Bullying in the Workforce (Female Bosses)

We have all either read or have seen on the news something about bullying that is happening in our public school systems. Children bullying other children for numerous reasons such as weight, being unpopular, or being openly gay. But would it surprise you to learn there is another place where bullying occurs? A place that doesn’t involve children, but adults instead. A place of silent suffering. The bullying happens in the workplace by female bosses. According to a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, “women bosses are likely to aim their hostility toward another women more than 70 percent of the time.” “The Workforce Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

  1. Verbal abuse

  2. Offensive conduct/behavior that are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.

  3. Work interference, i.e. sabotage, that prevents work from being done.

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Bullying by female bosses can take shape in many forms, ranging from humiliation in front of other people, especially co-workers, name calling, cussing, to overloading of work with impossible deadlines, being forced to do other jobs that were not your own, or being accused of making mistakes that you didn’t make. At times physical contact such as slapping on the back, a smack on the arm or hand with a ruler, or thump on the head with an aggressive voice occur. Female bosses who are bully’s exhibit nice behavior one day and aggressive behavior the next. They often ask for advise on a project and offer rude remarks and unfair criticism to suggestions. They verbally abuse and constantly put the employee down within their organization. Female bosses who are bullies will go to great length to undermine their female employee by sabotaging their work. They often give you details on one thing, then turn around and tell you that you weren’t listening, when they purposely change it, causing you to question yourself. For these bosses, recognition and praise is seldom given for work well done. Instead, degrading remarks and humiliation are often offered, affecting the moral and productivity of the employee. It is not uncommon for the female boss who bullies to try and turn the employees co-workers against her. Isolation is a form in which the boss shows favor for another co-worker and gives praises, or shows special favors, while ignoring or belittling her target.

Employees who are bullied by their female bosses often do not confront their boss for fear that the bullying will become worse, or for fear of loosing their jobs. This type of behavior toward the employee can cause mental stress and physical problems such as depression, or other health related issues.

Tips for dealing with a female boss that bullies include:

  1. Document, document, document. Having a paper trail is always good to have especially if you need to take it to a further level. Document the incident as soon as it happens, or soon after the event occurs while it is still fresh in your mind.

  2. If your boss is bullying you in front of someone, excuse yourself to the restroom or another place they cannot continue the abusive behavior.

  3. Try to distract the bully by telling her that you need to get something from your car, or you have to return a phone call.

  4. Never discuss your personal life with your boss. This includes anything about family, friends, things you’ll be doing for the weekend, etc. Giving your boss too much personal information empowers them, causing them to feel they are in control of you.

  5. Do not let your bullying boss take away your self-esteem. Remember it is her intentions to make you feel defeated. Maintain a positive attitude and self-esteem.

  6. Contact the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). They are responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee.

Many targets of female bosses who bully, tend to be perfectionists, high achievers and workaholics. These bosses use bullying as a way to hide their own insecurities by striking out at their target. If you feel it is time to move on to another job, interview your perspective boss. As they are interviewing you, silently conduct your own interview on them. If your gut tells you when you’re sitting across from her that something doesn’t seem right, don’t take the job. Chances are you will end up in the same situation. Don’t hesitate to check around and speak to current employees to see how they like working for their current boss, or if you know someone who has worked for her in the past, talk to them. No one should have to work for a bully.