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Female Bosses and the Queen Bee Syndrome

Published 10/22/07 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I have a moderate perspective on social issues, with a very slight lean towards the liberal left. But I always enjoy debating about interesting issues and enjoy hearing the views of others.

I'm going to talk about a fascinating topic I heard discussed on the Chris Core radio show today. He was talking about the existence of the stealth women vote in regards to Hillary Clinton and how some women are eagerly awaiting the chance to vote Hillary into office for the sake of seeing a women ascend into the nation's most powerful role. However, the issue was brought up that there are some people out there, most notably women in particular, who resent other women like Hillary for her "Queen Bee" mentality and persona.

What is It?

The Queen Bee Syndrome goes like this. Women who have the Queen Bee condition are usually those who work in supervisory roles or in positions of power. They feel the need to be recognized and demand to be in the center of attention at all times. They regard other women as competition and see them as threats to their ability to enjoy exclusive attention and respect. They desire nothing more than having others fall on their knees to bow before them and lavish them with power, attention, compliments, and envy. Oftentimes, they will treat female subordinates much harsher than male employees. They have particular resentment and disdain for women who work in traditional stereotypical female roles, such as secretaries, models, and housewives.

Genuine Surprise At the Response

The issues raised were quite interesting but I could see how the discussion might be considered sexist by some, and I fully expected a torrent of angry female listeners to flood the radio show's telephone lines to voice their displeasure and complaints. I was actually secretly hoping for this since I'm a sucker for juicy talk radio.

I was completely surprised at what happened next. A steady stream of female listeners began calling into the show expressing agreement with this theory. The majority agreed that many female bosses had this Queen Bee mentality, which caused great resentment and competition among their female subordinates. Many of the female callers indicated that they preferred having a male boss for the fact they think female bosses are harder on other women because the female bosses see other women as threats for attention. Apparently they don't view men in this competitive light.

Even one seasoned female manager who indicated that she has worked many years in a supervisory role expressed reluctant agreement that the Queen Bee Syndrome was a pervasive affliction in the work place. She remarked that she personality felt an extra responsibility to help other women rise up to her status, but she felt some of the subordinate women felt entitled to this special treatment and resented managers like her when they didn't provide the extra attention.

Is It a Real Condition In the Workplace?

I found the radio discussion to be utterly fascinating and I began thinking about the type of social interactions I often observe at work. I've always thought the opposite was true in the work place - that women tended to give each other extra attention and assistance for emotional and professional support out of mutual sympathy and understanding. I usually see women congregate together and go off in pairs or groups during social and working situations. They even visit the restroom together! Little did I know, they are secretly plotting against one another. :)

I'm curious to hear what other people think!

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27 Responses to “Female Bosses and the Queen Bee Syndrome” 

  1. Raymond says:

    Northwest Gal,

    I'm in Maryland...our state is as blue as it gets. Nothing but progressives and liberals here.

  2. Northwest Gal says:

    To Raymond:

    Perhaps you might initiate a movement in your area/state to export more of your blue-state progressive and liberals to Utah (?)

  3. Dana says:

    I too have been victimized by a queen bee.

    The Queen Bee was promoted to a very high position in the company. She is now trying desperately to do away with ALL the female employees that she did not personally hire herself. The ones that threaten her.

    If you are educated, articulate, good looking, A-type personality, NOT white trash, have more talent & brains than her (not difficult) then you are on her list of people to demolish.

    I totally don't get it. Females already have a really tough time getting ahead in the job world. I don't think in my lifetime or generations to follow that we'll ever see a dent in it. Some cos are ok, most are still very not with the program when dealing with the queen bee. When you have Co. owners that back and support the queen bee, then you are F**ked! I am not saying females are not promoted, its that when they are this "queen Bee" takes control and those above her pay no attention.

    When she is in charge of hiring, she will only hire those that she "feels" are below her. In this case, its those who are dumber than her (but have enough skill to do their job) those who are fatter than her. (we're talk'n 400lbs;) or plain just frumpy folks who are whimpy and pose no threat at all to her.

    I have left the co. since, as I know of no other way to remedy this situation. It just irritates me to all H**L that a fellow female could be this way. Where did the "sisterhood" go?
    I know she always gave the good jobs to the men so that they would look up to her. God forbid should she give a good job to a competitive female...she might do a damn good job and "out shine the boss". Most bosses would relish in the fact that they had an outstanding employee in their command.
    I would get isolated, bullied and lied to. There is no solution. I wish someone here would come up with a solution. I can't grow a p***s!

