Beware the bullying female boss

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More than half of the bullies reported to a new national helpline are women - and most of the victims are other women.

In the first half of this year, nearly 700 complaints were made about women managers, according to a report from the National Workplace Bullying Advice Line.

The data from the line also reveal that white-collar bullying among professional and office workers is far more common than among shopfloor workers. Nine out of 10 calls involved office-based workers.

The public sector accounts for more than half the calls, with one in five complainants working in the caring agencies, the NHS or social services.

"Workplace bullying among women is increasing, partly because they are occupying more senior positions," said Tim Field, an Oxford counsellor who runs anti-bullying workshops. "Women when they are bullies tend to be more manipulative and divisive, whereas men in the same situation are more overtly hostile. Women also tend to leave less evidence about their bullying activities.

"In around 10 per cent of the cases dealt with by the advice line, suicide had been contemplated. Eight cases involved actual suicide."

Elaine Bennett, a director of the Andrea Adams charity which was set up to tackle bullying, believes that the increase is probably in areas where women have not been in positions of power before. "Where women have been at the top for a long time, as in health and education, you do get the tyrant matrons and headmistresses."

She says that in some cases women moving into management jobs are copying the male managers who held the job before them.

"Women who are finding themselves in roles which hitherto have not been held by a woman - maybe they are the first one on to the board or to be a senior manager - may well take on some of the traits of male managers with much more of a macho aggressive culture," she said.

National Workplace Bullying Advice Line: 01235-834548.