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Monday, March 19, 2012

Queen Bee Syndrome

Think Meyrl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.  Are you thinking that you’d love to work for a boss like the characters they portray? I would guess not.   They personify what researchers are referring to as Queen Bees- the alpha female who is a you-know-what.   And what’s worse, they are labeling it a syndrome.   

A Today Show segment last spring focused on this syndrome emphasizing that most people, whether male or female, would prefer to work for a man than a woman.  The segment argued two ways of thinking about its causes.  One cause being the personality of women in general and the other being the work environment. 

Those that focus on the personality of women postulate that women are more prone to share too much personal information at work, are “moody” or emotional and are ultra-competitive, in particular with women. That’s just the nature of women.  Ouch.  

The contrasting opinion argues that it is not the personality of women, but the work environment itself where women have had to model the behavior of males to get ahead (and male behavior on woman isn’t as attractive as it is on a male) and have to be cut throat with other women because there are still too few spots for females at the top.

Regardless of which camp you side with, it is important to realize that whether it’s your personality or your environment, capitalize on what’s good about it and realize when it starts to hurt you.  

How to do this:
1.       Know your strengths and your weaknesses.
2.       Know environments in which you thrive as well as those in which the worst comes out in you.
3.       Play to your strengths and select work environments that bring out the best in you.
4.       Don’t model a behavior to get ahead just because it got someone else ahead.  First, do what’s right and second, do what makes you uniquely you. Bee Yourself (sorry, I couldn't resist the play on words...)
5.       Know where the line between personal and business is drawn and stick to it.

And finally, I think what bothers me the most about this theory is not the double standard that it seems to convey in that what makes a man successful actually causes a woman to be labeled as a you-know-what, but the fact that women are hurting other women.   If you are a male or female in a leadership position, whether you follow all the “how-tos” above or not, you should ask yourself, “Am I making more leaders?” If the answer is “no” then maybe you do have a syndrome, or at least you need to neglect the thought of seeing yourself as a leader.

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