  4. earlgreyrooibos says:

    There's definitely no Queen Bee issue at my workplace. It's not a big, cohesive, sisterhood fest either, but there's no problem with our executive director acting like a Queen Bee.

    On a side note, the term "Queen Bee" has also been used to describe a certain type of particularly malicious, passive-aggresive, "popular" high school girl. I wonder which came first? I'm sure they're related, but it would be interesting to see how the term evolved.

    (Found this through the Carnival of Feminists, btw)

  5. Renee says:

    The queen bee syndrome is alive and well and leaves the rest of drone females running for cover for fear of being caught in the cross fire.

  6. narcissistic.claptrap says:

    @Karen Bune: "The Queen Bee Syndrome is definitely alive and well. Most women supervisors are threatened by highly educated, successful, and competent women who work under them"

    In my experience, *people* defend their territory when they arrive at a position of power. Men do this aggressively, every damn day, but it only gets a special label when women engage in the behavior.

    I am approximately peer-level with a man 20 years my senior (he outranks me slightly, but my CEO tends to side with me when a tie-breaking vote is needed). This man resents my Ivy League education and my confidence, and does everything he can to undermine my authority, despite the fact that doing so risks doing active harm to the goals of our non-profit organization. Strangely, no one refers to him as a "Queen Bee".

    The last time I was promoted, my primary competition was a male 10 years my senior. I approached our competition with a good-natured "may the best human win" attitude; by contrast, he practiced political exclusion, back-stabbing, and general snarkiness. Luckily, I have a (male) CEO who recognizes ability and contribution. The day after my competitor was informed that he now reported to me, he left copies of his resume sitting in the printer for all to see. Within 6 months, he was gone. You can bet your ass no one called him a "Queen Bee".

    I am at director level in my organization. I have promoted 7 women and 0 men to management positions within our organization over the past 3 years, and all promotions went to the best qualified and most competent candidates. I also spend a lot of time trying to keep my managers visible to our CEO, arranging face time whenever there is justification to do so. I see 6 out of 7 of my female managers doing the same thing within their own departments. The 7th probably fits the "queen bee" stereotype, much to my disappointment.

    I also had three strong and supportive female bosses (supervisor, manager, and director) during my brief foray into the corporate world in the mid-90s.

    Insecure schmucks come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are female. I wonder how many of the women who "prefer to work for men" have entertained the notion that those men are simply not intimidate by them because they don't consider them serious competition.

  7. Jo Christie-Smith says:

    I agree with narcisstic.claptrap, I think it is people who defend their territory when they are in positions of authority not just women. It's just that this behaviour is expected and celebrated as being very masculine and therefore unremarkable when a man does it but abnormal when a women does it.

    That is certainly my experience I have had good experiences working for women and bad ones; likewise I have had good and bad experiences working for men. If I had to say which were the most defensive of their position, then it would probably be the men.

    It was like someone commented on my blog when I was writing about Hillary Clinton a couple of months ago...they were criticising her for 'lusting for power'. I mean, would you nominate a candidate that wasn't that fussed about power? Do we really think John McCain or Barack Obama are not interested in power?

  8. italiana says:

    The queen bee where I work is the Executive Secretary who manipulates male executive staff into doing her bidding. She also gossips about female staff to them. It's hell. I am looking for other work. I don't give a damn about justifying her behavior based on sexism in the workplace. She undercuts productivity and morale. And the executive staff fails to stand up to her.

  9. frances Petrie says:

    The Queen Bee where I work is the Office Manager. She is making me like Hell. I have been depressed over the last year. I am very successful at my job, I receive good feed back from Clients and staff. I have yet to hear her say that I am doing a good job. The feed back I get from her is petty criticisms. Recently I had my appraisal with her, she did not tell me that I would have to complete an agreed objectives form after the appraisal. Had I known I would have taken notes. I asked her the next day for a copy of her written evaluation and she said it was closed and had been sent to the HR Dept. I called the HR Dept and they said this was lies, he scanned it and sent it to me. My grading on the appraisal was mainly marked - G with the odd G+ and a good few G-! I also received the copy of the other appraisee and her grading was mainly E (Excellent) she is one on our Senior Lawyers. Also, the Office Manager said that I had to be careful what I discussed with Clients, this was not mentioned at the appraisal!
    The problem first started when she hired an uneducated person to cover reception. She could not speak proper English and certainly could not write proper English. We lost so much potential Clients, the phones were not ringing the conference rooms were empty. The Office Manager was determined to keep her on reception, this is a disaster for an International Law Company as the receptionist is the first point of contact for the company! We has so many complaints from Clients and indeed our Head Office in London. After four months she approached me and asked if I would take over reception. This I did! This was my biggest mistake. She can see how successful I have been and Lawyers tell her how good I am, this she does not like.
    The person that was hired for reception now has an admin position, OM does all her emails and no one is allowed to ask her do anything unless we go through the OM. We know why this is, she wants to assess whether the admin person can do the job!

