Female-To-Female Bullying: Can Women be the Solution?

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The feminine power in the world is rising; as a result, we are experiencing the most exciting and empowering time in history for women. Hillary Clinton is a candidate for our next president, and she isn’t the only powerful female force impacting the world. Thousands of other women carry a bright torch and are paving the way for other women to succeed. But are all women supporting other women?

Female-To-Female Bullying: Can Women be the Solution?

If we were to place our women leaders on a panel next our women bullies, what do you think our female trailblazers would say? “Great job – way to squash your fellow women to get ahead!” Or would they say, “You can make more headway by building your legacy through hard work and unity than by tearing each other down.” No greatness can be achieved without determination or grit, but sadly, many women take that message to the extreme and see bullying as the only way to ensure their career success or survival.

We see the same female squashing behaviors in the nursing profession.

I’m not saying that the female trailblazers bullied other women to get to where they are. I’m just asking the question – why do women squash other women?

According to Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, women comprise 40% of the bully population; and of their targets, 71% are women. Why in a healthcare workforce, which is built on a foundation of caring and compassion do we see female-to-female bullying in epidemic proportions?

Peggy Klaus aptly termed the “D.I.Y. Bootstrap Theory,” which suggests that women who bully often operate under the belief system that they had to build their careers by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, and if they had to work alone to achieve success, why should they make it easy for anyone else?

We know too well how nurses eat their young. Perhaps nurses feel the same way too.

Some also believe, Klaus continues, that women, often more sensitive or empathetic, also have the tendency to be equally sensitive regarding criticism. As a result, this leads some women to hold grudges, or feel the need to get even. Still others theorize that women, as the gentler gender, are less likely to fight back, making them an easy target for less sensitive, aggressive bullies.

Whatever the cause, the solution is simple. Bring the pervasive bullying issue out of the closet and into the rink. As women we must ask ourselves how we can be part of the women vs. women bullying solution. Do we take advantage of some women at work, based on their level of push-back, confidence, or passiveness? Do we make snarky comments to people we just don’t like? Are we keeping quiet when we witness other women facing abuse?

These behaviors, seemingly innocuous, contribute to the problem either through action, or inaction. We need to repeatedly check ourselves to ensure we are fostering support, growth and teamwork. We need to stand up for ourselves, call the bullies out, and protect each other from abuse.

Doing anything less keeps women one-step back.

The world recognizes great women like Angela Merkel, as the Chancellor of Germany, Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve and Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, France. Forbes published a list of 100 of the most powerful women of 2016. The work of these women proves that we can do anything.


• Stop viewing other women as your competitors and start seeing women as your allies.
• Stop tearing other women down and start building each other up.
• Stop think that you have to do everything by yourself to prove that you’re strong. Start asking for help from other women who are better than you.
• Stop squashing and start celebrating other women.

Nurse bullying happens because we allow it. Isn’t it time we stopped eating our female colleagues and start growing other each other instead?

Thanks so much for reading. What are your thoughts about female-to-female bullying?

Renee ThompsonTake care and stay connected.

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations who want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website

Contact Renee today at to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

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