Oh no she didn't! Advice on 'Working with Bitches'
Dominance displays, posturing, submissive behavior -- sound like anything you've seen at the office? Psychologist Meredith Fuller specializes in a certain subset of these behaviors -- usually exhibited by women -- behaviors we all know rather well. Cattiness. Dismissive, snide remarks. Cliques and talking behind people's backs. Most of us associate this kind of stuff with high school, but it doesn't end there. It can make your life miserable at work. Fuller's written a new book about this with the eye-catching title of "Working with Bitches."
Fuller says she chose to use the word "bitch" in her book title for two reasons. First, everybody knows what you mean when you say 'I work with a bitch.' And second, the "new bitch" is fun and can be a positive thing. She says there's nothing wrong with a woman who is assertive and tough in the workplace, but she wrote her book for more polite, concerned, earnest women who need a way to deal with the sort of behaviors that are more manipulative and cunning.
Fuller identifies eight different types of so-called office mean girls at work (find out about the different types of bitches and what you can do about them by clicking on the photo above). She says low self-esteem is the reason some women engage in these devious behaviors.
"For a lot of us, we've got fears, anxieties, depressions, worries and we mask that. So a lot of the bitchy behavior is because [bitches] don't know how to feel good enough and so they're relying on these covert behaviors. But there's always something they want. For example, that micro-managing boss who's always saying this isn't good enough, do it again, slashing with a red pen -- often it's their anxiety and they feel they're going to mess up. They look at you and if you're not very neat, that just screams terror for them that something will go wrong. And they're worried that they're not in control. The more they feel in control, the less they have to hassle you," says Fuller. "So give them those updates before they ask, make your desk look neat every time they go back. That helps bring down their anxiety. It's working at what is driving their behavior underneath what they're showing you and try and resolve that for them so they don't need to have that unconscious nastiness triggered."
Men also exhibit alienating behaviors -- like lying, narcissism or exclusion. But they are much more overt than women. To some men, engaging in manipulative behavior can almost seem like a game.
"We all engage in behavior to get a need met, but often what you notice is that it's more subtle with women. It's harder to read them," says Fuller. "Women are more selective and are more able to play it so subtly with several mutterings and nonverbal behavior that a lot of the men don't necessarily engage in. It's more like it is what it is with a lot of men."
Part of the issue with some women in the workplace is they have a desire to be liked whereas men are more likely to want to be feared at work.
"We've got mixed motivations [at work] and I think that's what we pick up. What we've noticed is that historically women have felt they need to be more sly, surreptitious, cunning, manipulative and that's what they've been rewarded for," says Fuller. "What I really like, a lot of the young people we're getting through -- the more Gen Y's -- they're actually saying, 'Oh blow all of this. Let me be who I am and part of me is a range of behaviors.' And that also allows men to have their range of behaviors."
Fuller says she's starting to see a massive paradigm shift where a lot of the old, rigid structures are beginning to be broken down. But we're still in a period where bitchy behavior is something some workers have to cope with.