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October 19th, 2009
09:25 PM ET

Weigh in: Who hurts working women more, men or other women?

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

For many years, some of the smartest, hardest-working women I know have whispered a quiet complaint on the job: They find other women, in general, harder to work with than men. I don’t know if it’s just the kind of women I am friends with, or if they are telling me that because I am a man, or if they are just inadvertently repeating and reinforcing a stereotype about women on the job.

But as we prepare a hefty portion of AC360° tonight to address a new study about women in the workplace, I started researching this notion and ran across some relatively recent studies suggesting that this is a common belief; women are more likely to bully other women on the job, and interfere with the prospects of other women being rewarded with higher pay, better positions, or even praise.

The problems that men have caused for women on the job are well-documented, everything from sexual harassment to sexism in promotions. But I am truly wondering what to make of this question of how women treat women at work.

Do you think men or women present more challenges to women on the job, and would you rather work for a male or female?

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. K C

    Over the years I have found that male bosses are MUCH easier to deal with. You know where you stand, there is no second guessing their intentions (most of the time) and they shoot pretty straight as to what their expectations are. Of the female bosses I've worked for, as mentioned so much before me, they are very catty, form cliques, double talk and can very petty. I'll take a male boss any day.

    October 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Susan Lewis NYC

    Other women, and their catty schoolyard foolishness, are a much greater impairment, at least in my experience. I worked in a group of five women, a couple of them 50+(I was late 30's at the time). I had varied computer skills the others did not. My attempts to make things better for the group as a whole, and to help anyone who needed it were met with the petit jealousy, sabotage and mean spirited false gossip. I'm a good natured soul, always willing to lend a hand or share knowledge. I detest such childishness, and will not accommodate it. Working with men, I am a member of a team, and do not have to walk a tightrope all day every day, while under sniper fire.

    That about sums it up.

    At least 2 females, commenting after me, will insist that I should have catered to it, or just pretended to know nothing.

    October 19, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  3. Milly

    I am shocked by the number of women who have spoken out against working with other women.

    For over three and a half years I worked for a woman in a male dominated-industry. Before I took this job, I was warned, by men and women alike, that she was "notorious" and that I would be miserable working for her. Instead, what I discovered was a tough as nails, hard-working executive that was also, quite brilliant and fair-minded with her employees. She demanded nothing from you that she didn't expect from herself. She is now considered one of the most powerful people in our business.

    I have since moved on to another company, but to this day there are some people who give me looks of something akin to pity when I tell them who I used to work for. To these folks, I like to point that if she were a man, people would jump to call him "Sir", but since she's a woman, people jump to call her "B-tch".

    October 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Rather Notsay

    At my last job, I worked for a woman who was jealous of every move I made. I was more educated and younger than her. I received a lot of praise on the job and for my out of work accomplishments. I am a very driven young woman and she resented me for that. Over time, her true colors came out and she made my life a living hell. I ended up quitting the job and found a better opportunity. I'm not sterotyping by any means, but I've never once had a problem with working for a male. Women leaders seem to be much more passive-aggressive than males. I prefer a no-nonsense approach and time and time again, it comes from males, not females.

    October 19, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Tamara

    Don't generalize. Some men and some women are womens' worst enemies in the workplace. It is more about numbers. Seriously, there are still many more men in charge in most fields... and they can help a woman get ahead in the workplace or make it impossible. I have experienced both. The same thing goes for schools. It varies widely between individual instructors and individual schools. The issue about rape in Iraq tells me we still have not gotten very far. If our safety is still an issue, are we even close to any type of equality?

    October 19, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  6. Vanessa

    I'm in the social work field, so work primarily with and for women. I have had horrible experiences with women as well as incredible ones. I have also been sexually harassed by a male co-worker (in a non-social-work job) and it was horrible. It hurts me to admit this, but women do tend to be "cattier" and will often spend a lot of the time gossiping and complaining about their personal lives (kids, husbands, boyfriends, their weight, etc.). One of my current co-workers drives me crazy with all their home-drama! Lastly, attractive women sometimes have a difficult time in the workforce due to other women's jealousy.

