Women Bullying Women by Gaye Crispin #GayeWrites

I wish I could say I was surprised to discover that women are the greatest bulliers of other women, but I wasn’t.

According to bully researchers the number of women participating in bullying activities is actually on the rise. And whereas men tend to bully equally across genders, we women tend to prefer bullying other women, and are reluctant to bully men we aren’t married to, or aren’t related to.

Figures released a couple of years ago said around 40% of workers have been bullied, and that it’s mostly men who are bullies. But the figures also showed that  about 40% of bullies are women.

And apparently male bullies are more ‘fair-minded’ and bully both genders pretty much in equal measure. Women on the other hand tend to prefer bullying their own kind, choosing other women as targets more than 70% of the time.

An excerpt from “When the Wrong Woman Wins – Building Bullies and Perpetuating Patriarch” says, “One expectation is that much of the bullying is perpetrated by males, perhaps threatened by the increased number of women in the management ranks. Sadly, however, this is not the case. According to Namie’s U.S. Hostile Workplace Survey, men and women are equally responsible for the bullying behavior, and 84% of those employees targeted for the abuse are female.

Surprisingly, women bullies target women employees more often than they target malesBully behaviour is the amplified acting out of masculine behaviours that range from blatant demonstrations such as aggressively screaming, yelling, and threatening dismissals to subtle, underhanded displays. Making unreasonable job demands, criticizing abilities, and excluding targeted employees from meetings and necessary information are all found in the bully’s repertoire.  Research on bully behavior and harassment concludes that bullies, like harassers, are driven by a need for power and control and choose to seek out a perceived weaker employee to dominate.”

Women Bullying Women Is Not Cool

Female bullies often enjoy the sport of bullying other women and ‘get off’ on the sense of power it gives them. These are serial bullies. Considering the surfeit of bullying information available, and how many of us already understand that ‘women bullying women’ is a problem, why are the numbers still climbing? Add to that, bullies can only be effective if they have a power base … a cheer squad. That means that if the number of female bullies are on the increase so are the number of bully cheer squads ….  and that’s another serious problem.

I strongly doubt the suffragettes fought for us just so future generations of women would continue the dishonorable tradition of devouring one another. I also doubt they’d be very impressed if they knew we were facing a pandemic of women bullying other women in the workplace and elsewhere.

Imagine if men were doing that amount of bullying of women!

Imagine if the statistics I just cited said men did that amount of  bullying women. If 70% of the bullying male bullies did was directed towards women! Can you imagine the furore that would ensue?!

Every woman and feminist group in the western world would be up in arms, burning their bras, and marching down Main Street waving their G-strings until somebody listened. But because it’s women bullying women there’s nary a nipple…. I mean ripple.

So why are so many women passive on this subject? Could it be because women have been desensitized by the bullying itself, and have come to accept female bullying as a normal part of life, and therefore of the female pecking-order as well?

Do we fear that by discussing the topic we are validating the ‘catty’ female gender stereotype label women have been tarred with? Or worse, is it possible both genders consider it normal behaviour for women to bully other women?

I certainly hope not because I don’t believe most women are bullies.  Having said that, I do suspect many women (and employers) don’t recognise it when they are supporting and propping up a bully. Or they don’t want to acknowledge it because a bully can easily be used as a tool, and even serve an employers purpose.

These are all real human issues needing to be discussed, and solutions found, if the next generation of young women are to experience a healthier woman-to-woman environment than ours has.

And if our generation doesn’t deal with this, and find some real and practical answers, which generation will? Why would we want to leave that ugly challenge as a legacy to our daughters, instead of defeating it ourselves?

True gender equality means the freedom for both genders to weigh in and discuss problems that affect both men and women. Women bullying women is a conversation that everybody needs an opportunity to participate in – because we are all affected by it one way or another.

Have you ever been bullied in the workplace, your social circles, in business or online? How did you deal with it? How did it affect you? Have you ever bullied anyone at work, in social circles, in business or online? Why did you? How did it affect you?

I’d love you to share your thoughts.

Thank you,


PS: Celebrate International Women’s Day with me by helping 1 woman achieve a greater level of freedom. Please go to Kiva and read how easy it is to help 1 woman on her journey to independence and freedom. Thank you.

Copyright Gaye Crispin 2012

Gaye Crispin is a Social Innovation Architect, Business Strategist, Social Enterprise Consultant, Human Rights Activist, Blogger, Online Publisher, and enthusiastic promoter of good businesses doing good. She also owns a Debt Collection and Credit Management Agency in Sydney, Australia. Gaye collects gruesome Business Stories from her clients, analyses them, and turns them into helpful business lessons for SME operators.

Gaye’s office is located on the beautiful Central Coast. You can contact Gaye on 0408 445 960 or send an email to info@siaa.com.au


20 Comments on “Women Bullying Women by Gaye Crispin #GayeWrites”

  1. Marcia says:

    I would not accept the explanation that the female manager was bullying me because she was jealous of my intelligence, skills and abilities. No way!
    It happened again on the next job. Okay, then it seemed like a “maybe” because in both cases I was seriously under employed.
    Now I belong to an arts group where the Organizer is bullying me. This time it’s in a quiet confrontative manner, mostly by email, so others don’t know.
    I needed the income from those jobs, so I stiffled my feelings and gained 45lbs in 8 yrs.
    Now I’m retired and don’t need to take that insidious bully krap. Too bad I have to resign from the group that I enjoy, to get rid of the stress.
    What’s a woman to do? !

