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What to Do When Women Bully Women

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women bully Via Unsplash

When we talk about bullying today, we often focus on children. However, bullying can happen in the adult arena as well. It can be particularly painful when adult women are bullied by other women in their lives, whether co-workers, family members, or women within our circle of friends.

Bullying’s Primitive Roots

Some of the bullying behavior among women is rooted in biology. For example, according to Dr. Anne Campbell, our primitive female ancestor had to be competitive to fight for that male who would protect, feed and shelter both she and her young. But she also needed female alliances and sacrificed her own feelings to reach out toward other women as a source of both comfort and safety. Therefore, it is particularly painful to become the target of bullying as it takes away that safety net of relationship from the victim. By withholding emotional support, the bullied woman loses her connection to a perceived source of comfort. This is very destructive, and in essence, a form of abuse.

Girls who bully

According to Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, female children who bully often grow into adult women who bully. What happens as female bullies get older is that they become more sophisticated and subtle in the way that they target others. Many times the in-group or cool clique support targeting. This aggressive behavior frightens its members, both girls and women, to go along in order to get along. Further, when women bully, they can elevate their own feelings by diminishing those of others, as they gossip, discount, reject, demean and exclude the focus of their enmity. These behaviors sabotage any opportunity for direct, honest and healthy friendship.

Responding to the adult bully

As adults, we have full control over how we live our lives, and the people we allow into our lives. If you find yourself being bullied by another woman, I suggest the following options:

1. Step into your adult and use my empathic process to communicate openly and honestly. You may discover that the bully is projecting her own insecurities on you, and she may discover that you are not a threat as she had imagined, but rather, an ally.

2. If the bully is a manager or co-worker, follow your company’s reporting chain and report her behavior. It may help to have e-mail documentation and notes about when the inappropriate behavior took place.

3. If the bully is a friend and a civilized conversation using my empathic process does not end in a mutually satisfying resolution, as painful as it may be, you may need to walk away from the friendship.

The bottom line is that life is too short to spend with people who treat you unjustly. As an adult, you must take responsibility for the energy you bring into your life – and into your family’s life. Sometimes that means removing the source of bad energy, the bully, from your life completely, in order to move forward.

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I avoid certain areas to avoid confrontation by this 2 sisters. The younger one is very aggressive. She seems to be the most violent. There was an incident where I went to a restaurant with my husband. The older sister was eating with her husband. As they were leaving , She passed and did not lift her head. The husband shook his keys at me as if to say f--- you. They then got in their car and did not move . I felt they were staring and talking smack about me. So now they are involving their husbands in the bullying.

December 5, 2017 - 8:20pm
EmpowHER Guest

I was bullied by a group of women at work. I was forced to move the department because of this. To this day one of this women is still out to get me. I avoid certain places where she could be. What can be done legally?

June 28, 2017 - 7:36pm
EmpowHER Guest

I was and still have been bullied by a co worker. I had to change departments. I to this day avoid going places where I think she will be at. She has such a strong personality I would rather just avoid her.

May 12, 2017 - 7:37pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Adult bullying is very difficult to resolve. I am being bullied currently and in the past by the same group of women in a line dance class. I am an activist so I reported the incidences to the managers, police,and I filed a restraining order, the judge declined the order, the police reported claim to prosecutor who will not take case. You see how hard this is to resolve. I have been physically struck by 3 of these women and the witnesses will not talk. I was not injured so the lawyers will not take my case. I am not afraid of these women, I
am very angry because there seems to be nothing I can do.

July 5, 2017 - 10:51am
EmpowHER Guest

Can you provide more strategies? It is hard to document the "inappropriate" behavior as you say, when these bullies have become more "sophisticated and subtle" in how they target.

September 10, 2016 - 5:38am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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