Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Gender diversity & inclusion in the workplace is about creating a culture where everyone has to be respectful to each other. Often the finger is pointed at men to be more respectful of women. But it’s time to shine a light on women too. 

I’ve seen this happen throughout my 30 year career and I’m sorry to say it hasn’t changed all that much. There continues to be women who make life difficult for other women. It’s like watching the retro female roller derby shows where women are winding up their elbows to shove their opponent in the boards. 

Men will say it to me all the time – “yeah, I find women to be hardest on other women, what’s up with that?” Men can argue with each other during a meeting and then go out for a beer after work and laugh it off. So what’s the deal with women?

This is a fair question and it deserves a thoughtful answer. These women are often called nasty names because they can’t seem to get into “team.” So, here are my thoughts:

Why do women behave this way?

1.    They lack self-awareness –they don’t realize it but they are displaying their own insecurities onto other women for all the world to see – especially fear, envy, jealousy, suspicion, resentment, rage, anxiety or lack of self-esteem or confidence. It’s usually their unconscious fear or need for control being triggered by an individual and/or they feel threatened.

2.    Nobody stops them – who wants to speak up to someone who’s lobbing shots and grenades at another? Most people would rather not be confrontational with these individuals because they really don’t want to perpetuate any further engagement with them.

3.    They have big egos – They have busted their butts to get where they are and are not going to let anyone usurp them or get in their way with their career opportunities. They expect people to respond to their demands or have no problem throwing other women under the bus, demonstrating a clear lack of interpersonal and leadership skills.

Photo by CoWomen

So how to deal with this? These are helpful reminders that many of us know but it’s worth repeating.

Be Confident – Difficult women want to control and manipulate others so no matter what, remain professional, keep your composure and continue to smile. Don’t stoop to their level of catty words or brash behaviours. It’s beneath you. If you remain confident and in control, there is less likelihood that it will happen again.

Stand up for yourself – learn how to be assertive. If you lack these skills, read up on it so you’re prepared for the next interaction of this kind. Find a way to say that these bullying tactics are unprofessional and won’t be tolerated. Difficult women count on you to be passive about your behaviour. Show them they made a mistake by targeting you.

Focus on your work – Don’t allow difficult women to derail your work. Instead focus on continuing high-quality work. The less drama the better so don’t engage others in what is happening.

Creating a workplace culture where everyone can operate at their best takes effort by both men and women. Women who do stand up for themselves will be a role model for the younger generation too and with these skills and confidence, put an end to these behaviours once and for all.