  2. Rhia Roberts says:

    Wow…such an important topic. For some reason, we expect the downtrodden to rise above their experiences and model exemplary behavior as a way to foster and support change. But this doesn’t seem to be the reality; consider this topic of women bullying women or the disenfranchised becoming the disenfranchisers (that should be a real word) or the slaves become the slave owners. I worked in Africa and it broke my heart to see how well the African people had learned from the colonists and continued the autocratic behaviors even after independence. But women bullying women…? Come on, girls, let’s trailblaze for others to follow the right way.

  3. Reb says:

    We have to remember that women can only bully us if we allow them to. I have one woman who has tried to bully me multiple times at work, but she wasn’t, and won’t be successful. I give it right back. 🙂

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Reb,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that bullies can only bully us if we allow them. And good for you for standing up for yourself.
      I suppose where it gets tricky for some women is when it’s a female boss or manager, and the only way through appears to be to leave a job they might otherwise enjoy.

      I know there are many challenges to addressing this issue, and the biggest one seems to be getting women to speak up and out against female bullies, at the time, in a constructive and collaborative way.

      Hopefully we are building on the research and getting there.

      I appreciate your feedback and comments Reb, and I hope you have a lovely week-end.


  4. This was an outstanding and very balanced piece. I particularly respect the fact that you have correctly identified this issue as a human issue. We have divided ourselves along gender lines for too long and it prevents us from working together on issues like bullying, abortion, equality in the workplace and equality under the law.

    Well done.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Maggie,

      Thank you for your comments, particularly how the gender divide hampers us from working openly on areas that impact on us all.

      Yes, we need more mixed gender dialogue on these matters if we are going to find solutions.

      Have a lovely week-end,


  5. Great post! We women can be so mean to each other. Very important topic.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Sonja,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Yes, unfortunately we can. My hope is that we can all work together to bring about awareness and change this for the better.

      Have a lovely week-end,


  6. I was bullied by a lady boss where I was a Manpower temp. It is very frustrating where you need work and don’t know what to do. I eventually quit that assignment and did get something much better.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Teresa,

      Another lady bully boss! How awful for you and I am glad you got something better.
      Wonder if the temping agency knew what she was like before they assigned you.

      Have a lovely week-end Teresa,


  7. I certainly have experienced exactly what you described in your post–once by a man and once by a woman. Of course, I don’t respond well to bullying and removed myself from the situation in both cases. I couldn’t believe in either case that they actually seemed to think that I would submit or tolerate the treatment I was subjected to. But you could tell that I disappointed or upset the person who had targeted me. In his case, he grew quite angry, but she didn’t expect resistance at all, and in some ways try to make it seem that everything she did was “for my own good.” It was actually quite painful while it did last–I couldn’t quite believe it was true. That’s the odd part, I didn’t understand it all until I was out of the situation.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Karen,

      I am sorry to hear about your experience and I’m glad you removed yourself from the situations. Sometimes that’s the only thing to do.

      The issue of bullying seems to only hit the headlines when there is an extreme case that has driven somebody to respond violently. But those instances are just the tip of the iceberg. The type of thing that happened to you is a very commonplace experience for too many women in the workplace. And it’s terribly distressing when it happens, which means it flows over into family life. I know one woman who used to feel ill before going to work at the thought of having to deal with bullying from one of her managers, but she was single mum and felt she had no choice but to put up with it because the pay was good.

      I’m always appalled when I read about bullying, but more so when I read about a woman bullying another woman. I guess I expect the sisterhood to be standing against it, not for it.

      Thank you for your comments Karen and hugs,


  8. dolapo oladimeji says:

    i think this is very true,most especially here in west africa nigeria pressicely.

  9. Sarah Wilson says:

    Critical topic, and not just for the workplace. Because of basic power dynamics, men “can” bull both genders but women will stick to women – that does not surprise. Also, bullying, esp. relational bullying, is to be (sadly) expected in an unequal power dynamic.

    I suspect we’ll know we’re getting closer to “equal” when both genders pick on both genders (an unhappy measure but a measure of a sort).

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Yes, what you say makes sense. And I guess women feel safer bullying women. That measure would be a sad measure, would be better for women, worse for men. And that’s hardly the point. I would love to be a fly on the wall of some of these think tanks that discuss such matters.

      Thanks for your reply Sarah,
      Much appreciated and hugs,


  10. Very important in the context of what’s actually happening out there …

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Srivatsan,

      Yes, I agree with you. And even though we, the women of my generation, haven’t been able to get our act together on this issue and stem the tide, we owe to our daughters to do our best to at least try.

      Thank you Srivatsan and I hope you’ve been having a great week.


  11. This is an important topic. One I do not like to think about. Thank you for opening a conversation!

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Sally,

      Thank you for commenting.

      Yes it is an important topic, and I’m with you… it’s not nice to think about.

      When I hear bully stories where women are bullying women I can’t help but wonder where the empathy went. Women have walked a long, hard road for their own freedom, but apparently some aren’t there yet with wanting it for each other.
      This has to change.

      I hope you have a lovely week-end Sally,


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