Bullied by female co-workers? It's called 'Queen Bee Syndrome'

As many as seven in 10 women have felt the sting of a Queen Bee boss

Bullied by female co-workers? It's called 'Queen Bee Syndrome'

They say high school never ends – or at least the politics of it.

Now, the corporate world is spawning its own “adult versions” of the stereotypical mean girls who thrive at the top of the high school food chain. Only that the older versions are said to be more calculating.

These headstrong women, often in leadership roles, bully female colleagues.

And, much like their juvenile counterparts, these bullies exhibit what Tech Women Today founder Cecilia Harvey re-affirms in her research as the Queen Bee Syndrome.

“Queen Bees are women in the workplace who treat colleagues in a demoralizing, undermining, or bullying manner,” Harvey said. “They should not be confused with strong, ambitious women in the workplace, which we applaud.”

The label for this type of workplace harassment has been around since 1973, drawing scholarly attention from social scientists.

Over the years, the phenomenon has been seen as the reason women find working for a female boss stressful. Men, on the other hand, do not feel the same anxiety toward a female superior.

Almost six in 10 office bullies are women, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. And, in 90% of cases, women target other women.

Harvey’s own study, published in the journal ‘Development and Learning in Organisations’, found 70% of women have felt the sting of “workplace bullying or covert undermining by a female boss”.

In addition to being bullied by a female superior, 33% have encountered a female colleague of the same rank or lower refusing to help, holding them back, or undermining their efforts, Harvey found.

“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; and lower profitability,” Harvey said.

By addressing the phenomenon, she recommended, management can identify the hurdles women face in terms of career advancement.


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