Fend off the fe-devils

Women sabotaging women in the workplace can be so fierce it prompted organisational coach Vanessa Vershaw to pen Bitch Fight: Put an End to Women Bullying Women in the Workplace.

The book offers remedies to the workplace problem, including personal stories and research.

Vershaw, who has worked with top leadership teams worldwide including Starbucks, Google and Microsoft, says women bullying women is the silent career block.

She will unveil why she wrote the book and how it has given women strategies to deal with each other at the CCI Business Book Club on November 17.

Vershaw, who co-wrote the book with Canadian organisational psychologist Dr Jean-Francois Ducharme, says while most of the leadership teams she works with are male dominated, throughout her career she noticed a trend of women hating on each other.

“Ninety-five per cent of clients are men. So that’s the first point. About 10 years ago I started to look into ‘where are the women’ – how come I am the only one at the table, the only one in the boy’s club? What is it that I do that enables me to be here and what is it that women are doing that prevents them getting a seat at the table?

“Working with different women here and there – the people that worked for me or reported in to me from the lower levels – I started to investigate. I wasn’t hearing anything that said ‘Why don’t we take a good look in the mirror?’

“Why are we always looking to attribute it to someone else? I believe that as human beings we have to manage what we can control, so I started to look at that. What do we have control over in this equation?”

From research she found that 40 per cent of bullies in the workplace are female and most in that 40 per cent were bullying other females.

“Most of the times I was brought into coach females in an organisation was because she was being bitch slapped by another woman.

“So I never got to work with women when we’re doing well – it was a pattern of they are being bullied by another chick, can you help them upskill to manage the situation?”

Vershsaw says a top executive in Canada she was working with took her own life because she was being bullied. Her death, as well as having bullied by women herself, were part of the motivation to write the book.

She says it’s based on research and 18 years in the business and saying: “Hey, could we be missing a very key lever that we haven’t addressed?”

“Why haven’t we considered this rise of the queen-bee syndrome? How women interact at work and how we judge our sisters is potentially another barrier. What I’ve found in my research and personal experience is that when women bully each other they are vicious, there is no mercy.”

Vershaw is Managing Director of organisation and leadership consulting firm Reinvention.


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