptions of unfair treatment, and an assortment of stresses and strains associated with today’s leaner and ‘meaner’ work settings.

Understanding the social dynamics

While bullying by both sexes involves similar levels of aggression, the expression usually differs between the genders. Men use their physical power and may engage in fights, or use the threat of physical violence to torment their victims. Men engage in more observable form of verbal abuse.

Women are much more likely to engage in social bullying or relational bullying. The most common attacks include rumors, exclusion, teasing, and insults. Women make much nastier office bullies than men, says psychologist Dr. Gary Namie. Whether it stems from an innate desire to stay on the top of the corporate ladder, or as a cutthroat mechanism is highly debatable.

When it comes to the type and frequency of bullying, research shows that men are just as exposed to bullying as women, but are actually slightly more exposed to physical intimidation than women. While it is unusual for men to report instances of bullying by female bosses, the instances are on the rise.

As women get into the corporate world they are taught or are led to believe that they don’t get ahead because of men. But, they really don’t get ahead because of themselves. “Instead of building each other up and showcasing each other, we’re constantly tearing each other down,” says Dr. Namie.

The next time you feel victimized by a woman remember you have two options. You can decide to work with this woman and help her to become a better colleague, or take a stance and begin to address the situation through bullying and harassment policies at work.

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