Female Bullying or Mountains of Molehills?

August 9, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Olga Khazan could use a good editor, or in fact any editor at all. As I mentioned in previous pieces, her Atlantic piece runs to 6,350 words and accomplishes astonishingly little. It takes a lot of things for granted that are at best questionable, contradicts itself on almost every page and meanders vaguely. All too often, it picks up a topic only to drop it without a hint of closure.

For example, she decided to look at what some commentators thought about the “Queen Bee” phenomenon. One said that if a female manager founder herself being “bitchy,” she should take an anger management course. Another urged female employees to leave work at work and not mingle their work and private lives. Khazan simply stated those facts and moved on, saying in passing that “What I found was eye-opening, but not in the way I’d hoped.” That of course is in keeping with her take on Joyce Benenson’s research that finds women to be competitive with each other for male attention. She didn’t like the message, so she dropped the subject entirely. If a message isn’t what Khazan “hoped for,” she’s not interested.

Another expert Khazan prefers to ignore had this to say:

For example, the 2014 “revised and updated” version of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, which was originally published in 2004, notes that women “often wind up making mountains out of molehills, much to the consternation of their male colleagues.”

That of course is a good description of Khazan’s piece itself. Having never made the case that, whatever the behavior of certain female bosses and their subordinates, generally speaking, female bullying of women in the workplace is a problem, Khazan is content to assume it ‘s true. Moreover, time and again, the examples of that “bullying” Khazan offers can just as easily be seen as something else. After all, it’s entirely possible for a female boss to simply have a bad day, to be under stress and take it out on an underling. Male bosses do that too, but Khazan carefully avoids that subject because, to admit it would seriously undermine her entire thesis.

Another [female boss] would praise Shannon to her face, then dispatch a senior associate to tell her she was working too slowly.

That’s presented as an example of a female boss who’s unacceptably, well, bitchy. But is she? There’s a far more benign way of interpreting her behavior, i.e. she’s encouraging, but also wants Shannon to know that she needs to pick up the pace of her work. A less delicate flower than Shannon could easily take her boss’s remarks that way and probably be right. It’s a standard part of getting along with people to compliment them when possible in order to make them feel confident and accepted. Once that’s established, complaints are more easily accepted and the likelihood increases that the employee will do better work. Shannon made a mountain out of a molehill.

After 16 months, Shannon decided she’d had enough. She left for a firm with gentler hours, and later took time off to be with her young children.

Does Khazan notice that her lead example of a “victim” of a brutal female boss did exactly what countless other women do and that have been portrayed in dozens of studies? Women, far more than men, tend to opt out of work in favor of childcare. That has little or nothing to do with other women in the workplace and much to do with the fact that this society honors women in either role – that of mother or that of earner. In short, Shannon knew she wouldn’t be criticized for opting out of her high-stress job in favor of caring for her kids full-time. After all, some six million women are stay-at-home mothers according to the very strict definition of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Shannon is scarcely alone.

And of course Shannon had a husband or partner who was willing and able to make possible her choice to opt out. Someone has to pay the rent, and when a woman chooses motherhood over work, it’s usually her husband who pays her way. Needless to say, Khazan never mentions that obvious fact, but plenty of women rely on it. Again, men are evolutionarily motivated to be providers and women to be mothers. Our Brave New World bristles at the fact, but it’s still a fact.

One of the many shortcomings of Khazan’s piece is that not once does she, or any of the aggrieved women she quotes, ever pause to consider that, however harsh their bosses’ criticisms may have sounded, maybe just maybe, they were true and well-intended.

A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Catherine, had a boss whose tone grew witheringly harsh just a few months into her job at a nonprofit. “This is a perfect example of how you run forward thoughtlessly, with no regard to anything I am saying,” the woman said in one email, before exploding at Catherine in all caps.

The key to whether that’s intended to tear Catherine down or encourage her to do better is how accurate the woman’s criticism of her was. Her words strongly suggest that she’d warned Catherine about “run[ning] forward thoughtlessly” and wasn’t happy to see the behavior again. I see nothing wrong with her becoming emphatic when her subordinate doesn’t seem to be listening to her guidance. From where I sit, Catherine would be well advised to look at her own shortcomings first and try to fix them before concluding that her boss is at fault.

What fairly oozes off the pages of Khazan’s article is not only female subordinates making mountains out of molehills, but their taking personally what’s not a personal matter, but a business one. Bosses, be they male or female are charged with making the organization function as best it can. When they perceive someone doing less than their best or not up to organizational standards, they’d be remiss to not say so. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs. That sometimes they can be less than diplomatic in their language and occasionally go beyond the bounds of good management techniques is certainly a fact, albeit one that’s usually produced by stressful work environments.

But as is so often the case, the feminist conclusion is not to look clearly at the situation and draw sensible conclusions, but to take it on faith that women are done dirt by a patriarchy that must change to suit them. In this case it’s at first “the workplace,” and later on “society” that must change.

“We need to change our society so that it becomes normative for women to see other women succeeding in all kinds of roles,” Laurie Rudman says.

Of course unmentioned is the fact that women are succeeding right and left in all aspects of paid work, but that doesn’t fit Khazan’s narrative of female victimization and so goes unmentioned. But what’s “normative” is for men to do the lion’s share of working and earning and for women to do less of that and more of mothering. As usual, feminists find that horrifying and they don’t scruple to pillory women in the process.




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#feminism, #womenandwork, #bullying

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