Ah, September . . . in the time of COVID-19. Many schools are reconvening, and workers who had been laid off or working from home are being called to come back to work in a typical work setting. Amidst all this, kids are re-learning how to be in a group, and employees are readjusting to working side-by-side.

One would think, after all the quarantining and isolation, working with someone in person would be welcomed. One story, shared with me this week, exhibits the opposite.

A close friend went back to work this week at the daycare she has worked at for nearly a year. Aside from seeing all the children again and a little disorganization, work was largely as it was prior to the pandemic. While she and a coworker were sitting somewhat close to each other, another coworker walked up to them, tapped the other woman on the shoulder and asked, “Could you and so-and-so break each other?” The woman responded with a simple, “Yes.”

One would think both women sitting side-by-side would be addressed together, but clearly, the ugliness of women being catty and petty kicks in immediately. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along? These past several months have been long enough, so why are women treating one another with disrespect rather than being grateful they are once again able to work together.

Why do women at work bully, belittle, ignore and gossip? Is it because the conditions in the workplace are stressful, so they let a little steam off by being catty? Whatever it is, is it really necessary?

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Yes, men can make for a miserable workplace, but as countless stories are shared, it is woman-to-woman taking the gold medal for meanness. Author and organizational psychologist Allison Gabriel said she knows many women who have experienced mistreatment at work. She states, “Women, rather than building each other up and helping – sometimes we tear each down. It’s problematic. We found that women who reported this type of incivility from other women were more likely to say they were unsatisfied at work . . . it can also be reflected in their emotional well-being.”

So, again, why do women do this to each other? According to a study Gabriel and her team conducted, “One part is due to women viewing other women as their competition at work.” Another explanation was, “women often feel ‘safer’ taking their aggression out on other women than on men.”

Whatever the reason, it is simply wrong.

With a little research, this advice was found and shared with my friend in hopes the behaviors could be stopped or “worked on”.

Speak up: Not everyone knows they are being mean or rude. Such as in my friend’s story, maybe the woman asking the question thought addressing one in front of the other without making eye contact would cover both of them.

Deal with it immediately: Bring the offensive behavior to the offender’s attention immediately so you do not have to hold it inside. Letting something stew only makes the situation worse.

Be direct: Most men do not have an issue with calling one another out at work if they disagree with one another or notice something seems “off.” As cliché as it sounds, “If men can do it, so can women.”

Realize it usually is not about you: When women feel good about themselves, they should have no interest in putting another woman down.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com.