    Needless to say I am now looking for another job as I have had enough. I know the Lawyers will be furious that this Queen Bee has forced me out of the hive!!

  10. Pat H says:

    there can be only one "Queen Bee" in the colony and any threat to the queen's position will draw her ire. I had to learn this the hard way. Any position I've ever had during my career resulted in the same thing where my immediate supervisor was female. Usually did not happen with male supervisors because there was not a power play going on. As with motherhood, there can be only one female who rules the roost and dictates how the household or office should be run. It is wise for other females to keep their opinions to themselves when it comes to giving advise on how another woman's homes or businesses should run. Bottom line, women have

  11. Pat H says:

    There can be only one "Queen Bee" in the colony and any threat to the queen's position will draw her ire. I had to learn this the hard way. Many of the positions I've had during my career resulted in the same thing if my immediate supervisor was female. Usually did not happen with male supervisors because, for the most part, there was not a power play going on between male and female.

    If I may draw this analogy, in motherhood, there can be only one female who rules the roost and dictates how the household should be run; you know, the planning, the execution of those plans the "do as I say and not as I do" philosophy. It is wise for other females to keep their opinions to themselves when it comes to giving advise on how another woman's home should be run. Bottom line, women have a competitive streak no different than their male counterparts. They exist in a "no-share zone"

    And so I think that women in the workplace tend to be more mentally vicious and vindictive in their dealings with other females if one perceives the other as threatening competition. And don't even think about usurping the queen's authority when it comes to dealing with the same males with whom the queen interacts.

    There will NEVER be the "good old girl" network in the workplace. It is not in our nature. Women stand alone and are nurturers to their offspring (underlings) and cannot share their charges with another woman unless it is in a subordinate capacity. Call me nuts but I think there are some parallels there. Strongly opinioned and independently thinking women will always have a difficult time working together because of a matter of mutual respect and control. A difficult thing to achieve for sure. That's not a put down but an observation from years and years of experience in the workplace. I do acknowledge that there are exceptions, however, and when that does happen, it can be a beautiful thing though it isn't often.

  12. Jean Z. says:

    I work with an Alpha Female CSR that is the assigned CSR for one of the company's largest accounts. Problem is, I may not be an alpha female, but I don't take any crap from someone who is on my same level. She actually went to my boss and his boss to discuss the things I should be doing for her, without including me at all. I can only assume she wanted me to sock her in the face. I refuse to do any of it. If she were smart, she'd find a doormat, not try to convert me into one. She can be as persistent as she likes, I'm just not wired to be a doormat. She thinks she wants me to be her assistant. She needs to be certain of that. No one can stand her. I think many people have not articulated to themselves why they can't stand her, but her constant manipulation and "acquisition" of friends, just to have people to manipulate is so transparent. Everyone hopes she falls flat on her face.

  13. Joanelle says:

    The Queen Bee syndrome is actually based on the fact that most companies will allow limited number of women at the top - look at the Board of Directors, senior management group, etc. The "boys" control things and consequently women protect their individual jobs, roles and position to the extent that they keep other women out -the "boys" are very good at setting us up against each other - they don't have to do anything anymore - they have us doing it for them - protecting their turf and keeping us out!

    They've gotten so good at it that many women will tell you they don't want a "woman for a boss"

  14. ckensington says:

    I had never heard of this term - queen bee - until recently. I know of a situation where all the writing was on the wall to watch out for one of these, but in this case it was males she probably didn't like, and the moment they non-deliberately show up a queen bee, they are gone just like their female counterparts.

    Queen bees do exist and its up to a potential employee to watch out. Sometimes not much you can do, but avoid that "hive" altogether if possible.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am currently in a Queen Bee situation. I was recently hired in a very famous company, and the manager in my office is a woman. She is very short with me, and seems like she doesn't want me around. She is very territorial and talks over me all the time. When I ask her questions, she gets annoyed and acts like she doesn't have time for me or my concerns. She hired me, and during the interview process she was a very likable person. Once I started working there, her attitude towards me changed. I do feel that she is threatened by me in some way, and that I take some attention away from her. I feel no need to be the "attention getter" and I wish I could let her know that I do not care and I am not after her job. I just want to be respected and taken seriously in my workplace.

