Here’s a QUICK SUMARY of 8 Bitch Types that women have experienced at work that are explored in depth in my book ‘Working with Bitches’
- The Excluder (ignores you)
- The Insecure (obsessive fault finder)
- The Toxic (syrupy, slimy, 2 faced)
- The Narcissist (“I’m the Star, you’re the servant”)
- The Screamer (angry shouter)
- The Liar (gamey troublemaker, never to be trusted)
- The Incompetent (steals your work while making you do her job)
- The Not-A-Bitch (really competent & she’s got your number!)
I have worked specialising in vocational behaviour since 1979. When I interviewed 200 women for my research and subsequent book, I invited them to tell me about their experiences in their own words. Prior to this, I had reviewed my case file notes for up to 2,000 female clients who had been upset by interpersonal difficulties with other women at work. I am careful to use verbatim quotes when clients have somatic (body) experiences as they talk.
This proved to be fortunate when gathering the clusters of behaviour – key words or phrases were so often repeated, and I was able to label many of the 8 Types from client descriptions. Bear in mind that my interest in writing my book came from observing the increasing number of paralysing, self esteem sucking encounters that clients came to talk about. Two years before I began writing my book, I had been interviewed by Karen Kissane (The Age) about ‘Queen Bees’ at work, and had recommended some strategies for the growing numbers of sensitive, decent, hard working, ethical women who were struggling with their confidence and dreading going to work.
A reluctance to publicly speak about it was keeping the issue submerged both at work and within their bodies, minds, and spirits. I believe it is important to write about what I know; and I am comfortable writing about women’s work environment ‘felt experiences’ from their core in relation to unconscious and negative processes of women; I would be more cautious writing about men’s. The topic isn’t a major focus in our careers counselling, and I don’t have the data or ‘felt experience’. I had been concerned about the way a plethora of men in the past had written so authoritatively about women’s conscious and unconscious ‘felt experiences’. In fact, up until quite recently, vocational theory and career behaviour had almost exclusively been written by men about both men and women. (Reference: My Masters Thesis extensive literature review, written in the mid 1980’s.)
This reminds me of an example from my early professional years consulting to an association for accountants – for many years the training participants (partners and senior staff) were exclusively male. Over the decades I witnessed the gradual growth in females, from a handful to at least, if not more than, 50% these days. As I have observed this gender anomaly over four decades (including my adolescent years in voluntary welfare work) I concur with others who recommend that best practice in dealing with a sole Martian outstanding in a field of Earthlings is to increase the Martians.
Some people wonder why I have only written about bitchy behaviour amongst women, and I have not mentioned men. My response is simple; firstly, two thirds of my private practice consists of females who bring vocationally interpersonal problems about other females, and secondly, I wouldn’t presume to write about the male psyche without collaborating with a male vocational psychologist. I have probably been affected by those early years in this field when few female vocational psychologists had a voice in this male driven specialisation. Or perhaps I have observed that much has been written about men, and men and women in the workplace, but far less about women and women.
In particular, little has been written about the material that clients have brought to me – bitch behaviours that cause distress to clients who seek careers counselling. I appreciate that careers counselling clients are likely to be different to those who don’t – in fact, that is one of the core reasons for my book – there are some women who do not ‘just know’ how to cope. Some don’t even recognise that this is happening. I make a clear distinction that the bitchy behaviour is not the same as bullying behaviour. I’m not writing about bullying – there are many books by experts on that topic, including a number by a Melbourne colleague – Evelyn Field – who writes on bullying for all ages and stages from childhood and school, to adults and workplace. Since we spend so much of our lives working there are so many issues that intrigue and concern us. In this instance, I am concerned about women whose daily work includes some mean or bitch types – there are so many quality, talented, earnest women who are suffering dread in the morning or dealing with stomach cramps, migraines, stress, or vocational doubt.
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