Buzz Me Out of Here: When The Other Woman At Work Is Queen Bee

The 2006 "Devil Wears Prada" depicts Meryl Streep as Mirand Priestly, the ultimate Queen Bee boss. You are lucky if you have never worked with one. And you may break out in hives from the stress just thinking about this mistress of the hive. If you have ever worked with or for a “Queen Bee,” you know what this is about. I have and the thought of the two queens I have worked for in different organizations still make me shudder.A Queen Bee in the workplace is a woman in leadership who not only will refuse to help mentor other women, but who will do everything in her power to buzz a threatening woman off the ladder, going to any extremes she deems necessary to make her position as the only royalty in power in the hive.She will sabotage you, deliberately give you bad advice (“Oh, of course, you never have to attend the company dinners, that’s your time with your family”) or worse, she will badmouth you, even fabricate evidence against your performance to whomever she can get to listen.Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, understands this concept and writes in Fortune that a woman harming other women is a scourge on us all.[bctt tweet=“A woman harming other women is a scourge on us all. “]Former CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Smith Barney Krawcheck writes: “Some women who admit to having played the Queen Bee role tell me they did so because they intuitively knew there were only one or two seats at the leadership table for people outside of the majority. Why? Because there have always been only one or two seats at the table for people outside of the majority. So why help someone else who could potentially take your seat?”And there may be deep roots in the culture that allows for the prevalence of Queen Bees. “Female workers have also historically received signals that advocating for other women isn’t particularly welcome. Indeed, studies have shown that while Caucasian men who advocate for minorities—such as women or people of color—have had their professional reputations enhanced, when those same minorities do the same, their opinions are dismissed,” Krawcheck writes.The Queen Bees at work are just one form of aggressive co-worker, and it behooves you to have strategies on hand to deal with this kind of behavior. IvyExec offers five possible tactics to de-escalate a co-worker (or boss’s aggressive behavior) at the office.Some of them are plain common sense. Take a deep breath. Listen well. Put yourself in the other’s shoes. Employ humor. Strive to be assertive.On the assertive note, the author suggests: “ Stand your ground and express yourself firmly, honestly and respectfully. Keep your voice low and choose your words carefully. Avoid using words such as ‘you’ or ‘your’ and use ‘I, we, our,’ so they won’t feel under attack. Bring that person’s behavior out into the open, it will force them to address it and give you back control of the situation. If you are close with this person say something such as, ‘Wouldn’t this work much better if neither of us attacked each other?’ or in a more formal situation, ‘It seems there is quite a hostile atmosphere in the room, how do you feel?’ Be assertive – respond in a way that respects the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of other people.”Not on this list and one of my favorites is to let the nasty comment just hang in the air. Silence is a really good way to make an outrageous verbal assault last longer. As women in leadership, it is optimal not to react in anger, but rise above, or transcend the situation.[bctt tweet=“As women in leadership, it is optimal not to react in anger, but rise above, or transcend the situation.”]For instance, someone remarks, “Well, you know all about making mistakes.”If there are other people present at the meeting, your non-response shows that you are not prone to emotional reactions. Likely someone else will chime in to comment or refute that, or the person will notice the silence and apologize. Your silence is golden. You come off not as defensive, but reasonable.More advice on how to navigate as a woman leader comes recently from Nicole Fallon Taylor at Business News Daily. Taylor writes, “The movement toward gender equality in the workplace and society as a whole is a step in the right direction. However, women still face some difficulties in starting a business that their male counterparts don’t always experience.”Taylor interviewed Alex Ontra, co-founder of Shufflrr, and asked for her tips. Ontra responded, “Demand what you need. As women, we have a tendency to ask politely. And when we do demand something, we get called, ‘bossy.’ Right! You are bossy because you are the boss, with a business to grow and people relying on you for their paycheck. Don’t ever apologize for that.“Susan Tynan , CEO and founder of custom framing company Framebridge, told Taylor: “Be confident. Bring all of your confidence with you. The process is trying to weed you out, so you have to really stand strong. Women hear people telling them to take a safe route more often. And starting your own business is not a safe route. So, you have to dig deep and believe in yourself and your business.“Women in leadership in the tech industry may encounter not only women trying to hold them back, but also men in the field trying to throw in roadblocks to success, writes Elizabeth Becker in Tech Co. Becker writes: “According to a recent Reuters study, 30 percent of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions. Only 25 percent of all IT jobs in the U.S. were filled by women – with a stunning 56 percent of women leaving the field altogether in the highlight of their career. To combat gender inequality, we have to examine the importance of representation and having women be active in tech leadership roles.”Becker interviewed Thea Myhrvold, founder of, who said: “The main challenge is that the tech community in particular is traditionally dominated by men, and the stereotype that exists is that as a woman (regardless of your age) you must either be an assistant to a male colleague or working in marketing (not that there is anything wrong with either job, but often men and women don’t associate me with any other role).”Nikki Ralston, Startup Mentor and Advisor, told Becker “the biggest issue women face is being trapped under bad managers, especially male managers that don’t want their underlings to grow.” Ralston told Becker: “Mediocre people that rise up to management positions work very hard to make sure they have talented people underneath them, but also make sure to keep them down. Often times women need to make a move outside of their current company to get out from under a manager that is holding them back. Make sure you are building your resume every single day so that you are ready to make that move.”But what happens when the weird office dynamic swings the other way with a female boss, and you are too emotionally invested in what she does and thinks? Darla Murray writes in Cosmopolitan that being under the wing of a controlling boss (think The Devil Wears Prada) is  not good for you. Murray writes about 13 warning signs and here are the top three:

  1. “You bring crazy ideas to the table knowing that she’d approve regardless of how out-of-the-box they are. To be fair, your boss taught you everything you know. Still, it’s her job to oversee your ideas and rein them in when necessary.
  2. You constantly feel like you owe her. Sure, she may have bailed you out of a tough time (like jail) and gotten you your job back, but that doesn’t mean she should hold it over your head in perpetuity, nor should you let her.
  3. No matter how badly you want to, you just can’t quit the job — or her. Repeat: She is not all you have. There are other options — and other bosses — out there.”

Take The Lead offers leadership training programs for corporations, organizations and other entities, employing the 9 Leadership Power Tools To Advance Your Career developed by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead. All this is so you can grow into a leader woman look up to, not fear.Queen Bee types of women leaders may do well to note the demise of the original Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, who at one time was a billionaire president of Helmsely Hotels, also served time in prison and died in 2007 at age 87 with few who remembered her fondly. That included a former daughter-in-law she had evicted after her son’s death.