Here at the3rdi.co.uk we are moved and inspired by the stories of successful women. Our pages are full stories of achievement, of triumph in adversity, of women going that extra mile to help and support other women. But not everyone or everything is perfect. We haven’t all had the perfect boss and sometimes the boss from hell has been another woman. So if our stated aim at the3rdi.co.uk is to encourage intelligent discussion, to invite independent opinion and comment and to include YOU in the debate we also need to address some of the more contentious issues.
A couple of weeks ago we were approached by Roy Sheppard who, together with Mary T Cleary, has written a book designed to spark discussion and debate called ” Venus, The Dark Side”. The book reviews on their website include the following testimonials;
“It is a truly remarkable read, and of all the books available to men about women, this is one of the best….”
“Venus discusses an important phenomenon of the modern era – the unscrupulous woman who uses the protection of the family and criminal law systems as a way to plunder men…”
“This book should be on the National Curriculum. If you are thinking about becoming a father, getting married, or have a son, then you owe it to yourself and future generations of men to read about and raise awareness of these types of women….”
I hope that by now, you will be as intrigued as I was. Based upon the research undertaken for the book, Mary and Roy offered to write an article for the3rdi.co.uk about dangerous women at work. How could we refuse? So here it is. It is designed to stimulate debate. Once you have read the article we want to hear what you have to say. Have you had similar experiences? Do you recognise anything in the way the women represented here behave? Have you had the boss from hell, male or female? Get involved by clicking the link at the end of the article and we will pass on all of your views to Mary and Roy.
Dangerous Women at Work by Mary T Cleary and Roy Sheppard
Meryl Streep epitomised the bitch-boss from hell in her role as Miranda Priestly, the editor of Runway magazine in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. This character was allegedly based on Anna Wintour, the formidable editor of Vogue. A caricature, or do these women really exist? Recently Roy was invited to give a talk to a local business women’s group in the South West about ‘dangerous women’ (He’d been ‘warned’ by the organisers that they were a particularly feisty bunch. They were!) When he brought up the subject of dangerous women at work, it was as if he’d opened up the floodgates; it certainly appeared that just about everyone had at least some experience of being a victim of such women. Story after story poured out.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned.” Many of the women we are talking about here – just feel scorned. And they are hell bent on taking it out on anyone – male or female. Innocent or guilty. Because they can’t quite figure out who has scorned them – ‘anybody’ will have to do!
Have you been the victim of dangerous women at work? If so, what happened?
Dangerous men obviously exist, but during our research we’ve found that these women behave in unique ways. In so many cases the poor victim has no idea what happened until it was too late to do anything about it. Dangerous women at work destroy lives and careers. They rely on anonymity and are confident that such behavior is never discussed openly, thus perpetuating the abuse they inflict on the innocent.
So, what do they do and how do they get away with it?
These dangerous women love to confuse, infuriate, intimidate, belittle, bully, coerce, and harass. They set co-workers against each other, and routinely move the goal posts to set people up to fail. They deliberately create friction and frustration and have no problem making false accusations; lying, cheating, deceiving, using humour at her victim’s expense, innuendo, put-downs, sarcasm as well as veiled or explicit threats.
In many cases, a significant proportion of victims suffer from depression, anxiety and stress-related illnesses. Some even experience nervous breakdowns as a result of their behavior.
Dangerous men and women are often drawn to jobs where they can exert power without being challenged and can count on colleague support and where they can claim the moral high-ground for their decisions.
We heard a fantastic example of a woman who works for a local council. She has cleverly got herself into a position where she can effectively say ‘No’ to just about anybody, always claiming that she is merely doing her job as the guardian of our heritage. It seems that she has been known to concoct obviously absurd reasons for her planning refusals. Some applicants simply roll over and accept the decision. She wins. In other cases, they devote countless hours writing letters of complaint or jump through countless hoops to lodge an appeal. Even if the appeal is successful she wins because of the massive stress she has induced over many months. And whatever she does she knows that she will receive unflinching support from council colleagues.
