Ladies Be Catfighting in the Office


A new management study on workplace conflict by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that both men and women think office disputes between ladies are “more disruptive to office life” than fights between men or between a man and a woman.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The scholars, Leah D. Sheppard and Karl Aquino, asked 152 subjects to assess three workplace conflict scenarios involving a pair of managers. The examples were identical, save for the names of the individuals involved: Adam and Steven, Adam and Sarah, and Sarah and Anne.
Participants were asked to assess the likelihood that the two managers would be able to repair their relationship and the effect of the dispute on team and company morale. The subjects, both male and female, consistently viewed the conflict between the two women in the most negative light.

To be fair, my friend’s friend’s cousin knows Sarah and Anne and they are such bitches.

No, but really: why are conflicts between women construed as more dramatic than others? Has everyone been watching too much Real Housewives? On the contrary, said researchers. “Conflicts between women violate our norms of what is prescribed for women,” Sheppard said. “We have this perception that women can be really catty and terrible to each other, but we don’t think women should be that way. We want to see women supporting one another, because they are a marginalized group.”

Hmm. Women are definitely under immense pressure to be nice and sweet and smiley 24/7. But we expect them to have mean-girl catfights, too, right? I don’t think we expect to see women support one another because they are a marginalized group; unfortunately, more people are interested in tearing women apart than helping them join together. It’s more likely to me that we think disagreements between women are dramatic because we’re programmed to think of women as emotional and flighty; women who disagree are bitches while men who disagree are just, well, disagreeing.

According to the study, the bias against lady-conflict (ew) may affect hiring and promotions for women, and women may be more wary of speaking up against another female colleague if they think they might be thought of as catty for doing so. And thus the cycle continues.


Image via ots-photo /Shutterstock.

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