Is the ‘shemale’, just a mean girl in heels?

Emotional intelligence in action is a powerful skill. At the heart of the intent, lies the desire to empower, enrich and enable another human being by effectively responding to their emotional states.

Feminism, in its simplest definition can be described as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes. From 13th century, Helen of Anjou, a Serbian queen who established women’s schools to the work of Maybanke Anderson born in 1845 who championed the Australian rights of women and children, and to the heady protests of Germaine Greer, women have united so that their collective voice can be heard.  But where has our commitment to ‘sisterhood gone’?  Is it just ‘tokenism’ morphed into a boozy girl’s night out?

Be assured the howling that you hear is not the wind.

What impact does an emotionally stunted or Machiavellian boss have on your health?  A great deal it seems. In female dominated industries that detrimental boss is more likely to be a woman.  My mother spoke of a nursing matron that breathed fire and condemmed many a eager nurse to languish behind a cosmetic counter.

I have recently heard recount of a similar style of management within the teaching profession in the private secondary school sector. The stunning response to a reasonable request for a larger classroom, was that the height of the teacher made the room appear smaller! Time for that particular women to look deeply into the looking glass, though perhaps she is already in  love with her reflection!

Have the ‘mean girls’ from the playground shifted to become the ‘shemales’ in positions of  power? Have heels, replaced the power shoulders of the 1980’s and become the elevated  platform supporting  female bullies?

According to Harvard Medical Schools, Jonathan D Quick, ‘ the evidence is clear that leadership qualities of ‘bad’ bosses of either gender, over time exerts a heavy toll on employees’ health’.

The feminist is me, is deeply disappointed when a female leader adopts Machiavellian behaviour. Despite all rationale and antiquated excuses,  that nasty bitch is simply a workplace bully! There are many of us who can attest to the impact of such women in our workplaces especially in roles that embody position, status and power. Machiavellianism lies at the core of workplace bullying.

So let’s unpack this a little further.

Emotional intelligence (EI) or emotional quotient (EQ) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour. Although the term first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, it gained popularity in 1995, in a publication of the same title, written by the author, psychologist and science journalist, Daniel Goleman. Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, job performance and leadership skills.

It could be assumed that Renaissance diplomat and writer, Niccolo Machiavelli, had high emotional intelligence, however this is not supported by research conducted in the 1960’s by Richard Christie and Florence L Geis. They concluded that Machiavellian behaviours are associated with low emotional intelligence and low emotional recognition and bear no significance to cognitive ability.    The Prince ( II Principe) , written by Machiavelli,  advocates the use of dark arts of manipulation, lies and deception. Machiavelli  promoted not just the disabling of his perceived opponents,  but the destruction of them.  There is no place for morality, ethics, compassion or kindness in Machiavellianism.

Machiavellianism is but one, of the ‘dark triad’ of personalities. The other two very ugly siblings, include, narcissism and psychopathy. Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism and a lack of empathy. Psychopathy is characterised by enduring anti-social behaviour, impulsivity, cold selfishness, callousness and remorselessness. The reference of ‘dark’ implies these traits have a malevolent quality and when they are being wielded, the impact upon another person’s mental health and physical wellbeing is measurable.

Machiavellian behaviour is characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. Scoring high on the Mach IV test, are those individuals who  show a high priority to money, power and competition and a low priority to community building, self love and family concerns. All three dark triad traits are conceptually distinct although empirical evidence shows them to be overlapping.

Machiavellians exploit others to advance their perceived personal agendas but they are not classified as having a mental health condition.  They do not have a personality disorder, schizophrenia and neither are they psychopaths. However some Machiavellians demonstrate psychopathic behaviours.

The following are the guiding principles of Machiavellianism:

  • Never show humility
  • Arrogance is far more effective when dealing with others
  • Morality and ethics are for the weak  ( Powerful people feel free to lie, cheat and deceive others when it suits them)
  • It is much better to be feared than loved

High Machiavellians may be expected to do the following:

  • Neglect to share important information – exclusion
  • Find subtle ways of making another person look bad to management – undermining
  • Spread false rumors about another person – character assassination

Research on the dark triad is used in applied psychology,  especially within the fields of law enforcement, clinical psychology and business management. People scoring high on these traits are more likely to commit crimes, cause social distress and create severe problems for an organisation, especially if they are in a leadership position.

So what do you do?

Bad bosses are immune to their weaknesses as the core of this rotten Machiavellian behaviour is arrogance. The best advice is to disengage and to seek workplaces that are led by people who seek to enable, empower and enrich  others and who have leaders that are emotionally connected and genuinely care.

I believe it is far better to be loved than to be feared. This was perhaps unrealised  for Niccolo Machiavelli which led him to his cold heart and cruel behaviour.

Let’s hope it is not too late for the ‘shemales’ to metamorphosis into fully engaged and connected 21th century females that we can all be proud to know, work alongside and claim as ‘sisters’. Until then, best avoid the nasty bitches!

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