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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Women bully other women because of pathological envy and internalized misogyny. This is rampant in HR, as I have unfortunately had no choice but to work alongside HR my entire career. Many of the mediocre and low performers in HR tend to be the worst bullies yet they rise through the ranks. When someone has targeted you at work and they are bullying you: what they are really doing is disowning the bad parts of themselves and assigning them to you. Bullies burn themselves in effigy. Best to leave asap not all companies tolerate abuse.

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Pathological envy and internalized misogyny - each of these deserve their own articles. I've heard about HR being one of the most toxic depts in organisations and are almost exclusively run by women. It reminds me of what I've heard about nursing culture. Scapegoating is one of the strategies used to deny the bully's role in abuse and distract from their conduct. And it sadly is a successful strategy. Thank you so much for weighing in Christy!

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Feb 2·edited Feb 2Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Oh my goodness I literally came here because I have so many struggles with HR. Every single place I work at it always comes down to one woman in HR trying to make my work life impossible. I've actually considered getting a master's in HR and changing to that sector in the belief that if you can't beat em join em, but when you say that they're probably the b*tchiest department out there, I get the impression it's probably better to stay where I am! At least this way I only get picked on by them and not my colleagues who have my back. I can't imagine how awful it would be if they WERE my colleagues!

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Many years ago I watched two (extremely intelligent and capable) women compete with one another for the attention of a Director. It was horrid to watch, and, I felt, embarrassing for both of them. In hindsight, I realise that the Director deliberately pitted them against one another as a means of controlling them both. Just as men will often side with power, so too will women. If forced to compete with another woman for recognition, opportunities, rewards … they will compete, and bully, laterally. It is less about gender, and more about power. It just so happens that men hold the majority of powerful positions (in both male and female-dominated industries).

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Hi Fiona - thank you so much for illustrating the Machiavellian (dark triad) tactics of the Director. Playing puppet master for his entertainment knowing that this is feeding his need for importance, attention and drama. And it will always be one of the women who is booted/outcasted from the organisation, never the architect of the entire saga. And the cycle repeats again.

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

This is most interesting. I was bullied by a woman colleague who, on demitting her role to a man, made sure she positioned herself so that he had to side with her. He then became the bully by proxy, but he made that choice with full knowledge. Both of them disliked the experience and expertise I had, felt threatened by it instead of supported. We were on the same team but they had to be top dog. It was all about power. The only gendered detail was that the male bully worked far less hard to be accepted and respected. I could understand the female's insecurity given her long fight to be respected as a leader, but he had no excuse. Except his obvious but suave mediocrity.

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Some men need to use women to shield their inadequacy and exploit their labour to come out on top, never reaping the consequences of their negative behaviours toward other colleagues. Aligning with power is the greatest way to shield perpetrators and to protect the unethical and malevolent leaders.

Thank you for breaking down your experience and your awareness of what contributed to the bullying done to you Hayley.

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Omg totally my experience ( my name is Fiona too btw)

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Fiona meet Fiona!

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Mar 11, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Patriarchy.

Women constantly have to prove their worth. Women have to be attractive.

As a young attractive woman I was bullied mercilessly by other, mostly older women. My cultural background was different to the predominantly Anglo-Saxon women around me, I had migrant parents from a conservative culture. I’m probably neurodivergent, I was very naive, which meant I had no clue to the game being played around me. I was an easy target for these women who thought I understood what was going on. The more helpful and submissive I was ( as taught to me by my parents patriarchal culture ) to try and fit in, the worse the abuse became. The more notice I received from men, the more I was punished by other women.

Competition was fierce and toxic. Senior positions were held by men. If you were a young, attractive woman with higher education, you became a target from older women , tho to put it in context these women had been brought up in a time where the only value women had was to be wives and mothers. They couldn’t afford to be superseded at work, their lives depended on it, no super, no support.

Girls my age bullied me to capture the limited resources and thought I was playing the same game as they did, that I knew the ‘rules’, that it was all fair game.

I found patriarchy toxic to all people, and the challenges even more severe due to intersectionality - race, culture, sexual orientation, disability, chronic illness…

In my case I developed severe depression and anxiety because of the intense bullying an an inability due to me being neurodivergent, to understand why I was being targeted.

