Queen Bee Syndrome in Business

Published On May 29, 2014 » 587 Views» By IWJ » Biz, Practices
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Queen Bee Syndrome: 5 warning signs

Elle Uecker

Coined in the early seventies by Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayarante, and Carol Tavris, “queen bee syndrome” is something you might be familiar with if you have a female boss. The term refers to a woman in a position of power who treats her female subordinates more harshly than their male counterparts. Studies done on the subject have mostly concluded that queen bee syndrome is a product of the patriarchal workforce. Since men hold the majority of management positions at any given company, the rare woman that breaks through the barrier feels more pressure to stay at the top. This results in a failure of females in leadership positions to nurture up and coming female business professionals. This type of behavior in the workplace has become a frustrating roadblock for many professional women. If you work for a female boss, here are five signs you may be dealing with a queen bee.

She pushes you away: Look for signs of exclusion where previously included. This can be through unusually delayed emails, or no response at all. It can also occur through making excuses or unexpected changes without notice.

She dismisses your ideas: A queen bee won’t be looking for you to come up with the next great idea. She might not even be interested in hearing what you have to say. This may come through discounting the idea or saying it’s not appropriate or a good time. Later, you might see the idea surface under the queen bee’s name or a sub group. In situations where she is confronted or reminded that the idea originated somewhere else, she may claim amnesia.

She gets along better with the males in the office: If other females are steering clear, or if she has had previous problems with female co-workers, she might be a queen bee. A key component of the queen bee dynamic is an effort to be seen as strong. As a result of this desire for strength, many females adopt masculine qualities that can be off-putting to other females.

She is unwilling to share success: Queen bee syndrome is most commonly developed among females that succeed in typically male dominated settings. It is a defense mechanism designed to consolidate the power the queen bee has achieved. Because of this, she will be unwilling to share her successes with another female, even if you were part of them. She may take credit for your idea, or act like she accomplished a task on her own.

She puts you down: A queen bee does not want you to achieve the level of success she has. She might be a queen bee if she puts you or your ideas down without merit. In the extreme case, she may ask to dismiss you from your job, or suggest you might be happier doing something else. It may have little or nothing to do with your job performance, and it is one of the most confusing aspects of queen bee syndrome. But if a queen bee feels like her position is vulnerable, none of these actions are out of the question.

bee stylized

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