The New York Times recently published an (-other) article exploring the phenomenon of women-on-women bullying at work. While the author concedes that most bullies at work are men, the most e-mailed article implies that girl-on-girl bullying is a much more interesting and complex issue in the workforce.

• Two guys embroiled in a struggle at work? They're go-getters, encouraged to have a beer and sort it out.

• Two girls in a fight at work? It's often seen as battle of egos -- a cat fight, if you will -- and it feeds into a stereotype that women are the kind of employees who claw their way to the top, find themselves swimming in the confusing landscape of the male-dominated executive world, and eat their own kind in order to succeed.

Click here to read why boy bullies get away with it.


The Most Annoying Co-Workers

    Insistent Instant Messenger: No matter how much time or miscommunication could be spared by talking face-to-face, this person insists on talking virtually, via IM or e-mail. If you're not online, they send you an e-mail to ask where you are (meanwhile, you're at your desk, 10 feet away).

    Cycle Sister: This is a person you're not particularly fond of, but for whatever cosmically twisted reason, your daily routine is synched up -- you walk into work at the same time, and from there, you see your Cycle Sister in the bathroom, on your smoke break, at the vending machine, etc. Even if you like this person, the sheer coincidence makes things creepy and awkward.

    Mr. Flibble, Flickr

    The Get-a-Lifer: This person asks you out to post-work drinks on a regular basis, despite the fact that you always decline. And the one time you went to a party at their house, it ended up being the two of you playing Taboo. The Get-a-Lifer is often the same person who plans meetings at 6 p.m. on Fridays.

    bealluc, Flickr

    Listserv Leech: If someone has taken this person's lunch out of the fridge, the entire staff will be notified via the staff listserv, which everyone else uses exclusively for professional communication. Alternately, this person may use the listserv to let everyone know about the lack of toilet paper in the bathroom.

    Angry Typist: The Angry Typist pounds on her keyboard with the vigor of someone hitting her ex-boyfriend. The violent clacking leads to many misunderstandings, as this person is often unaware of their problem and is not actually pissed.

    .faramarz, Flickr

    The Toilet Mouth: You're on the pot midstream (or worse) when the Toilet Mouth strikes up a conversation. This person also likes to chatter at the sink for before and after they go, giving no one in the bathroom privacy to do their business.

    Megan *, Flickr

    Monday Manic: The coffee hasn't hit your bloodstream yet, and the Monday Manic is flittering about, imbued with an unnatural amount of energy and optimism. They're telling stories about how freaking great their weekend was and how stoked they are about the work they get to do that day.

    Old News Hound: OMG, did you hear that Lindsay Lohan is dating a girl!? The Old News Hound is always the last to know about everything, but the first to belt out at a stale headline at full-volume to their surrounding co-workers.

    Rash Revealer:This person has no shame getting on the phone with their doctor, their spouse, their aunt or their mom to discuss a rash, a yeast infection and any other personal bodily defect or medical issue.

    maydaFUNKbewithu!, Flickr

    The Chit-Chat Blaster: If this person catches you in the break room or on your way out of the bathroom, you're done, for a half an hour later they're still yammering away about the paint samples they're considering for the living room, the deli they ate at for lunch or the meeting the boss called earlier.




Whatever. These gender-specific bullying articles make me roll my eyes. While bullying is an unfortunate fact for some employees, my HR experience tells me that it's often a non-issue made into a big controversy for the sake of having something to complain (or write) about.

The only thing more interesting than an article about chick-on-chick bullying at work? An article about young, blonde cheerleaders who have bullying pillow fights with other girls at summer camp. That's the kind of story that sells newspapers.

Bullies Get Ahead
I know that office bullies -- when they exist -- come in all shapes, sizes and genders. While male bullies are more often seen as bosses and leaders (think Bob Nardelli and Jack Welch), chicks who bully are seen as shrewish bitches who lost their way while climbing up the corporate ladder. People view them with pity and sympathy and suggest coaches, mentors and role models who can help tone down their aggressive behaviors.

