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How To Take The Sting Out of The Queen Bee

7th Jun 2018
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[[{"fid":"14689","view_mode":"large_image","attributes":{"alt":"Queen Bee","class":"media-element file-large-image","data-delta":"1"},"fields":{"format":"large_image","field_image_accreditation[und][0][value]":"Image from Pixabay","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Queen Bee"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"large_image","field_image_accreditation[und][0][value]":"Image from Pixabay","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Queen Bee"}}}]]No one likes to admit it, but many workplaces have an issue with Queen Bee Syndrome. Queen Bees are women in the workplace that treat colleagues in a demoralizing, undermining or bullying manner. Queen Bees should NOT be confused with strong, ambitious women in the workplace (which we applaud). Queen Bees are adult versions of the mean girls from school.  However now they have grown up and are more calculating.


So why should we care? Queen Bee mischief manifests in ways that can have lasting negative effects on individual careers and entire organizations. Since women have “attained a critical mass in the professional and managerial ranks of a significant percentage of companies, especially financial and services organizations,” management should be particularly concerned about issues of abusive conduct by and toward women (Levin & Mattis, 2006). Hence, Queen Bee Syndrome can be the biggest hindrance to women advancing in the workplace because:

Queen Bees often lack the sponsorship or support necessary to get promoted due to their negative behaviour. Poor leadership negatively impacts organisational performance and profitability.

Queen Bees often prevent other talented up and coming women from advancing in the workplace. Research from the Workplace Bullying Institute has suggested that, as many as 58% of bullies in the workplace are women, and these individuals most often victimize other women.  The study found that Queen Bees choose other females as targets nearly 90% of the time.

In a recent survey I conducted, I found that approximately 70% of the women who participated had been the victim of open workplace bullying or more subtle psychological undermining. The culprit was a female boss, commonly referred to as a Queen Bee. However, a Queen Bee is not always someone more senior than you that’s inflicting this  behaviour. 33% of those surveyed had received similar treatment from a woman on the same level or even below them.

Recognising the Queen Bee

The first step is identifying a Queen Bee. A Queen Bee typical displays some of the following behaviours:

  • Queen Bees will take other people’s ideas and pass them off as their own, failing to give credit to other team members
  • You will not hear them praise their colleagues or put people forward for promotion. Nurture is not in their vocabulary
  • Queen Bees may view other women in the team or organisation as competition and certainly aren’t interested in events or projects where women support other women
  • You won’t know much about her private life as it’s all about keeping up an appearance
  • She may be aggressive, complaining and sly. She may indulge in gossip, sarcasm and back-handed compliments
  • Also, it’s important to recognise that the victims aren’t always women. Queen Bees can also target men.

Addressing Queen Bee Syndrome

Queen Bee Syndrome can have a negative impact on organisational performance and bottom line results which can include:

●      Reduced productivity

●      Reduced employee satisfaction

●      Grievances and lawsuits

●      Lower profitability

Addressing Queen Bee Syndrome will help companies to improve efforts to advance women in the workplace by (a) allowing women to identify and eliminate behaviours that keep them from obtaining senior positions in the workplace; (b) encouraging women to support each other in the workplace at all levels and leverage one another as allies; and (c) empower managers who are aware of Queen Bee Syndrome to intervene and stop the behaviour. Addressing Queen Bee Syndrome can result in positive organisational outcomes such as:

●      Reducing attrition of strong female talent

●      Strengthening the talent pipeline of future leaders

●      Improving recruitment efforts due to the supportive environment

●      Improved employee morale

●      Increased productivity

Furthermore, organisations should conduct anonymous 360 feedback so that people can raise the issue anonymously. While we may imagine that Queen Bees are all mean, evil people, they are often insecure and unaware of the impact of their behaviour.

In addition companies should implement effective leadership training and coaching that specifically addresses Queen Bee Syndrome to help Queen Bees recognise and change their behaviour. Queen Bee Syndrome is a reality that must be addressed if women are going to make significant advancement in the workplace.


Levin, L. A., & Mattis, M. (2006). Corporate and academic responses to gender diversity. Equal Opportunities International, 25, 60–71.

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