This week, for the first time in my entire corporate experience, I found myself face to face with what I used to assume was the mythical workplace “Queen Bee.”
I’ve read the studies countless time that analyze the prevalence of mean girls in the office environment. A Zogby study even indicated that 71% of workplace bullying is women harassing other women, and a study by researchers at the University of Toronto showed that women who worked with female bosses were more likely to show high levels of work-related stress. I understood the facts but, in my personal experience, I had never encountered any woman in the workplace that fit into this bullying stereotype.
This week, however, in preparing for the last few business trips going into the year end, I had the unfortunate luck of running into who I now refer to as “that woman”. She answered the phone “Yes?” – which immediately threw me for a loop (what happened to hello?) and for the rest of the conversation, I could almost SEE her scowling through the phone. Meeting in person was so disconcerting that I literally felt dizzy walking away. The thing is, there was no crisis, no issues, no problem to necessitate that level of stress, so I couldn’t imagine what energy I’d receive if there was actually a problem at hand!
I understand the concept that women in business often operate from a position of power scarcity and in an environment of constant competition, and that there may be little incentive to help who we perceive to be current or future competition. Another reason that’s been thrown out is that acting meaner and yelling louder can often give the appearance of efficiency when leading a team. I’d like to share my perspective
When I see a “Queen Bee” who resorts to work place bullying to lead, get her point across, or establish her status in an office, much like high school “Queen Bees”, what I actually see is a woman who is lacking in confidence, self-esteem, the ability to ask for help, the ability to listen, the ability to accept constructive criticism, and the ability to delegate effectively – all key management capabilities. I see a show of false confidence and assume automatically that it might be overcompensating for a lack of competence.
We can lift ourselves up without breaking others down, and we can be effective team leaders without being slave-drivers. It is absolutely possible, I know it is. I do it every day.