Monday, March 4, 2013

Queen Bees

I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. If you didn't see it the link is here.

The headline, The Tyranny of the Queen Bee, is what caught my eye; which, if I remember correctly from high school jouranlism, means it did its job. The current WIP deals, in part, with the same subject.

During the editing process I was suddenly gripped with fear that readers would find my 'Adult Queen Bee' character overblown and unrealistic.

The imaginary critics in my head said things like, 'Unflattering and unrealistic portrait of women.' Or, 'Grown women don't act this way.' Just as my doubts were reaching a crescendo along came the WSJ article linked above.

The article focuses on women in the work place who've risen to positions of power. Instead of using their position to serve as mentors and lend a hand to younger women, they actively try to block other women's career advancement.

While reading, suddenly I was transported back to my first year of practice at a (purposely unnamed) Wall Street law firm. One day I emerged from a stall in the women's bathroom to find a female partner waiting with arms crossed.

As I walked past the row of empty stalls to wash my hands she said, "That's my stall. In the future you should probably use a different one."

Of course, if she'd known me better, she would have understood she'd just issued an invitation for me to use 'her' stall each and every time nature called. We were in a pissing match. Literally!

With the perspective of hindsight, I find her behavior sad and incomprehensible. As someone with a bounty of female friends, who has also enjoyed many wonderful mentorships, both male and female, I know the person who loses most is the one who draws a line in the sand (or in front of the bathroom stall, as the case may be).

On one hand, it's hard to understand why this phenomenen persists pasts the halls of high school. On the other hand, I probably shouldn't complain too much since it makes for such fun and realistic (whew) character creation.

Have you ever encountered a Queen Bee in your workplace or otherwise? How did you handle her behavior?


Alison DeLuca said...

I love the pissing match story!

As a teacher, the women I taught with were helpful, friendly, funny - just lovely. THEN along came a female principal, and Holy Cow. The claws came out, as well as her Queen Bee stinger!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You'd think that drama would get left behind in school.
When it comes to queen bees, I just avoid them.

Connie J Jasperson said...

That sort of behavior is unacceptable in any environment. The partner was most likely the 'mean girl' in school and she is still the mean girl. How sad to have the only important and meaningful thing in you life to be you personal potty stall and the power you wield by denying others the use of it.

Somehow I can't see you taking that edict well!

Beylit said...

I am actually experiencing a Queen Bee right now to some extent. She has recently returned from a long absence and takes offense to the fact that I now occupy what was once her job, a job she created. She is attempting at every turn to undermine my authority and snake her way in make me look bad. I don't really understand why she is doing it since this is a position of perceived power only. Still she is trying. I just keep smiling at her and moving forward, which seems to really make her angry.

Misha Gerrick said...

Nope, I had the excellent fortune of leaving university and walking straight into a job at my family firm. So my mother's my mentor.

Pissing match and undermining aside, I honestly can understand the first boss woman's motivation. If she got there without help, she's not going to bend over backwards to help anyone else. Why should she?

Barbara Watson said...

It's too bad it exists at all--even in (or maybe especially in) high school.

I find when I'm with a group of women I don't know well that some obviously *think* they are the Queen Bee.

Elise Fallson said...

I don't understand this mentality at all and it gives women in positions of power a bad reputation. It's one thing if you don't want to mentor or help someone else succeed, but to be mean and be an a**hat I just don't understand.

PK HREZO said...

Like you, I'd be using that stall everyday for lengthy amounts of time. Scratching a line is a simple invitation, nothing more. But sadly this queen bee syndrome is very much reality. Having worked for a corporation for over 15 years I've seen it in many form. I've been held back by women like these more than once when pursuing advancement, It's a terrible thing to be viewed as a threat when you're anything but--something men don't experience in queen bee circumstances. Of course, it only makes the QB look bad--an obvious sufferer of inferiority complex. But they do make for interesting character studies. And honestly, I'd rather have someone with the QB syndrome in charge than the phony nice-to-everyone boss who backstabs you every time you turn around.

Julie Flanders said...

The stall story is unreal. Honestly if I came upon it in a story I'd probably think, no way someone would act that way! Of course, truth is always worse than anything we can dream up in fiction. What a pathetic woman.

