Thursday, July 2, 2020

Botswana working women are more likely to suffer “bitches” than male counterparts

Growing up, “Bitch” was an insult thrown by Batswana men at sexually promiscuous women. By the time I reached my teen, the word had changed meaning completely. Although you still cannot mention the “B” word in polite company, nowadays it is used us much by men as by women to describe powerful no-nonsense boss ladies.In fact, it is almost an article of faith that these days Batswana women use the four-letter word more often than their male counterparts.This is hardly surprising, the American Workplace Bullying Institute found women bully other women up to 80% of the time.

In fact, studies have shown that women who report to women experience a greater frequency of bullying, abuse and job sabotage. The problem is so widespread that it is even accepted as a clinical condition: The “Queen Bee Syndrome”.‘Queen Bees’ are adult versions of the mean girls from school — but now they have grown up and are more calculating.Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, Department of Social Work, senior lecturer at the University of Botswana says a lot of the times, office bullying done by women is a result of low self esteem on their part. “Often times having low self-esteem is the reason why women tend to bully other women, amongst other reasons. A bully has no confidence and no self-esteem. But to hide this, he creates this ego persona of a very aggressive domineering person who is able to control others. It’s through his control of others that he feeds his energy.

Women are said to be emotional beings compared to men which is why when women have a problem, they tend to address it differently -emotionally. It also goes back to one’s upbringing, if you look back over the years, the bully may have always gone through life bullying people. It was a mechanism learnt as a child that this was the only way the bully could get attention, affection and any sense of love. Any type of affection or attention is better than no affection or attention. if someone grows up with certain deficiencies when they grow up, they tend to take out all their pent-up frustrations on those closest to them and the office is no different and is rather convenient. Women in the workplace who are intimidated by them talk down on them and pick on them to mask their fear/intimidation of them. “ Male bullies in the workplace tend to pick on men and women pretty much in equal measure. Women however prefer their own kind; often times they choose other women as targets. Female bullies are notorious for socially aggressive behaviours such as gossiping, social exclusion, social isolation and social alienation – all this doesn’t just happen in schools but also in the workplace. A lot of women have been and are victims of workplace bullying.

The Queen Bee behaviour stems from insecurity, the feeling that being aggressive is the only way to be taken seriously or the need to be the only “top” woman. Bullies, no matter their gender, go after those who are less likely to fight back. Women are sometimes thought to be more docile and less combative but both men and women exploit that weakness when they pick their targets.  Women are more sensitive to criticism, making them more likely to hold grudges and act on them later.

Queen Bee syndrome can be the biggest hindrance to women advancing in the workplace. Over the years, the phenomenon has been the reason women find working for female bosses stressful. Men, rarely ever feel the same anxiety toward a female superior. Women can gather around smiling and laughing, exchanging polite, intimate, and even warm conversation, while simultaneously destroying one another’s careers. Most females in the workplace overlook their bullying behaviours and pass them off as being the same as the male leadership style. They feel if they don’t act in such a manner then they won’t be taken seriously. The idea of female solidarity – a sisterhood tends to ignore the darker side of human nature, one laced with competitiveness, selfishness and ambition that everyone is liable to fall prey to, regardless of gender. It is unfortunate that most woman-to-woman bullying goes largely unreported and persists until the target voluntarily leaves the situation. There are perceptions that women are fragile and are suited to the traditional and nurturing roles of wife and mother and that if she enters the workplace then it should be an extension of these nurturing roles therefore when a woman is an executive in a company and portrays a bullying behaviour it because hard to accept.

Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone says, “Workplace bullying is carried out by both men and by women, and although the way it’s perpetrated tends to differ, the underlying foundations are the same. There are many reasons why people bully at work. The bully may be under pressure themselves, and have to meet challenging targets, so they pass on the pressure to others; they may feel threatened by people who have better social skills than they do, or who are doing their job more effectively. Male bullies can be aggressive whereas women are more likely to resort to more subtle tactics. They may feel it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and feel a need to pick on those who they consider weak. Bullying fills a vacuum often times for the people doing it. It is a defence mechanism and they do so to protect their vulnerabilities.”

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.