    October 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  7. andi

    I think this question is mean spirited. I have worked for both men and women and seen good and bad in both. My hubby works for someone who is moody, judgemental, admits to playing favorites, manipulates situations to look great no matter how bad this person is and guess what...his boss is all guy. Men and women may have different communication styles and defenses becasue of how we are treated–but I assure you...we all stink.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Mari

    It matters not what sex colleagues are. What is important is how professional the behave. Regardless of what the job is, whether its flipping burgers, servers or working in a white collar profession the bottom line is to have respect for one another, behave with dignity and keep work relationships at work. Too many people blur the professional boundaries, and use the work place or office as a place for personal-therapy. Be careful what you say, remember Karma "what goes around comes around" and "treat others as you want them to treat you" and every else will work itself out.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  9. Mariah Craven

    I don't think it's fair or accurate to say women are harder to work with than men - that's implying that we're all alike, and we're not. Some women are difficult to work with, just like some men are "catty" and "backstabby." Yet no one accuses ALL men of being difficult. It depends on the personality, not the sex. Some *people* are just jerks, and we're more likely to hear anecdotal evidence about those people than the nice, normal ones.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  10. tee

    Women definetly take the lead on this topic! If we can learn to work together and support each other. Stop taking things personal (depending on what it is, of course) But, women will throw another woman under the bus and don't think about the consequences of their actions or how it may affect them later. Men, have their issues too but, they move on faster than we do. Sorry, to say this but it's true. This has been something i've seen for years and talked with friends/co-workers often. Women hold things way too long. I learned to just pray foreveryone on the job.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Emma

    Who cares if they just have some few laughes at your expense by some of the men and women at the work place. How it's affect you is not their problem as long as they have their little group and able to mock people everyday whenever they showed up at work.
    I guess it makes them happy being that way and forgetting their on problems and their everyday life issue.
    Some don't even know you and they'll judge you and have no respect for the other. It's all come to people personality.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  12. meinah

    It's just tat "a woman's intuition is generally more accurate than a man's certainty". Intuition works better when all d facts r in n women in general r more sensitive to ppl n their environment. As a result, again, in general, women pick up more subtle cues, body language, voice inflections, etc. n react to these cues tat more often than not, escape d men. I guess men in general r less picky, catty, n more inclined to look at d larger picture.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  13. Karla

    It is truly unfortunate to admit that working with other women can sometimes prove to be difficult and tricky. And let’s forget about managing other women. Somehow the rules are different. What your male colleagues will consider assertive (or not consider at all), your female colleagues will undoubtedly find snippy, bossy, egocentric, etc. I truly believe that this has a lot to do with the forms of communication men and women use. Men tend to be more direct and to the point while females tend to want to talk more about the issues and feelings. When you are a female boss, you are in the middle of two opposite forms of communication, the female form being the most difficult one. I also think that women are not used to being led by other women and they find every way possible to let their feelings be known, especially around the water cooler. They don’t mind being told to do something by a male boss. After all, our society is still very patriarchal and they are used to it.

    I personally don’t have a preference as to what gender boss I have so long as he/she is competent and fair. This is all that should matter. I let my work speak for itself and check my feelings at the door. We can’t always over analyze things and things are not always personal. We should focus on getting things done.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  14. Debra Karen

    I have found in my experience, women have been more difficult to work with. There is their ego to contend with, not to mention physical appearance (theirs). I'm not homely,I am knowledgable in my job duties,world issues and the corporate world. I have found I received more credit when I worked with men than with women
    Directors.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  15. Rebecca, canada

    In my experience with a woman boss, she did nothing but talk bad about you too other employees and then talk about them too you. it was Uncomfortable and unfair. you couldnt ask for a better guy then the one i work for now. as for working with women I think most are still trying to prove them selves in the work place and will take anyone down in their way.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  16. Kate

    I've worked for men and women in equal measure, and I have to say I've preferred the women, mostly. I've definitely found them less threatening. But then–I really think all of this depends on the person. I, for one, feel uncomfortable around most men and therefore would prefer to work with women.

