Bullying bosses, double standards plague working women | WGLT

Millions of women responded to allegations of sexual harassment against figures in the entertainment industry, members of Congress and prominent journalists through the hashtag #MeToo.

Workplace experts say there is another common problem affecting mostly women: workplace bullying.

Working women also face a troubling double standard in terms of expectations, experts say.

Leandra Parris, an Illinois State University psychology professor, said it’s often more difficult for women to find redress for these types of workplace problems.

In a 2011 Harris Interactive Poll, 34 percent of working women reported some form of workplace bullying. More than two-thirds of those incidents involved actions by male supervisors.

Bullying can take the form of verbal abuse, humiliation or sabotaging an employee’s job performance.

“Men already have power. You add on the power of being the supervisor and now you have this huge power differential that is going to put that woman (employee) at risk,” Parris said on GLT’s Sound Ideas.

A 2010 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that about 62 percent of bullying incidents involved mostly male supervisors.

Workplace bullying is defined in several ways.

“It has to be intentional. It’s not something that accidently happened, or they didn’t mean it. And it’s repeated, it happens more than once, and it causes distress,” Parris said.

“The other part that’s really important is that there is a power differential. The perpetrator has some sort of physical or social power over the victim … It is not uncommon for that to fall to the bosses because they naturally have that power differential,” she added.

Parris said workplace bullying usually doesn’t involve physical abuse.

“It’s more relational, leaving (people) out, undermining them, lying about them, or verbal aggression—calling them names, telling them they are not doing a good job, and psychologically trying to undermine their state,” she said.

Women who observe colleagues being bullied also can experience physiological and emotional stress, Parris said.

“They are more likely, if they see bullying and experience it, for it to have a weightier consequence,” she added.

Women also are often held to different standards than their male colleagues, especially in their interactions with male supervisors, Parris said.

A woman who disagrees with a boss or expresses a forceful opinion is likely to face more consequences than a male counterpart, she said.

“Women are sort of socialized to be the quiet, submissive type. What we see is that men, even if they’re not being socialized to be hostile in terms of sexism, there is this term of ‘benevolent sexism,’ where they’re taught they’re supposed to come in and save the woman. She is the damsel in distress,” Parris said.

“There is a fine line between that and she’s supposed to be submissive. She (is supposed to do) what you tell her to do,” Parris added.

In many men, that view of women “gets internalized very early on,” she said.

It is more difficult for women than men to express forceful opinions without appearing disrespectful to a male supervisor, Parris noted.

“It’s almost like, ‘How dare you question my authority or question anything I can say.’ And then there’s this sense of embarrassment that there is this woman who stood up and corrected them,” she said.

It is a “tricky” process for women to speak up to their supervisors in those circumstances where they feel they have been mistreated or have experienced “benevolent sexism,” Parris said.

She advises, “Just be honest with them, and do it without emotionality. The minute you start to show any emotion, be it anger or sadness, that moment gets undermined. So a woman has to be even more careful than a man when they approach their bosses to say something. Make sure you practice it and all that emotionality is taken out of the equation.”

Read on . . .


Source: Bullying bosses, double standards plague working women | WGLT

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