Office Diaries

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The Difference Between Male and Female Bullies is Not Much

Why bullyism is an equal opportunity flaw.

The topic of bullying has gained traction over the last several years both as it pertains to school-aged kids and adults in the workplace. I've heard several explanations, one of which was an assumption that bullies today were bullies yesterday, which puts forth the idea that the little monster never grew out of the need to beat up and pick on others perceived to be weaker than him or herself. Lovely. Others say bullying is a good old-fashioned defense mechanism or the manifestation of an age-old desire to establish and/or maintain the feeling of power. Personally, I think the common thread between young bullies and their adult counterparts is merely an attempt to overcompensate for feelings of insecurity and a profound fear of being weak and/or vulnerable. They turn the tables to manufacture a sense of superiority to mask their discomfort with inferiority. At some point, in some way, I would say that all are probably true given different circumstances.

But when I saw an interest develop in the topic of female bullies in the workplace specifically, I was intrigued. For some reason the notion of a woman being a bully is treated as a mysterious, head-scratching phenomenon impossible to comprehend or accept because women are supposed to be soft, kind and nurturing. Perhaps. But, that doesn't mean that they are. Or, as another hypothesis often goes, "They must be trying to act like men in order to compete and survive in the dog-eat-dog world of business." Pardon me? Spend some time in corporate and you'll quickly see that both genders can be cruel and behave like Neanderthals equally as well, not because their behavior is relative to anyone or anything else, but because it is simply who they are.

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People are people and if we rid ourselves of the schema that belongs to bullies, which is typically male, and look at the characteristics and root causes, we can see that there are fundamental similarities, which do not discriminate by gender. Let's face it, little girls can be viscous and mean every bit as much as little boys can. Whether one grows up wearing pants or skirts is immaterial. It's the behavior of feeling the need to push someone around or intimidate another individual that is the core issue. Children, adults, boys and girls alike can all be horrible to one another for no good reason.

So, please pardon my French. Guys who bully are considered "assholes," and girls who bully are often referred to as "bitches." Granted, I'll admit, it's not pretty, but a bully is a bully and an equal opportunity flaw in humanity.  Meanwhile, if one happens to cross your path, remember one thing.  Bullies back down.  Expose them for what they are and you'll be amazed at how quickly the nasty little creatures retreat.

 

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Krysalis

Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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