    I do agree about the increased competitiveness and drama, though–to an extent. My workplace is dominated by women. My department is almost all women. The top positions are almost all held by women. The five people with whom I work closest–including my boss–are all women. My boss is great and I don't have any problems with her, but a couple of my coworkers definitely show the competitive, catty stereotype for which women are known and it leads to some pretty ridiculous situations at work. But the others don't show that at all.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  17. Bernadette Herrmann

    I think it can be both, but my experience is women get intimidated by another strong woman and make it difficult for that woman to get ahead. But like I said it just depends on the situation. Also, women tend to be more emotional and take things personal as well as hold grudges that's why I became the boss. I feel I am am fair becasue I've been there and I welcome any employee who can help a business run more efficient.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  18. natacha

    when a boss is not clear with his purpose; the relation is not easy.Really, i hadn't always seen my boss, during big reunions i remember that males are better than women.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  19. Sence

    I don't like working for women - to much gossip, backstabbing and drama. I've worked for some very seasoned professionals (both men and women) and the women are far, far worse - and I'm on the tail end of my career, hoping to retire if these women don't do me in. So I've seen a lot over the many years.

    I'm a woman and I must admit that women just can't cut it. They may be very intelligent (in fact, I've never met a female boss who wasn't), but they don't know how to manage and are micromanagers to the core (it's almost as if they've transferred their way of thinking while at home to work)!

    No, give me a male boss ANYDAY! ...and no, I'm not rank and file. I'm in a well-paying position.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  20. Rosetta

    Working with women is a problem in any capacity, but having a woman boss is stressful to say the least. This is not taking all women into consideration because in the past 20 years I've had several women bosses. I don't mind working with men because they tend not to hold a grudge as long as women. Women also tend to tell you what you want to hear while doing what they plan no matter what. My experience has been much better working with men although they had their issues too, it was just easier to work through the issue. When you run into a male boss who is a workaholic, he works himself to death. When you have a woman boss who's a workaholic, she wants everyone to join her.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  21. viki

    I would also like to add that I do not think I (or anyone) am hurting women by stating the way I have experienced women in the work place. It is not us who hurt women but the women who by nature of thier gender alone are our representatives, so they are the ones that hurt women. If women don't want to be thought of as jealous, vindictive and hostile then they should stop acting that way. I am a women and I do not act that way, I go out of my way to not act that way. Women need to support women and I think the tide is changing, I think young women are much more supportive of each other than my generation.

    Women need to quit degradating other women for starters.

    I think a source of the anamosity in women also stems from male generated promotions being based on looks, big boobs, blond hair, etc... so there is resentment that is not completely caused by women alone.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  22. Shelly

    I think women are accustomed to having to prove themselves and that brings the "chip on the shoulder" attitude. As a women, I know I have a difficult time being taken seriously in the workplace. If I need something done, and ask for it nicely, if those I am asking don't agree with it – they either disregard it completely or intentionally modify it to what they think would work better. If my male colleagues ask for the same thing – it is done with no questions, no modifications and a smile. After asking for the same thing 3 times, I tend to get upset, and when I change my friendly reminder to a demand I am suddenly on a "power trip" or the "B word". Admittedly, at times I let the frustration from encounters like that carry over into other dealings, and come off as abrupt, or harsh, but I am just so frustrated and sick and tired of not being taken seriously.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  23. Lisa

    I've had the best working environments in all female situations. I'm a woman doctor who worked for years in a clinic with all women doctors, nurses and staff. Things started changing when we hired a male doctor. A nice enough guy, I suppose, but his presence changed things. He was just a little more demanding and a little less cooperative than the women doctors. The nurses and staff were more afraid of making him upset and changed their focus in clinic. Now that clinic has more male doctors than female, and the staff tell me it's not as pleasant a place to work as it used to be. As for having a woman boss, in general I have felt more at ease and more appreciated by female supervisors than male.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  24. Amelia

