Queen Bey > Queen Bee

April 8th, 2023

No, this is not an article about my Queen Bey. This is an entirely different Queen BEE.  It’s a syndrome?!  Specifically, Queen Bee Syndrome is a term used to describe a workplace behavior in which a high-ranking female employee, usually a manager, intimidates and excludes her female subordinates, often leading to a hostile and uncomfortable work environment.

Specific behaviors include:  gossiping, social exclusion, social isolation, social alienation, talking about someone, and stealing friends or romantic partners.

This rarely discussed but real syndrome is a phenomenon first defined in 1973 and tends to be found in industries that are both male-dominated and female-dominated.  The key word being dominated.  When one gender controls an organization Queen Bees tend to proliferate. 

What’s absolutely fascinating is that research in the Netherlands by B. Derks, N. Ellemers, C. van Laar and K. de Groot found that women who displayed the most “queen bee” tendencies  are the women who experienced the highest levels of gender-based discrimination earlier on in their careers.

While we acknowledge these women’s experiences.  Under no circumstances is it FIERCE to treat other women with disrespect at work because you were.  Think about your friends, daughters and other family members.  You’d be furious if they told you a story of a Queen Bee in their everyday life. 

Research shows that “Queen bee” women, aware of their sacrifices made in order to become successful, see other up-and-coming women and believe they should be able to figure out how to achieve success without assistance just as they did. These tendencies of women themselves subsequently maintain the barriers sustained by occupational sexism to shut them out. However, when it comes to women of similar seniority, “queen bees” are supportive, believing these women have also worked hard for their success.


Let’s focus on what to do if we work for a Queen Bee:

  1. Talk about it – with your network, peers at work and ultimately with the Bee herself.  Calling out the behavior directly and without emotion is step one to determining if the relationship can continue to exist or if you need to start looking for a new opportunity.
  2. Take actions for YOU – what can you do for yourself to take your attention away from the Queen Bee?  Can you join a new group, like FIERCE?  Can you start to introduce non-fiction into your reading list for professional or personal advancement?  Maybe start to train for a 5k?  Bottom line, don’t let the Bee get to your core.  Focus on where you want to be in a year, five years, ten years and work on things that will lead you to your goals.
  3. Leverage your mentors and sponsors within the company – can you start doing cross-functional projects with another team to get exposure to new leadership?  Can you step up for a promotion in a different geography, segment, function?  You love the company.  Don’t let one person run you out of it.

Now, what if you are peers with a Queen Bee or she works for you:

  1.  SHUT IT DOWN – toxic work environments are company killers. The Queen Bee needs to hear from you that you see what she’s doing and it’s not ok.  You will make take all appropriate actions to stop it immediately unless she apologizes to those she hurt, course corrects and takes meaningful steps in the exact right direction.
  2. Read #1 again.

More on Queen Bee Syndrome here:

Taking the Sting out of ‘Queen Bees’ Who May Be Out to Get You (forbes.com)

Queen bees: Do women hinder the progress of other women? – BBC News

Queen bee syndrome – Wikipedia