  16. Spade says:

    Hey... this Queen Bee stuff is not only against other female co-workers, but seemingly against smart, well-rounded, educated and potentially successful characters in-general (including MEN in subordinate positions). I'm a new male employee at a job where there are multiple female managers. Over the months I've been there, I've noticed that these women seem to always feel they have to try to punk me (get me to do tasks that they can very well do themselves w/o assistance, talking down to me by calling me "boy" and "child", using a tone of voice towards me that's nowhere near professional, etc.). It's quite funny, because when we happen to be one-on-one with each other, those kind of competitive acts by these women seem to be subtle-to-none (and of course they gossip about each other), but when they're around each other while "I'm" in the midst, oh it's an all out dictatorship fest against me. Throw away all of the private conversations we've had about teamwork, respect, communication and watching each other's backs! I have to prepare myself every shift for these trifling-ass women. Either they have short-term amnesia or they're just a bunch of hypocrites. Being in management before, I understand the difference between "managing" and "being an asshole". Ultimately, though I've tried to communicate to these Queen Bees via verbal language & work style that I'm not about this competition crap (and I just wanna make my money), they haven't seem to process the message yet. Apparently, the trust isn't there; maybe it's my fault for not being clear enough. Any insecurities that they have about me being there (b/c of my education, my experience, my height, my dress-style, etc.) seeps right through their jealous, anxious eyes. I just know that these women, these PEOPLE better understand me immediately. I know they're well aware of my potential of rising above them. I only planned to be there for about 6 months just to pay off debt and presume my athletic career (NEVER have I mentioned about being manager. I didn't even care about the damn place that much)!!! That means I didn't plan to use my status as a WEAPON. This competition crap that goes on in the workplace is part of an even bigger problem in this world. It's unfortunate that innocent people have to be subjected to this "crap" game. It's a "crap" game because it's usually played against people without their consent. Nevertheless, if these b*****s keep f*****g with me, keep playing f*****g games with me and fighting against me, out of defense, I WILL get myself into a position in the company where these people will be GRASS UNDER MY FEET. It's their choice. They move, I move!

  17. anonymiss says:

    This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I work under a Queen Bee and the comments and psycho crap I have endured from her have been a challenge to say the least. Not only that, she referred an employee to the company that works directly under her and is related to her huband's family. So not only do I deal with that, I also have the favortism and partiality to contend with.

    She has very deep issues and I have contemplated going to HR several times but typically this never ends well. The worst part is her hiding my productivity and her constant charter to belittle me in front of colleagues. Many people know of this side to her but she has done a great deal of butt kissing at the top.

    Not only does she have this problem with females, she has this problem with males also and puts down everyone. She is highly intelligent and I have been succesful at what I do and respected and worked my tail off for my company.

    She was promoted over me through an acquisition and it made sense since she has more experience and was better management material. I am the worker bee and prefer it that way. I really loved the comment "It must be kind of weird to play with the big boys and then have to go the kiddie table"

    I believe in Karma and I hope someday someone gives her the treatment she deserves or exposes her for who she really is. Her referral had zero experience and she has even gone so far to do her work for her. As a female, it is common for a littel co worker jealousy every now and then but overall we support one another. Intelligence often masks some of the really scary side of some of the women in corporate, HR departments and executive management need to do more to stop the Queen Bee bullying or at least take steps to prevent it if possible.

  18. jbg says:

    What you are talking about here is women with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and they are relatively common. A well known example is Madonna. Not all Narcissistic women are as successful as her but they all follow a similar pattern with a gang of sycophantic friends whose place it is to hero worship their idol. The male version behaves in a similar fashion and everybody knows one.
    There is an interesting blog written by the daughter of a Narcissist here www.narcissists-suck.blogspot.com

    In short they have never grown up and still believe the world should and does revolve around them, hence the need to be the center of attention, even if it means flirting with your boyfriend and taking their clothes off. Its all an act and they are not sufficiently mature enough to cope with an adult relationship and are largely asexual and incapable of unconditional love or even any kind of love, or empathy for others!
    They are an emotional vacuum or vampire. All take and no give. They use bullying, lies and control freakery to get what they want. They live in a fantasy world and create their own reality and will drag you into it.
    This is a complex condition that requires much reading and I have only touched on it here.
    They should be avoided at all costs, especially if you are male!