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Thanks Poly for your thorough analysis of the dynamics among women in the workplace fuelled by various insecurities reflected in their generation, underpinned by Patriarchy. Reading your description of bullying and its impact, it reinforced how women are pressured to assimilate into the preferred behaviours of Patriarchy in order to 'succeed' through eliminating perceived threats in any way possible...and trauma from bullying and moral toll from participating in such a system. You would have to become like a man, but not too much to avoid threatening the men and use your looks to gain favour with men in power to gain protection from other women. Patriarchy as described is toxic and destructive. Thank you so much for your comment Poly.

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Mar 12, 2023·edited Mar 12, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

I am a millenial black woman (Kenyan). I experience alot of bullying from Black Americans...it's very xenophobic if I may say. Currently navigating a challenging situation where someone who has been in the company longer than me is making it very hard to work collaboratively and goes to my boss to say things that defame my character yet I am so new..literally only 2 and a half months. I am disappointed to experience this from a black woman. I don't know how to navigate this it's frustrating me and sucking the joy out of me...I am glad I stumbled upon this post on LinkedIn because I have been crying the past few weeks just feeling like I am not sure about what to do.

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Hi Fiona - thank you for sharing your current difficulty at work that exemplifies woman on woman aggression. I think there's an expectation among Black woman (from what I hear often from Black American women) is the importance of solidarity, uplifting other Black women and supporting Black excellence. The reality is that any woman can find another woman threatening of their current status and act out in ways you describe as self-defence of their turf, including their relationship with the boss to protect their interests. Most of the time, these women have no idea that they're being an asshole which makes it more difficult when you try to raise it and work through it with them. They will continue to perceive as the threat and won't stop to eliminate you unless you reduce your threat factor with them (which is difficult to do without support).

I'm guessing the boss is oblivious to what's happening between you two and probably doesn't want to hear about it, hoping you two will just work it out. This is negligence on the boss' part because they don't realise how they're contributing to what I'm seeing as early signs of bullying.

This also means that your boss is compromised and anything you say against your colleague might work against you if they already have an allegiance to your colleague. Your colleague wants to dominate you and let you know that they're the one in charge. There are strategies to work with this but is too much to write up here. If you've been documenting every single microaggression toward you with witnesses, you will be able to lodge a complaint with your manager and to HR if you manager does nothing. But since you're under 3 months into the job, this is already a bad sign of what's to come.

The reality is if nothing changes from your boss or colleagues end, things are only going to get worse and you might want to consider looking for a position elsewhere.

I'm so sorry Fiona that your new job has been soured by this person's aggressive behaviour and for the betrayal by a Black female colleague. Please let me know if there's anything else you need/want to know to help you in your current situation.

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Mar 12, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Hello, Fiona,

On behalf of the ignorant Black Americans who do this, I apologize. This is disturbingly common and a symptom of white supremacy, not to make an excuse, it's a hierarchy thing. We have so much healing to do in the Black community, I have also been targeted for things out of my control, by other Black people. Misery loves company.

Take care of yourself.

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When I look back, it is women who have bullied me the most in the work place. From clerks, to nurses, to my fellow physicians. I have also had the many wonderful relationships with women in the workplace.

Each time, i think it was that I have threatened them in some way. I don't know if race played a role, I have never played the race card, but when I look back at who else was bullied, I am left standing with racialized women and men. Is it that we communicate differently/?Was I not a model enough minority? Is it that we are seen as there to provide a service? Is this just a coincidence? I don't know. But I am really tired, so much so that I am choosing where I spend my energy and with whom so much more wisely then before.

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Thank you so much Shailla for your comment about your own experiences of WoW bullying. From what I've read of other women's disclosures, racialised aggression happens frequently. You outlined a number of possible motives and I don't think coincidence would be on my list of causes. I think there's an unconscious expectations of subservience from women of colour which also implies no pushback. Operating outside those expectations would be perceived as threatening behaviour. It's much easier to otherize someone who doesn't look like an Assimilated Queen Bee than reflect on one's prejudices and opt to dismantle them. I'm sorry that so many women have hurt you and for the lingering effect that has on your energy levels. Discerning who is trustworthy and how to avoid becoming a threat without shrinking yourself is a whole other tiring body of strategic work.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

"Discerning who is trustworthy and how to avoid becoming a threat without shrinking yourself is a whole other tiring body of strategic work." - truer words have not been spoken. Thank you for the acknowledgment as usually one in this position is just judged - either for what they are doing or for what they are not...

