I suspect I’ve talked about this before, but this is a topic that keeps raising my ire because it never goes away.
We all know that women are inherently mean to one another. Any female growing up can cite a myriad of examples of female bullying. Unfortunately, women are just as cutthroat in the work environment as well. They are, in my experience, the first ones to stab others in the back if it means gaining favor with upper management and tend to play by a completely different set of rules from any man. They hold other women to different standards and definitely play favorites among their subordinates. It is frustrating, upsetting, and exhausting to attempt to work in such environments.
Why are women so evil towards one another? What is it about a female relationship that will cause even the youngest girls to start playing the “I’m mad at you and therefore I am giving you the silent treatment” game? Why are we so willing to throw one another under the proverbial bus if it means looking better for others? And most importantly, why do other women insist on forcing female employees to make a choice between work and family? This is the ultimate form of cruelty.
I’ve had many managers over the years – some were bad, some were horrible, and some were actually decent. Interestingly enough, my female managers were by and large the most inflexible and frustrating. They were the most intractable and played obvious favorites. Their moodiness tended to be obvious and unexpected, and it left you feeling as if you were on a darkened roller coaster, not knowing what to expect next. Why is that? Shouldn’t we, as females, band together to help change work environments to be more supportive of working females, regardless of motherhood status? Shouldn’t we treat other females the way we want to be treated? Do we really need to perpetuate the Mean Girl stereotype in the workplace?
Some of the blame, I feel, falls with HR, which ironically is typically made up of female employees. In my experience, HR tends to be one of the most inflexible departments within any organization and the one least likely to provide any help or support for uniquely female work dilemmas. I understand the need for taking a firm stance on established policies, but if the policy is antiquated, shouldn’t they, in their capacity as policy makers, be working towards instilling a culture of tolerance and flexibility? Shouldn’t they be the first line of defense for working mothers and females in the workplace? Yet, why is it they are not?
No matter in what industry or what state I work, no matter how many years of experience I have, I see the same behaviors and inflexible attitudes towards female employees occurring over and over again. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it must take an entire country to change opinions about women and their work relationships because after more than two decades in the working world, I don’t see very many changes at all. I see people, especially women, acknowledge the issues but then go back to perpetuating the same behaviors. I see female managers still unwilling to let employees work from home if a child is sick or out of school for a day. I see other females shoot down other females’ ideas without pause in an effort to ingratiate themselves with the men in the group. I see women playing the “she said this about you” game in an effort to generate ill-will towards others. I see an entire generation of women who will have to continue to face the same barriers, the same inequalities, and the same inflexibilities that we continue to face if something is not done about it.
Thankfully, there is hope. As my generation steps into the upper management roles, we are finally in a position to make that difference, to generate policy, and to create business cultures that are more supportive and open-minded for all employees, but especially other females. We have to become the first line of defense against that age-old work versus family dilemma and change those paradigms that there has to be a choice. We have to adopt the technologies that increase a company’s flexibility and actively encourage their usage without creating guilt or adding a black mark to their career. We need to stand strong against the old regime and the “that’s the way it’s always been” paradigm. Otherwise, our girls will face the same challenges, the same gut-wrenching decisions as we have had to make over the years.
Am I the only one who has experienced this? If you are male, do you see this same behaviors in your female coworkers/employees? Any thoughts on how we can collectively improve the situation?
Exactly. I think having grown up surrounded by educators has made it more difficult for me to accept the mean girl phenomenon in the business world. Almost 20 years later, and I'm still wondering why occurs. I definitely think we need to make it better for our girls as we enter into upper managerial positions.
Thankfully, I have not had horrible experiences with either male or female supervisors; but I have seen it occur, particularly more in the business world than the education world where I work. It is getting better, but it is also still very present. We need to make it better for our girls!!
Exactly! It's enough to make me want to leave the workforce as I just get so discouraged after a while.
I agree with your assessment but can't help but wonder when this will end. I think it is still a struggle for women to get supervisory positions, although the situation is much improved from historical standards. Does this mean that there will be another generation of women that will continue to feel threatened by other women with potential? Where does it end?
I'm out of the workforce right now but I know it was a thing when I was working. As long as women are expected to bear the brunt of family duties (and they seem to be no matter how "enlightened" everyone is) it will continue to be a problem. Here's hoping for change and open-mindedness! Us girls need to stick together.
