Watch out for the Queen Bee!

Queen Bee behavior by senior female leaders makes the glass ceiling thicker. This rather sad but interesting conclusion can be drawn from new research by Gonda de Groot. It shows that queen bee behavior does exist in a wide range of organizations. And suggests that networks an women leadership trainings help in ensuring that women are less stereotyped and, more importantly; receive less negative behavior by other women. Read more and tell us about your own experience: did you ever get stung by a Queen Bee? Tips to prevent it?

The Queen Bee study gives interesting insights into the role of female stereotyping, which – by the way – exists more in a masculine than in a feminine organizational culture. And talking about stereotyping: there is no such thing as a King Bee.

King Bee
There is no male equivalent for the queen bee. ‘Bad behavior’ from men in senior roles is often expected, accepted or ignored — reinforcing the assumed rightful place of men as bosses, regardless of behaviors. Men who do not support each other in the career stakes are not blamed by other men. And as men have a more traditional view of the women’s role in society they generally do not see them as rivals, or compete with them for job openings. Those females who do reach a senior managerial position need to exhibit male assertiveness characteristics in order to meet the expectations of their role. As a result, senior women often find themselves competing against other females in order to maintain their scarce (top) position, and therefore behave negatively towards them, rather than supportive. Based on these assumptions, the first hypothesis of the study was: Female managers display higher levels of queen bee behavior towards their junior female colleagues than male managers. The study confirmed this hypothesis, and showed that overall, senior female managers evaluated their junior female colleagues more negatively than senior male managers did.

Networks are a solution
The results of the study imply that queen bee behavior exists in a wide range of
organizations. De Groot’s first suggestion for these organizations is to be vigilant for women in high positions who display queen bee behavior. By their negative behavior towards junior colleagues they will create a ‘glass ceiling’ themselves, which in turn may provide an unattractive image to junior females leading to less women in management positions. The organization needs to be alert and prevent this negative behavior through creating networks.
Another suggestion is to develop a female leadership training, to make female managers realize how they can help other females on their way up and give support to the women who bear a lot of discrimination, domineering and aggressive behavior.
Moreover, to reduce stereotyping by both women and men, diversity trainings could give the desired outcome.

About Gonda de Groot: ‘Queen Bee behavior: A women’s fight’ is the title of the Master thesis Human Resource Management of Gonda the Groot, who recently graduated at the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen.

Download the complete thesis here.

And if you are going to read it you might want to listen to Barbara Streisand’s beautiful Queen Bee song:

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