Career / Speaking Out / Work Culture

Incivility in office: 4 ways women mistreat other women at their workplace

. 3 min read . Written by Roopal Kewalya
Incivility in office: 4 ways women mistreat other women at their workplace

Patriarchy is not the fiefdom of men. Unfortunately, for many years, all men and women have grown with patriarchal ideas and have subconsciously absorbed them. And despite people’s best intentions, these ideas come forth in our day to day interactions with our bosses, colleagues, and juniors at our workplace.

Women face gender discrimination and sexism at the workplace at the hands of men. But the truth is, many women treat other women colleagues through this lens of patriarchy, sometimes consciously and at other times through unconscious biases.

1. Lack of support due to insecurity

Anu Sharma, 40 talks about her boss in a previous company and says that she would belittle her at any given a chance in front of all her teammates. The boss would not let go of even of the minor mistakes also though Anu was the best performer in her team. Instead of being her mentor and guiding her, Anu felt that her boss felt threatened by her and made her life hell until she was forced to change her job.

The boss’ insecurity in the workplace can be a very tricky path to navigate. Moreover, many women who reach the top have made it with a lot of struggle and hardships. Instead of pulling the next woman up, many women bosses feel that all women should go through that journey simply because they have gone through it. But Anu believed that if each woman on the top can help the next woman come up, this world will be a better place for women.

2. Desire for rational thinking

Rucha Vij, 37 recounts a time ten years ago when she had just joined a corporate office. She was called in to give her feedback over a design layout that was being presented by an agency from the outside.

She was surprised when the boss snubbed her feedback and chose another colleague explaining that while her feedback was intuitive, the other colleague’s feedback was more rational, and she preferred that.

Rucha wanted to point out at the time that this desire to be seen as more rational is a subconscious way of aligning more to ‘how men think’. This is because, for many years now, men have been seen as rational beings while women as intuitive. This is despite proof that all genders are capable of rational and intuitive responses, and both are needed to make an informed decision. Richa understood that her boss’ intentions were not bad and she wanted her to be better, but this unconscious bias shook her in her very first week of joining a job. She decided never to do that to another colleague.

3. Impulse shaming of a colleague

Aakanksha’s eyes well up as she recalls how she was judged by other women at her workplace for her clothes when she received subsequent promotions at her workplace. “All I did, was show up smartly at work, every day. But the sniggers and the backbiting made my life miserable,” said Aakanksha. Not only did she meet her targets at work each time, but she also introduced creative ideas at work that brought more business for them. “The men and women in my office ignored all my accomplishments and focussed on how I dressed and said mean things about me and my boss,” she added.

Jealousy and insecurity are natural human responses, but to give in to those impulses to shame a colleague can sometimes be mentally damaging. It’s a classic case of pulling someone down instead of rising to match their efforts and hard work.  It’s even more challenging to deal with when women do this to other women.

4. Fear of losing opportunity

Sonica was shocked when her insecure colleague blamed her for a fiasco in a presentation when they both had been working together on it. Sonica recalls that while she stood up there taking the blame, her colleague did not step up at all. She was shocked because presenting the correct figures for targets achieved in that quarter was her colleague’s responsibility. While Sonica had been working as a team, her colleague threw her under the bus, at the first given opportunity to save her face.

Fear of losing one’s job, low self-esteem and fear of failure can sometimes drive people to harm other people. If Sonica’s colleague had stood up with her and shared the blame, they would have worked in the future as a great team. But this incident created a rift among them, and they could never trust each other, after that.

There is a notion that women are naturally competitive with each other, and that jealousy and backbiting are common whenever women work with each other. The truth is, all these incidents can and do, happen to men too, at all times by other male colleagues. Men are jealous, also, of other men and women. There is backbiting among men too. It’s just not talked about often, and if it is, it is passed off as ‘competition’ which is assumed to be a natural phenomenon solely reserved for men.

Having said that, it’s also true that women can achieve a lot more collectively if they all help each other build up their careers, and become a ‘safe space’ for each other at the workplace.