One of the biggest weaknesses ‘nice’ people have is giving people the benefit of any doubt. And those who believe in professional behavior would find it difficult to imagine that anyone could possibly do anything nasty or unprofessional. All too often we’ve heard women tell us they have ignored their finely tuned intuition when it has tried to tell them that something was not quite right about a woman colleague. And others have said when they did listen to their intuition, they then felt so guilty for having ‘bad’ thoughts about her! Dangerous people know all this extremely well. They actively target ‘nice’, reasonable and trusting people. If that’s you – be extra vigilant. You could be a target.
Learning to recognise when you are being abused and manipulated is therefore essential if you are to protect yourself (and your career) against a dangerous woman. Be particularly aware of women colleagues who are too friendly, too keen to agree with you, too upbeat, too often. We’ve heard cases of women colleagues who you’d think were the least likely to do what they ended up doing. We’ve also encountered unscrupulous women who were brilliant at evoking sympathy by telling sensitive sob stories that you couldn’t really ask them to prove. This strategy is commonly used to draw in women colleagues who are known for being particularly caring and nurturing. Which colleagues do any of these things? We’re not suggesting everyone become neurotic or paranoid – just be more alert. Don’t base any conclusions on just one of these behavior traits either. But if she exhibits a combination of them, that’s when you can be fairly certain you’re being ‘played’.
But what if she’s your boss?
If she has a habit of saying one thing and then criticising you for not doing something else, it might be worth starting to send her brief, written summaries of what she has told you to do, and confirm agreed deadlines. Give her the opportunity to ‘correct’ you by saying “If I have misunderstood you, please let me know what I have missed.” But expect to be accused of not taking enough initiative! Assuming she isn’t someone you can talk to about stopping her abuse, you need to build up written evidence of sustained abuse over a long period. If you ever have to share this evidence with your superiors or in court, you will be more likely to be taken seriously and win your case. However, you can never be sure so consider carefully, the possible consequences of challenging her through official channels before you do so.
You need to assess carefully what she could do to harm you and your reputation before you do anything. A large part of that strategy is collecting the written evidence that you may need in order to prove that you are not guilty of any false allegations she may make against you or your vulnerable colleagues.
Don’t assume your colleagues feel the same way as you. Don’t say or write anything that could get back to her.
Expect her to accuse you of being a disruptive influence. She may want to turn you into a scapegoat. Questions will be asked about your honesty and you may face any number of other false allegations. The more she feels threatened by you, the more serious her allegations against you could be. She will need to prove them of course. Could she?
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have to be a boss to cause mayhem in the workplace. We’ve come across countless examples of malicious women behaving in exactly the same ways against their bosses. When they don’t get what they want, they claim victimhood, unfair dismissal and prejudice.
Reasonable employers are routinely targeted by unscrupulous female employees. Smaller companies tend to be quite informal. They don’t have written codes of conduct or employee manuals which clearly outline the companies’ position on acceptable and unacceptable behavior. All organisations MUST have these documents even though it may feel like overkill. Protect yourself and the reputation of your organisation by keeping accurate written records of every disciplinary action against all employees. Follow procedures meticulously. If you work for or operate a smaller, more casually run business, you must be particularly careful not to breach employment law. A malicious former employee can cause irreparable financial damage to a small enterprise by taking advantage of an employer’s informality.
It is essential to create and follow your company’s internal procedures and all legal requirements scrupulously if you are looking to get rid of a difficult employee. Work closely with your Human Resources department or specialist advisers to ensure you cover yourself and the company. Employment law is highly complex and has a habit of changing regularly.
Roy Sheppard is a former BBC Radio and TV reporter and Mary T Cleary is a former nurse and the founder of the Irish charity Amen.ie.
How unscrupulous women do it. Helpful to men and fascinating to women, Venus: The Dark Side catalogues for the first time, how unscrupulous women attack innocent men, women (primarily mothers against daughters) and children; physically, financially, psychologically and even sexually. And in so many cases, they know how to get away with it. But how do you recognise their covert behaviour? How can you tell if she is preying on YOU? Venus: The Dark Side is a practical guide on how to recognise the signs and provides detailed help and advice on what you can do (and NOT do) to extricate yourself from her clutches. Already described as Required reading for all young men today , the book also includes a Due Dilgence Checklist to limit the risks of marrying one of these women. This checklist is equally valuable to women. With a UK divorce rate at 57%, anyone planning to marry would be well advised to study it. And what about the men who are already married to one of the women described in this book what can they expect when it comes to the divorce? The authors offer detailed protection strategies.