If you never have been bullied in the workplace, you are lucky.
If you never have been bullied in the workplace by another woman, you are very lucky.
It happens much too often, and you need to make sure that you are not the bully. That is the only way we will get this under control.
I, like most women lawyers, have been bullied at one time or another. We are minorities, and that, unfortunately, is how minorities get treated. Many of us were “pioneers” in our fields, and, because of that, the forces were against us in an even more powerful way. The profession was not ready for us in the early years. In those days, most of the bullying was done by male lawyers — because they could do it with impunity and because almost all of the managing lawyers were men.
But, to be bullied by another female is a whole different thing. It is pure betrayal. Any notions that we, as women, are all working toward the same equitable end, flies right out the window. How could she do that to me? How can she allow herself to weaken my position to make it easier for others to throw me under the bus? How can she allow petty jealousies and envies to overcome the concern we all should have for helping each other get ahead on a playing field that is tilted against us?
Those are the kinds of thoughts that cloud your mind and disappoint your soul when another woman bullies you. And, today, most of the bullies seem to come in the female variety. Woman-on-woman bullying is running rampant in our profession. My conversations with male lawyers today lead me to believe that it is as distasteful to them as it is to the women who are being bullied. It is not a pretty picture, any way you look at it.
I hope it never happens to you, but chances are it will. Read this article from the Atlantic to arm yourself against bullying, to recognize it when you see it, and, yes, to understand it. Not to justify it, but to understand it. “There’s hostility among the women who have made it,” states the writer. “It’s like, ‘I gave this [part of my life] up. You’re going to have to give it up too.” You also will read some historical information that sets the stage for this kind of competition between women that is worth knowing. But, hey, it is not the survival of the fittest to the same extent today as when there was only one strong alpha male to protect his “woman” and her offspring. Presumably, we have evolved.
“Tokenism” is also discussed, and it needs to be. It occurs when there are few opportunities for women, as compared to men, and women begin to view their gender as an obstacle, which causes them to avoid joining forces. That is when they turn on each other. Hardly the theme of Best Friends at the Bar.
And, you also will read about “competitive threat,” which takes place when a woman fears that a female newcomer will outshine her. Been there, done that — from the receiving end. Bad, bad.
Although the article is not specific to women attorneys, many of the “tales of female sabotage” reference them, and the article begins with information about a blog post by an anonymous young woman lawyer, who breaks down Female BigLaw Partners into three categories: The “aggressive bitch”; the “passive-aggressive bitch”; and the “tuned-out, indifferent bitch.” The connection between female bullying and our profession is clear to the reader.
I know it may sound like “sins against feminism” to “out” this kind of information, but it is time that we called it what it is. It is time that we started policing our ranks against these abhorrent behaviors and practices. When it becomes “sport,” it has gone too far.
Read the article and find out why.