When playground bullies grow up, they do not give up their hurtful ways, instead they carry their domineering actions into the workplace. According to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute survey, 38 percent of workplace bullies are women and 58 percent of the targets of bullies are women. This means you or a woman you know may be a bully or the target of a bully, and these bullies want more than just your lunch money.
Indirect bullying takes the form of backstabbing comments and gossiping meant to reduce the target's worth or to make the bully look better in comparison. The bully may play nice with her target long enough to get the dirt on her private life or to gain her confidence so the target will talk about fellow employees or her boss. The information gained is then warped, molded and misquoted until the bully makes it sound like the target is more vicious than she is.
The female workplace bully may favor sabotage as her tool of destruction. She may withhold information or give misinformation to anyone she deems a threat to her career. She may "forget" to pass along important phone messages or accidentally-on-purpose drop an associate's report into the paper shredder instead of dropping it into the boss' inbox. By making the target look inept, she thinks her work and capabilities will look better in comparison. She is not concerned that anyone will get even because she may not even see that what she does is an affront, rather she sees it as a smart strategy toward success.
While the target may sit across the aisle from her bully, things could be worse. The bully could be in a position of authority over her target. When the boss is the bully, the abuse can take the form of unreasonable performance demands, unfair evaluations, yelling and punitive measures that are more than just annoying or frustrating. The action may be illegal and cause problems that will affect the company as a whole. The boss may see her actions as an attempt to play rough and tough like the boys, but in reality she may be over compensating and fears she will be seen as soft if she doesn't take a tough stance.
Humor at the target's expense never grows old. From the playground to the boardroom, bullies are infamous for cracking jokes at the expense of others. The jokes may be about someone's weight, the size of her portfolio, her tardiness or the fact that her hair is never the same shade two months in a row. The bully and those who laugh at her jokes may not see the humor as hurtful, but the target does and that is what matters. If a target is made to feel uncomfortable or picked on, she is a victim of workplace bullying.
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