    The women I work with are incredibly competitive. Currently, I have an immediate supervisor who is a woman, and the overall "boss" is a man. She will give me "special assignments" that involve picking up her dry cleaning and other personal business (not in my job description). She does not give these types of assignments to the men in the office she supervises. I have to do double duty to get anywhere in that workplace: perform the tasks that my boss asks me to do while doing my supervisor's chores. The men have the luxury of being able to focus on work.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  25. jen

    I work in early childhood educatation, meaning females are the only people I work with. It often annoys me when I am trying to do my job and focus on my children that a lot of my co workers would rather stand around and talk to each other. In my experiences with working with men in the past, I've found that men are not interested in your personal life; they just want to get the job done. Women are very manipulative, espeically to someone knew in the company. They form their alliances and seek to mentally destroy anyone who poses a potnetial threat to their social status in the workplace. I would much rather work with men and for men.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  26. lizzy

    oh yea women are mean take it from experince.. they dont want others any higher up..etc ill just make it short tks

    October 19, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  27. viki

    I hate working with or for women. I hate to say it but women in the workplace are a discredit to the gender. I will take a male boss any day. I have had several women bosses and they were all over 55 so there may be something to the age thing as well,but they were all very terrible to work for. Hostile, jealous, vindictive, contriving, back stabbing. LIke the over 50 version of mean girls. Women don't seem to be for women in general, sometimes, but rarely. I wish we could change that as a gender. Working for men is much easier, they cut to the chase, say what they mean, say what they want and most of all what they do that women don't is they praise and award for a job well done. I will choose a male boss any day, that's if I have a choice, which I rarely have or would not have ever worked for any women.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  28. Sandra Jones

    I will work for 10 males anyday rather than a single female. Not only can they be catty, backstabbing and domineering to the point of bullying, but they'll also take credit for your work. Men share information with each other; women don't. You would think we've evolved further than we have.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  29. angelia

    As someone who has worked for both from Germany to Hawaii to Florida I will have to say it depends on the overall situation and certainly on the person. There are some broad (sheesh) assumptions made on a case or two.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  30. poprevv

    I think women are more snippy in the workplace. They are way more secretive and are always looking for ways to make fellow female coworkers look bad. They go behind one anothers back sabotaging to get ahead. Men are more in your face about it. You know what their angel is and that makes it easier to combat male coworkers than female coworkers.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  31. Kim

    Women are definetly more difficult to work with. The funny thing is I tweeted about black women in the workplace fighting against each other in the workplace. So trust me when I say not only is it hard being a black woman in the workplace but working with other black woman-hmmm not easier. PS if you work with women who are against you (regardless of race) and you have them riding you or disrespecting you it just opens the doors for men to treat you even worse. Think about that type of work enviroment!

    October 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  32. missq

    will never work FOR another woman boss as long as i live! would live in a box on the corner b4 i EVER put myself thru such catty, gossiping bs again!!! there should be a 1 woman rule for all workplace situations because more than 1 gives her someone to backstab and destroy just to make herself feel more important! we should be at work TO DO A JOB and absolutely NOT to make friends and never the two should cross!!!!! i made it thru middle school, barely, and i have NO desire to ever go back again to the pathetic click world that lives to destroy another human being! NO man i've ever worked with or for has ever been so disgusting!!!

    October 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  33. virgina naiola

    In my opinion....that is classic.... Woman likes to compete with other woman not only in job but in other aspect....

    October 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  34. Susan

    Most women have a general mistrust of other women-we are more competitive with each other than we are with men. Women also have more of a hidden agenda, always thinking there is more to it than there is. I agree with the others, I'd rather work for a man- even if they are jerks, they are upfront and you know where you stand.

    October 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
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