Women bullying women is a hot topic. Much of the discussion focuses on women though. Almost none deal with how men blindly aid and abet it. This happens when women bullies play men well.
Culture Behind Women Bullying Women
Olga Khazan’s article, “Why Do Women Bully Each Other At Work?” does a great job showing the role culture plays in bullying. In short, Khazan points out that cultures with few opportunities for women have more women bullying women.
In this, think scarcity. People behave more aggressively in such situations. At work, if few women “make it,” then bullying becomes a tool to eliminate competition for those few slots.
Yet, just as bullying in schools can’t exist unless teachers and administrators are blind to it, it can’t happen at work unless the existing power structure, men, does the same.
Women Bullies Playing Powerful Men
Bullies know how to use power. That’s how they get away with what they do. Women bullies are no different. That means knowing how to play the men who run the power structure at work.
This often has the woman bully triggering one or more three primitive instincts in the men:
- Protecting her from the incompetence of others especially other women
- Falling for her sycophantic plays and compliments
- Fearing her disfavor or critical words
Being the protector or savior of a woman is a male archetype. Being especially vulnerable to compliments from females is another. Consider sirens. Lastly, fearing emotional emasculation by a dominant female is one too. A woman bully can use one or all three as a step in manipulating powerful males.
Blindly Setting Stage For Women Bullies
A common tactic a woman bully uses to discredit another female involves planting negative thoughts about her with powerful males. These could be about her or her work.
Applying the three triggers above, the bully’s male boss might feel the need to protect her from the bad work of the other female. Another male enjoys her feeding of his ego so will help. A third male might just fear being the brunt of her attacks for doing nothing. Finally, for a male that might have recommended hiring her, it could be all three.
Therefore, the point is this. Women bullying women is not just a woman-versus-woman issue. Just as with bullies in school, women bullies need a power structure that turns a blind eye.
At work, the men with power make that structure. Thus, this kind of bullying makes these men blindly complicit. More critical, women bullies know how to play them to keep them blind.