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Yes, I do think bullying happens because of an intersection between who they envy and what they think they can get away with, and Heaven has a hard time helping you if you're both enviable and vulnerable in terms of how much the culture at large is likely to side with you! I have a health condition and I'm foreign (I speak Italian fluently but I wasn't born here in Italy where I work and it shows) and I definitely have noticed that myself and all the other targets of bullying also tended to be more differently-abled, more foreign and more differently coloured than the people who were not! I don't think it is as much about hate as about being less likely to be backed up by 'the herd' in their perception

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

My former boss was a typical "vulnerable" narcissist. She pretended to be left of center politically and to care about the oppressed. This was all part of her fake persona - the "bleeding heart liberal." In reality, I came to see how racist, status insecure, and low-talent she really was. I have a graduate degree, so do many other people at the workplace. She did not - she was EXTEREMELY embarrassed and insecure about this, and she tended to torture anyone with more education than she had. She was also insecure about her divorce and her multiple failed relationships. She took her anger out on everyone - ESPECIALLY her kids. She refused to buy them beds even though she made a six-figure salary. (they slept on blow up mattresses on the floor) Her messed-up behavior at work was only overshadowed by her atrocious behavior in her personal life. Her father was a schizophrenic and she lived in deep fear that she, too, was mentally ill. I think she is mentally ill - but why not deal with your problems and get medicated...instead of making your life challenges everyone else's problem? She has always believed herself to be somehow unique and deserving of special treatment, and believes that no matter how awful her behavior, she never owed anyone an apology. She constantly took credit for her employee's work and then insulted those same employees behind their back. I see her now clearly - as a person with a host of severe mental, social, emotional and spiritual problems - who will never get better. She is a severe alcoholic and will never get sober. I feel pity for her but I am so glad to be out of her orbit. She will harm anyone who gets within 10 feet of her.

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Wow Sue! This is quite the story about a toxic ex-boss. She covers the spectrum of manifestations of distress and self-neglect alongside a number of vulnerable narcissistic traits, especially no self-awareness. It would be a nightmare to work with her and yet it shows a failing in leadership for hiring and keeping someone like that in power. She's obviously playing the people in power above her really well that they buy her bs and keep her in the role to unleash on others 'below' her. I'm glad you're outta there and have insight that will continue to assist you.

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Oct 3, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

My worst oppressors, professionally, were women who were a decade or so older than me. To get to where they were, they had put up with a lot of abuse and humiliating sexism from men. They often had to choose between profession, marriage, and family. It was like they had grown up in an abusive family only it was their work. That's where my empathy ends, however. At some point, a person from an abusive family (or work environment) must make the decision to either perpetuate the abuse they had endured (which means becoming the oppressor) or decide that they would never make some suffer the way they had. I think the women bullies I've encountered either consciously or unconsciously chose the former.

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Agree with Shelley - very insightful Julz. It's easier to feel powerful by stomping on others than it is to take responsibility for your behaviour and its impact on others. In an enabling workplace culture, nothing changes.

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Mar 22, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Such Big topic and i believe it stems culturally and is intergenerational Internalised misogyny yes but also the women who raised us. In a family system if a child, say female child, is fluid between scapegoat and golden child by the mother especially i believe they become empathic and super finely tuned to the changing domains and look for safety to walk around it. The hard wired golden child on the other hand has no accountability for their actions and now likely to become the bully because they don’t have consequences. Now fast forward to when these young girls become adults. What has been modelled to them?

How have they survived?

I believe victim and bully are the same coin different sides and are all a result of trauma and lack of safety.

This didn’t make any of it right but it’s a collective issue, an intergenerational one and one where ultimately there are only victims in the end.

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"There are only victims in the end." - Exactly Narelle. No one wins when trying to win in these rigged family, institutional and societal systems. The Golden Child never needs to take accountability and this can manifest again in the workplace as they ascend the ladder unchallenged or with victims who dared challenge her position. There are also cases of the Black sheep/scapegoat turning into workplace bullies as their preferred place of domination when their need for power can't be fulfilled in the family. Being socialised in a hierarchical system led by a narcissistic leader/parent is the perfect blueprint for re-enactment in other contexts. Thanks for your insightful comment Narelle!

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Mar 11, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Man in his mid forties here. I was on an executive board for 10 years. The board was 50% women.

I often wonder if human aggression will ever go away. The least aggressive woman I ever worked with who had achieved the most power was a marathon runner. I think she got her aggression out in sports. I loved working with her.

