Women who defy gender norms by being more assertive and dominant at work were more likely to be targeted by their female counterparts, compared to women who exhibited fewer of those traits.
"Across the three studies, we found consistent evidence that women reported higher levels of incivility from other women than their male counterparts," said Allison Gabriel, Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona.
However, "this isn't to say men were off the hook or they weren't engaging in these behaviours," she noted.
The studies showed that when men acted assertive and warm -- in general, not considered the norm for male behaviour -- they reported lower incivility from their male counterparts.
This suggests men actually get a social credit for partially deviating from their gender stereotypes, a benefit that women are not afforded, the researchers said.
For the study, forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the team conducted three studies.
Men and women who were employed full time answered questions about co-workers who put them down or were condescending, made demeaning or derogatory remarks, ignored them in a meeting or addressed them in unprofessional terms.
The researchers found that female-instigated incivility was reported more often than male-instigated incivility by women.
The findings are an opportunity for companies to re-evaluate their cultures and how they address this issue, Gabriel said.
Companies may face a greater risk of losing female employees who experience female-instigated incivility, as they reported less satisfaction at work and increased intentions to quit their current jobs in response to these unpleasant experiences.