I think historically, it's tougher for women to get those supervisory positions so once they get there, they are easily threatened by other women who actually do their job. I had a horrible thing happen to me last February and I am still dealing with the ridiculousness of the situation but in the end, I have a full life (marriage, family and a good job) this person had a broken marriage, no kids and is desperate as hell so all her cutthroat antics are really her clutching at whatever she can grab. She might have the position but when she looks at me, I know she knows I have the better end of the stick.
All of my women bosses have been tougher than my male bosses, but most of them have at least been fair.
LOL! Make sure your female coworkers don't get anywhere near this comment!! 😉
You would think it would be easier for women to collectively shun the bitchy attitude, but it isn't. It starts at such a young age too. So sad really.
Heather – My intent was not to lump all women and all managers together. I was going largely by my own experiences and discussions I've had with other female coworkers and said as such. I was more expressing my own disappointment at my own company with HR department that is all female, we seem to have some of the most archaic policies I've ever experienced, and with a female manager – divorced mother no less – there is very little compromise in the way of flexibility or alternative work schedules.
I know that change will happen eventually. I just wish it was happening sooner in my own experiences.
Am I the only one who has experienced this? No. If you are male, do you see these same behaviors in your female coworkers/employees? Yes, what can I say? Women are bitches (um, sometimes). 🙂 Any thoughts on how we can collectively improve the situation? No. Well, don't be bitches. 🙂 Seriously, though, where I work is pretty good in terms of the relationships among women (and men too) — unless they happen across this comment. 😉
I am a branch manager at a bank and although I've experienced these things in my climb up the ladder, I'm very careful to treat all of my employees with the respect they deserve. My company has done a great job being clear about how important the work-life balance is and how much we need to provide a great employee experience for our people. While we are a retail business, and can't "work from home" (there is no work if there are no customers) my people definitely have the flexibility they need.
I'm not saying you're wrong, not by any means, but what I am saying is that this is not every female manager at every place. There are many of us who are actively trying to do the right thing every single day.
BUT I've totally experienced this in my career. Both by male and female employees. It takes a corporate attitude shift to change the mindset of everyone, and unfortunately even that won't change some people. People with the right attitudes and beliefs have to be the ones getting promoted to management, and once that starts happening, change will come.
I just want to finish with one more thought: I have been up against the old boys' system plenty in my career. I hate it and wish for a better place for women to work too. Your points are valid and well-stated. Being a working mother is not for the weak. I didn't want the HR issues to get in the way of the fact that I agree with everything you say.
Belle – I appreciate everything you said and know that not all HR is full of curmudgeonly women who cater to the old boys' system. I have had the misfortune to have had experience with plenty of HR who are like that though. FMLA is wonderful and definitely a step in the right direction. I would love to see everyone get on board with working remotely and flex hours though. They are so beneficial to working mothers, and it makes everyone more appreciative to be able to adjust their hours to be able to do everything in both their lives.
I've only had one female manager who ever said and meant that family comes first. I loved her. All of my other female managers have said that family comes first, but when push comes to shove, it isn't so. It comes at the price of precious vacation days even though my job allows for working remotely. I want to be able to take care of my kids when necessary but at ages 8 and 12, they don't need me for much, which is why I always want to work from home rather than have to take PTO. Maybe it is my own perceptions I need to adjust.
There needs to be though. We all know it exists, but do we really have to continue to treat each other like that? I hate it.
Yes to every single thing you say except… I am HR. Policy IS NOT easy to change. Where I work there is so much animosity between management and union that management will not give on much of anything unless forced. I think there has been some positive changes in HR with the FMLA law. It may seem small but it is a start. I believe FMLA will begin to incorporate care for siblings as well as parents and children soon. Flex hours is a major contract negotiation as well as work from home.
I think even if HR can change policy you are always going to have mean girls.
I also think that we are still dealing with that generation just before myself – they are starting to think retirement but don't ever seem to want to leave the work place – that started work when it was a male dominated workforce. They are still in the Gal Friday mentality mode. If we can get them to retire, I think you will see some more favorable policy come your way.
I'm HR but I'm not mean. I promise.
Women are always mean to each other. It sucks. I see it allot among mothers too. They love to criticize and judge one another.
I'm not sure if there is a cure.
I think that the women the top of most companies are still of the first generation to reach those levels. It may be that they only reached those levels because they were so "tough" so they will always be that way. Or they had to adapt to it. Those are the ones I think should be more ready to help others. I am so fortunate; my managers recently have been great and have said that family comes first.