One other woman regularly engaged in negative campaigns against other people that she thought were incompetent.

Another woman was just ruthlessly cruel with anyone she felt attacked by. I think her aggression was a compensation for not being very intelligent, I’m sorry to say.

One woman was pretty meek until she sensed vulnerability. Then she would pounce. She never expressed vulnerability, btw.

Other women had really great skills, like asking questions counter to the mood in the room without seeming confrontational. Which was a very good thing, because it invited us all to question ourselves much more effectively than if she was cocky or flippant. In fact, almost any time a woman expressed skepticism, it worked to spread the skepticism better than when a man did (exceptions, of course). I think skepticism can seem like an attack to defend against and a few of the women (not all) had extracted it right down to its core so no one felt afraid. That was powerful.

But the worst thing I ever saw was in my personal life, having coffee with a Latina ex girlfriend who had been dressed to kill that day, talking to her on the sidewalk as we left the coffee shop. A woman in a group of women walking down the street had the most fowl look on her face as she came towards us. When she got closer, I realized she was scowling at my ex. I think she hated her because she was beautiful. At the time, she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. I think that’s immense power to be jealous of.

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Thank you Matthew for sharing your perspectives and experiences about women on women aggression. You highlighted the self-protective/defensive behaviours when anyone feels inadequate or insecure either due to their lack of competence or feeling challenged by/inferior to others in a similar or superior position. There's also the presence of competition and jealousy, which go hand in hand. I appreciate that you shared what seemed protective against aggression which is the use of inquiry and gentle challenging of ideas that enabled the group to feel safe.

It's really helpful to have a man's perspective on this subject!

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May 6Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

yes i was bullied over 20 years ago it still haunts me now i now suffer extreme anxiety depression and panic attacks as a result. It was older women i used to work with that screamed shouted at me more mentally name calling gossiping and public humiliation and really just plain nastiness with them they was much older then me by over twenty years it was group of much much older women. I had this done to me over 2 years used to do factory work it wasnt the manager but by employees even now i struggle with things like trust issues. They was never dealt with as soon another person with disabilities came and worked in the factory on that department they also started on her it was like everytime some new started in this factory they got around like sharks at anyone new working i used to cry myself to sleep every night and dread going to work. It still affects me today i I eventurally left that factory but yes im still haunted by what happened to me and what i also saw women can be awful really mean and unpleasant. I'm now dont work because my health mental health is to bad to work which im on meds for.

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Sorry to hear this. Yes, women can be awful.

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Dec 17, 2023·edited Dec 17, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

I think women bully due to their own insecurities same as children, teens or even domestic abusers. The only reason a person who dislikes someone needs others to dislike them, as well, is due to their lack of confidence; a bully lacks the confidence to have an opinion that differs from others as others support validates their existence.

As for the people that jump on the bandwagon and engage in the bullying alongside the bully, they often lack confidence, as well. It takes a strong person to not engage in the behavior that they see taking place around them as despite unhealthy, there is a sense of belonging and connection people feel when part of a group, even if the group is only connected as a result of a shared dislike of another or more so, to avoid being a target.

It's never about the target; it's always about the bully.

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Resisting the urge to belong through antisocial group behaviour can be difficult in an enabling environment. We do what is permissible through the modeling of authorities - queen bees and narcissistic leaders. Connecting through hatred of another is toxic and once the scapegoat has been eliminated, the thirst for drama will create conflict and destroy the group.

Thanks Jodi for your insights!

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Very good point - too many people fear standing out from the crowd, and it makes them want to tear down anyone who does.

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May 1, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

In my experience the main perpetrator fell into existing work norms. There was a group that used these tactics rather successfully. They were vocal about their frequent discontent. As they were a group (of women) who had transfered a lot of workload of their superiors (who were mostly male) to themselves, they had a lot of political capital. My coworker was tasked with attempting to mediate their frequent disconnect. Unfortunately, she didn't change them, they influenced her. She was already inclined to avoid difficult interactions. This made it easy for her to fall into these destructive behaviors. Our supervisor at the same time was urging her to be more athorative and in control of her domain. She was too intimidated to do so with people outside our office, but I was right there and easy to trample upon. This gave the added opportunity to take credit for my ideas, and scapegoat me for what didn't work.