I've had to deal with a few Queen Bees but this takes the cake.

Johanna Garth said...

Allie, I love that story too :)

Alex, good policy.

Connie, it was actually a little sad, even then. And I agree. It's not acceptable behavior.

Beylit, ugh!! I'm sorry.

Misha, I think women should help each other. I want to see other people succeed and their success doesn't make me feel like mine is less even if I achieved my position without help.

Barbara, true. Maybe it's more damaging in high school when it's harder to laugh off.

Elise, actively undermining just comes down to bad karma.

PK, in reality I've been fortunate to work with amazing woman. This one was the exception which is why she stands out in my memory!

Julie, isn't it funny! My Queen Bee character isn't quite that crazy because, like you said, no one would believe it.

Joanne Noragon said...

The universe is well populated. I'm seventy years old and still work with one, another elected official. When I do not do my job her to her satisfaction she literally has a melt down. She frequently confronts me in public; I refuse to respond, but when I cannot turn away my reflex is to smile, chuckle. She construes it as laughing at her, she escalates. The other two elected officials keep 911 on their speed dials in case she needs transported in the end. Sad.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think it just proves that women can be bullies as often as men are. The Queen Bee is just a female bully, plain and simple!

Unknown said...

I did work with this type once. She didn't realize how much she was disliked by the majority of her colleagues. I was waiting for the day when she collapsed under the weight of her massive, ego-filled head. lol

I left the company before I got to witness that.

Nicki Elson said...

A pissing match, haha.

Yeah, I totally had a queen bee at an investment consulting firm I worked at -- though I didn't recognize her as that until just now! As the only female senior consultant, she was in such a good position to mentor me, but instead she was just so petty. Like when she was upset that I had the same coffee mug as her. And on my birthday, where a normal person would've simply said "Happy birthday" she told me I had to stop wearing perfume because she was sensitive to smell. Seriously??

Yep, sounds like your character is highly realistic.

Chuck said...

I have had several women in my work place with entitled attitudes and a true desire to screw-over every other women in the office. Funny how they all ended up leaving in one way or another. Very sad way to go through life.

Unknown said...

Ha, I don't think I've ever heard of anyone ever being in an *actual* pissing match. I did encounter a Queen Bee at my one and only (and awful) corporate office job that I worked. Most work days ended in me proclaiming, "That bitch!" to my husband. Sadly enough Queen Bees are not solely in the working world and I've encountered more than my fair share while staying home with my kids.

Tonja said...

Funny story. I worked with a lot of women in high positions. There was one that was like that. I had the impression she had something personal against me in particular, not women in general. Who knows. Darn, now she's going to make an appearance in my recurring nightmare about returning to work.

Ella said...

Wow, I just saw an episode of Ally McBeal in my head and Ling growling, lol.
I had to laugh at how that line just made you want to cross it. I can think of many times-this has happened to me. Queen Bee syndrome is everywhere. I remember her scolding some poor girl in front of everyone. I walked by and said, "oh, this looks like a private matter." Queen Bee turned a sickly shade of green.

Carol Kilgore said...

I would have had the same reaction as you if she'd told me I couldn't use 'her' stall. Sadly, women like this are everywhere. But to be fair, men, too. But women are more cunning and sly. I'm looking forward to reading your WIP :)

Shell Flower said...

Wow. A literal pissing match. Glad to hear your character is more realistic than you thought. Our own doubts can be the worst critics. Luckily, I haven't quite had to deal with a true bee-yotch like that.

Anne Gallagher said...

LOLOLOL pissing contest. Ha!

Yes, unfortunately I've encountered Queen Bees. And like you, when the line was drawn, I'd cross it.

I wish women would just get over it. It's bad enough we were subservient to men for eons, you'd think some of them would get with the program.

Unknown said...

I usually try to kill them with kindness, then I compliment them on their hair. They're clay in my hands after that....
Bwahahahahaha...(evil laugh)
~Just Jill

Anonymous said...

Queen Bees are everywhere, but I remind myself of the same advice I give my own 2 daughters . . . "kill 'em with kindness!"

Mark Koopmans said...


I've *dated* a few Queen Bees in the past (I was going to say QB's, but decided against that plan:)

I'm more used to King Bees though - but the two sound much alike :)