Women and Bullying

This article is part of a FREE email programme Positive Influence for Women
Bullying Women
Workplace bullying is a problem, whichever way you look at it. And it seems to be a bigger problem for women than for men. One survey from 2014 found that an estimated 9.6m US workers had been the target of serious bullying in the preceding year*, of those, 60% were women. Put another way, right now, 5.8m women are being bullied at work in the US alone. Women are 50% more likely to be bullied than men.
Also coming out of the survey is that men are much more likely to bully than women (69%) and, when they do, they are more likely to bully women. However, when women bully, they are much more likely to bully other women (68%) rather than men (32%).
This is relevant to influence because being the target of bullying is the extreme of powerlessness and inability to influence. Rather than continue down the statistical minefield, it seems to me that everyone, but especially women:
  1. Need to be able to spot the early signs of bullying behaviour (and this is likely to vary between male and female bullies).
  2. Should continually work to build their personal power, confidence and interpersonal skills to be able to deal more effectively with problems which do arise.
  3. Ensure that in their pursuit of power and influence, they do not inadvertently adopt behaviours associated with bullying.
One of the challenges about coping with deviant and abusive behaviour is that most people, at least the first time around, meet it without ever having prepared for it. They may have witnessed it but not thought through how they would deal with it if it happened to them.
A few questions to reflect on…
  • What behaviours do you consider to be bullying?
  • Why does bullying happen?
  • Do men and women differ in the way they bully?
  • How would your response differ if it was a women rather than a man bullying you?
This is a tough and challenging subject and I’d like to return to this later in the programme.


If you, or someone close to you is the target of bullying, the following resources may be useful:
Don’t delay and think it will go away. Do something. 


If you think you are being bullied:
  1. Consider what is happening that causes you to think you are being bullied. Record the situations when you feel you are being bullied. Note dates, times, the situation, what was said and how it impacted on your behaviour.
  2. Remember that not all bullies are loud and aggressive, some are quietly manipulative.
  3. Bullies pick on people who allow them to use bullying behaviour. Explore what it is about your behaviour that could be encouraging the ‘bully’ to act as they do.
  4. Talk to someone you trust and respect at work, and let them know what is happening.
  5. Consider the consequences of standing up to the bully, and whether you can handle them.
  6. Take control of your inner dialogue as this will impact on how you feel and how you react. Think of a phrase that you can say to yourself that makes you feel powerful and strong, ‘I am powerful and strong’ should do it!
  7. If you feel confident enough, give the bully some feedback. Let them know how their actions towards you are making you feel and, therefore, how this is impacting on your performance and results.
Helen Isacke, Executive Coach, Crown Coaching, UK.

Related reading:

* Workplace Bullying Institute 2014 US Bullying Survey. (more info)

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