  19. Penny Hayes says:

    I 've worked for a female owner of a tiny company. She is now 65. She cannot take any form of criticism and gets upset and nasty if you point out an error she's made. She has tantrums and has lost several employees and friends. I stay because it's conveniently close to home and at 59 years old, jobs are hard to come by. She trys to make everyone her friend and if anyone crosses her she becomes a nasty tyrant. She can't let things go. She will keep on and on about something. Her husband of one year started drinking again and finally left her. She emasculates men and then wonders why they yell at her and then leave. She and I have had our arguments. I get frustrated because she never listens.

    She is also inconsiderate of other's time - constantly late for everything and then turns it around to make it their fault. She send long emails that are nasty when she is unhappy with someone. Most of the time I am so glad when she doesn't come into work which is often because she can't get her lazy butt into work ontime. She wants everyone to do her work and personal favors. That's my biggest pet peeve. She loves to have me do her errands, like get her milk, "make me a cup of coffee" and make her personal bank deposits. I really hate working for women. This one really drives me nuts. Now that she was diagnosed type 2 diabetic she wears it on her sleeve so she can get special attention.

    When I've gone out with her she always finds a way to be the center of attention. Especially with a few other people. The food is always "cold", something isn't right. That's why I stopped going anywhere after work with her. My partner hates her. She has recently lost a few friends because they wouldn't kiss her butt. She's a piece of work alright.

  20. MissQueenBkilla says:

    So yea, I could say Ive experienced this whole Queen Bee thing from both perspectives. Im am not an "alpha female" I have always been shy and reserved. A people pleaser, and often times have been called "sweet". I have never really been in a fight with any one, and if ever an argument came up, Im the first to apologize for what ever I must have done to cause the strife. Any ways it is a long story and I can't posibly wright you a novel, but it was when I ran across a particularly "B*%&ch" of a woman that I knew I had to either back out or take her out.
    She was intrusive, and inconsiderate, she was always bitching, and always needing attention from my husband for the most trivial things like fixing her trunk over and over and over again.
    She labeld herself as a B*&ch and even got a tattoo that said Royal Bitch to prove that she was one: She was the type of girl who would follow you around the school yard with her gang of friends calling you out to fight her because of something you said regarding the color of her dog.
    Stupid I know...
    Anyways, We were business partners and friends, and while this Queen Bitch was playing whos the boss games, I just came to the realization that she was playing on my fu***ing board, she wanted to be the Queen of the hive, so I became the bear, and shook her out.
    She was very territorial of her particular shift, I was exhasted working splits around her, but I did it because she was she was a violent angry bitch, and the last thing I wanted to do was piss her off by changing the schedule. So I came up with a plan. I would simply post a proposed schedule on the board, and when I showed it to her, we could very easily switch some things around. It was only a suggestion, and it was merely a temporary thing.
    I figured it would be a test, and it could go one of two ways, either way I would win. The first way, which I hoped it would have been, was that she saw the schedule and if she didnt like it, or couldnt do it, she could simply suggest something else, and I would compromise, and we could negotiate like adults, like well rounded business partners do, if she thought of me as an equall, like I thought of her, she would treat me as such, and speak to me as such. The second way, which a Bitch usually goes was that she got pissed off about it. She was soooo mad that her hulk o maniac arms were flying around and a vien was poping out of her forhead. She talked down to me, and accused me of "makeing her suffer". She basically threw a tantrum fit right before my very eyes. I knew then there was no negotiating with "Hulk mad.. Hulk smash" woman, so as a business owner I simply found someone else to work the shifts that she couldnt. This made her even more mad, and she quit... I even tried apologizing to her, I tried to work it out with her, I tried to give her an opportunity to make a suggestion, to take a step in compromising. But in her world it is either her way, or no way at all. so she left the company, and Im free of the Queen Bitch.
    So in conclusion, Ive been on the sides of both perspectives. I think that every woman simply wants to be respected. You can call me manipulative, and fake for what I did. But if she was willing to show some respect, and dignity, and honor, and if she was smart enough handle her anger, and talk in a calm, mature fasion like adults do, her story would be very different. I simply think that maybe she thought she was entitled to whatever she wanted. I think that in her world, she just throws tantrums, and people give in cause they dont want to see her mad. Since I did'nt reward her immature behaviour, she quit, and that is soooo fine with me.

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