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Mar 10, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

I've been most rattled by younger women earlier in their careers leaning on me for support and mentorship while still in training. Because they are saturated by the culture of academia--of take, pillage, and plunder as it relates to intellectual content--they have acted out these practices towards me as someone "safe" who had fled those settings and was committed to actively detoxifying and decolonizing herself to avoid these practices. When guiding antiracism and other kinds of disruptive, transgressive, anti-oppression work, next-generation people (who are not quite as elder as I am) will act out all of the emotions they have about having to exist in oppressive training spaces. They start to weaponize their emotional reactions and distress regarding this material--and what it brings up about their experiences of being abused and exploited in academic training programs by OTHER people (not me)--against a safe person (like me) who is very clearly committed to not behaving this way. I've almost felt like a receptacle for all of the emotional reactions and anger that they cannot direct towards abusive supervisors. And they're hurling all the stuff at me that they want to direct at the perpetrator but cannot. And they're doing it to sabotage efforts to resist and walk away from these settings (because they're still actively assimilating into it so they can "succeed"). I've also seen younger women lean on me for validation of material and intellectual content (created relying primarily on my leadership and expertise as a professional further along in her career with more papers tied to her name)...and then poaching that material or reaoppropriating it under the name of another "elder" who has other papers they are more interested in. It's very transactional but deceptively packaged in praise, flattery, warmth, and girl-fanning. And then all the nonsense is denied and gaslit away by tears, accusations of my being oppressive, and the like.

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Thank you for describing the cutthroat world of Academia between women, disguised as women lifting each other up. The exploitation and theft you describe is de rigeur to support and elevate women. No one questions if these practices are harmful to women after finally gaining levels of power and influence that men also had. Unhealed assimilation trauma can make women project their damage onto others viewed as threats...while pretending to be their allies. Sick.

Thank you Rupi - I'm so glad you can see through these games so clearly and hopefully other readers in academic medicine can see that this might be happening to them OR that they're being played by the system by enacting these behaviours.

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Mar 9, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

From my experience, I'd say it's their own insecurities and biases. I was 'in the way' of another girl's supposed promotion. She wanted to be promoted to a senior role, but I was hired by upper management (the boss and the creative director - both males) to take that role. She took out her resentment on me and played the victim, which eventually made me the scapegoat. The men from upper management believed her story and went around telling my colleagues false stories (because of this, I think she was the golden child of the company).

Another instance is that a female manager didn't think I had what it takes to take up the role because I was "new" to the company, so she too was unpleasant, whereby she would make racist remarks and passive-aggressive responses at me. When I brought it up to management, they said "oh, that's Ana. Just ignore her."

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Oh Casey! Two clear examples of projection and triangulation from your experiences. I can also see how racism wove its way into their behaviour toward you. When women are insecure and feel inadequate, it can bring out the most ruthless behaviour and will use their feigned vulnerability to convince men of their story, making them turn on the other woman in the story. Thanks for sharing these examples Casey - so glad you're not in those positions anymore.

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Feb 7Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

I just want to be left alone.

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I want that for you too Jennifer. I hope that whatever situation you're in, that you have an exit that connects you to people who nourish you and help you feel at ease.

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Nov 24, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Envy or internalised misogyny cannot be the reason behind bullying of women who have disabilities, impairments or aesthetic concerns.

“She’s just jealous babe” is a disingenuous high school trope which makes no sense and does nothing to address the issue or shed light on why it happens.

I don’t know what causes it, perhaps it’s part of evolutionary psychology but sweeping it under the rug with illogical clichés certainly isn’t an explanation.

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"She's just jealous, babe" is very often the truth, though!

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Mar 11, 2023Liked by Nathalie Martinek PhD

Very insightful

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It is disappointing that this is an issue as it is a struggle to get gender pay parity and equality. I feel that women may bully other women because they see them as competition. There may be personal scars and deep routed insecurities or some other reason that is not obvious, which does not make it acceptable in any way. I am a big advocate and ambassador for DE&i and would move aside happily to support other women in my work and mentor/ support women to achieve their aspirations. However I see it a lot more recently as women are trying to achieve success that they will stamp on others that previously may have been friends and bring them down just to feel powerful. Being from a diverse ethnic background if I was faced with this issue and prey to this vs a colleague not from a diverse background, would an organisation take sides with me over a colleague in this scenario? Would all the achievement past and present be disregarded? I can

Imagine Imposter syndrome, mental health, defeat would all spiral in post this and it can become a very toxic place for the victim to be faced with and lose all interest in working.

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