The Queen Bee in Her Native Habitat
The offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on “Mad Men” shouldn’t be taken as an example of a functional, realistic workplace. Yet a recent episode stuck in my head because a character displayed all the classic traits of a Queen Bee.
The Queen Bee is one of the most dangerous office types because not only is she smart, but she’s also ferocious–and other women are often the target of her wrath. If you’re a “Mad Men” fan, you know I’m talking about office manager Joan Holloway.
If you don’t watch the show, a quick plot summary for the Queen Bee episode in question: An male employee made numerous comments and left a lewd picture on Joan’s wall when she told him to stop shaking the vending machine. Another employee, Peggy, is appalled and gets permission to fire the employee, which she does. Instead of bonding over this as two women in a male-dominated workplace, Joan rips into Peggy for not minding her own business and letting Joan handle it her way.
“Queen Bees” still exist in the wilds of the Hamster World today. It’s more likely that they earned their position through talent rather than sexuality, but they still defend their turf from upstarts. Even if other women try to make friends with the Queen Bee, she’ll prefer the company of the men in the office.
Just because there’s other women in the office doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them. The sisterhood only goes so far. But a Queen Bee is special. Instead of tolerating you, she will do her best to get you out of the picture.
Tips on how to avoid Queen Bee stings after the jump! We didn’t want to court copyright drama, but we found an image of Christina Hendricks out of character from Wikimedia Commons, by watchwithkristin, under a Creative Commons license.
I’ve only dealt with a Queen Bee once, many ages ago. It was for a brief time and even that was long enough. Queen Bees have grown rarer as more women enter the workplace, but here’s some advice regarding her:
Back away slowly. This woman is not your friend and never will be. If you don’t attempt any friendly gestures and keep interactions strictly professional, she may admire you for sizing up the situation so quickly.
Fraternize with her male office buddies at your peril. Even if a Queen Bee is talented, she’s insecure and believes she’s in her position because of the men in her life. Play zoologist and consider who she’s friends with before you build your own office network.
Bring your own friends on board. Both academics and non-academics know that once you’re in a workplace, you can start recruiting your pals. As long as the Queen Bee doesn’t own the joint outright, your team can at least outnumber hers.
Use caution if you’re thinking of helping her. Joan verbally bitch-slapped Peggy because Peggy wasn’t supposed to rescue her. A man was supposed to rescue her. The fact that another woman saved the day upended Joan’s order of the universe. These days, sexual harrassment is a matter of HR and goes above what the Queen Bee does or does not want, but in less charged situations, try to see through the Queen Bee’s eyes first before making a move.
Treat her like a workplace bully if it gets ugly. Most of the time, the Queen Bee just wants you to respect her. Show respect with a touch of deference, and you won’t have any problems. But, if it gets bad, read Post Academic’s advice on dealing with bullies in the office.