The office playground

Remember those school bullies in the playground? Well, it seems that they’re not just confined to the school gates. They’re rife in the workplace too.

As reported in the Times the Andrea Adams Trust, a charity that fights against bullying at work, is receiving more phone calls for help with the issue. And not just a few more – the number is estimated to have doubled since the recession hit. The charity says that many of the callers don’t want to raise the issue at work as they’re scared that they could lose their job, which no-one wants to do given the current climate.

Although the majority of bullies are men, according to a recent article in the New York Times, female bullies target other women 70% of the time.

I can’t say that I am really surprised by this. The female race can be a bitchy one at times and instead of adopting some female solidarity, this is often directed at other women. And with the male dominated business culture, there are some women that adopt an aggressive manner to get to the top. But this brings up a different point, as highlighted by Sharon Mavin, associate dean at Newcastle Business School: “Is it bullying or is it just a woman not meeting another woman’s expectations? Women react to men bosses as bosses but react to women bosses as women.”

Our own research in conjunction with Microsoft brought up some interesting and polarised views from women in the IT sector:

  • “Assertiveness in a woman is too often regarded as hostility or aggression, so it is a fine line.”
  • “Maybe because my team manager is a woman, who has had children, she is sympathetic of the need to balance work with family.”
  • “The rest of the people on the staff have to put up with [mothers] being focused on children, not their work.”
  • “As an ambitious single woman in a technology company, I sometimes get frustrated by the extent to which some working mothers are carried by their peers”

With many women struggling with making it to the top, especially whilst juggling family commitments, it’s essential that women support each other in the workplace. Handling office politics and working in male teams can be challenging – these are just some of the issues we’re addressing at W-Tech next week.

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