Unfortunately, no one ever stops to ask, "What the hell kind of company are we running here? Why are we promoting people who bully in the first place?" I'll tell you why bullies are promoted into leadership roles: These are Svengali-like people who push forward, challenge the status quo and put profits ahead of people. They are winners, they are chameleons, and they get sh*t done when it counts. Their behavior is tolerated because they make bank.

Stop Being Picked On
So if you want to end bullying at work, and if you want to end the egregious ways in which bullies treat you and your colleagues, you need to stop walking on eggshells when an associate or supervisor verbally abuses you.

It doesn't have to be confrontational. When bullied by someone at work, you can say no. You can stop the conversation and walk away. You have every right to take a break and say something like, "I'm happy to talk about this, but I can't focus on the work when you use that tone." You can complain to Human Resources.

Or you can apply the shock and awe methodology and look that bully in the face and ask, "Do you realize what an asshole you are? Get some perspective and then come back to me when you're ready to behave like an adult."

End the Bullying for Good
Dealing with bullies isn't easy or fun, so I would suggest that finding a company where your values match the corporate culture is the easiest route. Do you want to work for a company that encourages corporate titans to eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti? Or do you want to work with leaders who can turn a profit but still retain a portion of their souls?

If you're working for the right company, you will have a supportive and accountable group of people behind you who have your back and won't tolerate childlike and abusive behavior.

Laurie Ruettimann is a writer, speaker and HR exec with Fortune 500 experience. She blogs at Punk Rock Human Resources.


Beta Males

    Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), "Knocked Up." A beautiful woman with an unbelievable job agrees to unprotected sex with an out-of-work Canadian stoner, under the cinematic pretext of "beer goggles." Please let us know what she was drinking so we can buy stock.

    Universal

    Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), "Say Anything." Oh, Lloyd Dobler. Now that we know that kickboxing was not, indeed, the sport of the future, following gorgeous, smart Diane Court to college in England without a job or prospects of his own just seems kinda pathetic.

    Everett Collection

    Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell), "The Forty Year Old Virgin." Steve Carell's hairy manchild had neither a driver's license nor a lick of sexual experience, but landed small business owner and hot single mom Catherine Keener. You know, cause he was so nice.

    Universal

    Chuck (Adam Sandler), "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." A homophobic firefighter so broke that he agrees to marry his male coworker for domestic partner benefits lies to Jessica Biel about his sexual history. She falls madly in love with him. Who wouldn't?!

    Universal

    Troy (Ethan Hawke), "Reality Bites." Unemployed musician makes romantic pronouncements about smoking Camel Wides and bitches at Winona Ryder even as he crashes on her couch and hits her up for free pizza. The love story of our time.

    ZUMA Press

    Seth (Jonah Hill), "Superbad." Aside from a rather impressive collection of obscene drawings, this paunchy, raunchy dork seems to have little to offer the cute, funny girl he gets.

    Sony

    John Beckwith (Owen Wilson), "Wedding Crashers." A gorgeous, altruistic senator's daughter falls for a "professional mediator" (who inexplicably never goes to work) who spends his spare time lying his way into parties and bridesmaids' underpants. Obvs.

    Everett Collection

    Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon), "Fever Pitch." Boston baseball superfan and crap boyfriend constantly ditches his beautiful, successful girlfriend because the Red Sox "need" him. How adorable!

    20th Century Fox

    Dante (Brian O'Halloran), "Clerks" & "Clerks II." A chubby dude with a creepstache and a series of crap jobs that he loves to whine about. Catnip to women like Rosario Dawson.

    Weinstein Co.

    Michael (Zach Braff), "The Last Kiss." A mopey man-boy cheats on his lovely, pregnant girlfriend with a college student, and she takes him back. In the movies, he's "conflicted." In real life, we call that "sleazebaggy."

    Dreamworks