With the current strong feminist movement, you'd think women would seek to promote other women in the workplace. However, research-based articles written as recently as 2013 show that women in high-level positions will actively work to keep women in lower-level positions from being promoted. It's called Queen Bee syndrome.
In fact, research shows that working women create toxic environments more often than working men do.
So who will stand up for women if women will not? Do we have to leave it to the men?
The Workplace Bullying Institute found that female bullies choose to harass female co-workers 68% of the time.
This bullying often presents itself as passive-aggressive conflict, which leads to power struggles and a toxic work environment, which in turn leads to decreased productivity and diminished profits for a business.
having hushed conversations with others when she is near.
Another part of the problem is not knowing how to stop female bullying.
Here are some tips for approaching a coworker you suspect is bullying another woman.
Seek to understand where the woman is coming from by showing attentive listening. Once she seems satisfied with what she's told you, respond with understanding. Refrain from indulging the negativity by remaining as objective as possible.
Say things like, "I have been noticing that as well," or, "That would be stressful/frustrating."
To express true empathy, consider sharing a similar personal experience.
As you consider her perspective, ask yourself, "What may have made her feel she needed to do/say that?" and, "Has her life changed recently in a major way?" and, "What kind of stresses may she be dealing with?"
With continued empathy and an attitude of seeking to understand, try to distinguish the difference between the facts and the assumptions.
Helpful facts include the actual origin of conflict, the actual words and tone used in the conflict, the actual events leading up to the conflict and the actual events after the conflict. Draw a line between what happened and what was felt - known information and filler information.
Only ask a couple of essential questions so she does not feel bombarded or interrogated. Essential questions could include any of the following.
"What else could you have meant by ___?"
"Is this pressure coming from you or someone above you?"
"What could have changed that caused this to start happening?"
"Why would such and such come after you?"
"What does such and such have to gain by doing this?"
"I can see how that made you feel this way. Could they be unaware that it made you feel that way?"
"If I were to ask them, what do you think their side of the story would sound like?"
Of course, tailor these questions to match the context and the individual.
From the questions, seek to reveal an objective reality. Talk about what information is still needed to fully understand what is going on.
3. Promote conflict resolution instead of conflict
Help the woman coming to you for support feel empowered to resolve the conflict. The resolution could be an action she can do alone, or it may require collaboration.
Either way, brainstorm peaceful productive actions with her. Consider how the effects of the top three or four ideas will affect those involved.
If the solution requires collaboration, encourage her to speak to the person/people involved with an aim for resolution and understanding. Brainstorm with her what she could say and how and when she could say it.
If needed, express a willingness to help or suggest someone else who can.
If someone like a manager or supervisor is needed to help mediate the conversation, seek help from someone who is not emotionally involved in the situation.
4. Consider the big picture
Recognize that a basic human need is understanding and acceptance. Always remember there are often many ways to achieve the same objective. As you help her come up with a solution, promote understanding and acceptance of others.
Melissa Thurm is a native Georgian, wife and the public relations specialist for Mikarose. She graduated with competency in educational/parental psychology, organized communication and public relations.