Study: How to Stop Mean Girls in the Workplace (Harvard Business Review, 2009, Medina)
Finding: Mean girls and workplace bullying are having detrimental affects on companies’ productivity and bottom line.
Note about The Woman Effect Research Index: This study was performed by researchers not affiliated with InPower Women. Our Research Index includes all relevant research to the subject of women, business and power. We do not influence how the research was conducted or reported by the researchers. In our abstracts, we focus on pulling out the most actionable advice for individual women. To suggest additional research we should index, or discuss our choice of abstract focus, please contact us
InPower Insight: Avoid an environment that bullying thrives in. Make everyone accountable to consistent standards of behavior.
When the term “mean girls” is heard, most think of juvenile high school antics first, but the truth is mean girls reside just as prominently in workplace environments and the cost of this drama at leadership levels is astonishing. It does more than create a little workplace strife, research suggests that it negatively affects productivity, wellness, attrition, and retention.
In this study by the Harvard Business Review, the research shows that the consistent loss of productivity can cause workers to perform 50% less and cause an estimated financial loss of $200 billion a year.
Women now account for 50% of the workforce and woman-on-woman bullying has become an issue. While men still account for the majority of workplace bullying (60%), women who bully choose other women as their target 71% of the time, according to the research.
Examples of bullying include underhanded, off-the-radar tactics like sabotage (53.7% of women) and abuse of authority (50.2% of women). When women lean towards bullying, these are their most utilized methods. Men tended to lean to more obvious bullying behaviors such as verbal abuse.
Bullying in the workplace remains hidden but can really have dire affects on the performance of a firm. Since this type of behavior thrives in environments that encourage or enable it, there are several suggested ways, within this study, to prevent it.
The first is to disrupt the pattern of bullying behavior. If it becomes the norm it is harder to break or intervene later on down the road. As a leader and manager, your goal is to create a safe place for employees to discuss their issues.
Second, is to co-create new rules of engagement. Managers need to share the process of implementing new standards for the workplace. This type of proactivity can help create a “collective ownership of the problem.”
The last way to prevent it is to maintain consistent standards and make everyone accountable for maintaining new rules and a safe environment.
Career Coaching Tip: Whether you’re on the management side or the staff side, if you detect bullying in your workplace it’s in your interest to work against it. If it’s not part of the culture, make sure it doesn’t become accepted. Seek to isolate the bully and ask those around you overtly not to accept it. There are many strategies for this depending on what your role is. Get educated and take collective action if possible. If bullying is pervasive in the culture, you have three choices: participate, be neutral and non-participatory or leave. You can try to change the culture and if you’re high enough placed, you might succeed, but recognize that most cultures are a function of behaviors that are tolerated at the very top. If the culture is taking it’s toll on you emotionally and personally, seriously consider leaving. If you do choose to leave, do so because you know you’re worthy of respect and set your intention on working with people you value and who value you. You’ll find many benefits in this mindset, including productivity, stress and self-esteem.
Category: Cultural Trends
Keywords: workplace bullying, mean girls, queen-bee
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