Is Queen Bee Manager a workplace bully?

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Dear Joan:

I am writing in regard to your recent article "My Boss has Queen Bee Syndrome.”.  I found the timing of this article to be of interest, especially since Good Morning America ran a spot on their show today regarding Workplace Bullying. 

I am not present at the "Queen Bee's" workplace, so I don't really know what is going on there, but I don't necessarily agree with your article / comment that said it is the "Queen Bee's" turf.  I think everyone in the workplace is just as valuable as anyone else.  Perhaps, this is how bullying is created in the first place, when we forget that golden rule that we should have learned as children, "Do unto others as you would have done onto you ..." 

I hope you will address this problem of workplace bullying.  I feel it is a real and true concern and, at the least, deserves a spot in your Joan Lloyd at Work column. 

Answer:

I agree with your statement that workplace bullying is a real issue and needs to be eliminated but I don’t think the original letter gave enough examples to know if the boss was indeed bullying. In the letter the boss was described by the employee as insecure and blaming. It’s hard to know what form the blaming took.  

I don’t want to label all misbehavior “bullying” when it comes to boss/employee issues—which is an easy temptation because the boss is always in the position of power. In this scenario, the manager was called a Queen Bee by her employee. Queen Bees like to have the center of attention, to always be right, and in control. I don’t equate that behavior with bullying—manipulating and adolescent to be sure—but not necessarily bullying.  

The fact of the matter is that the boss is in the power seat and while I agree wholeheartedly that everyone is just as valuable as the boss, it’s the boss who holds the authority in every workplace situation. As a result, it is not a democracy and when employees get into conflicts with their managers, I am cautious about advising them to confront their manager in a way that could make things a whole lot worse—especially when that boss is insecure in the first place. When I said it’s the Queen Bee’s turf, I’m referring to the power the boss has. 

I think we’ve come a long way from the authoritarian workplace of 50 years ago. Managers are more enlightened today and most leaders have learned the wisdom of being more participative and many treat their employees with the respect they deserve as human beings.  But managers are just human like the rest of us and they too can suffer from weaknesses and personality disorders. The problem of course is that their position magnifies the problem because it can seriously affect others, which leads us to the topic of bullying.  

I’m including the rest of your letter, which provides some excellent information regarding bullying: 

  • 37% of Americans have been bullied.
  • Sexual harassment is illegal, while bullying is not.
  • New legislation aimed at confronting workplace bullying has been introduced in several states.
  • 72% of bullies are bosses and women are more likely to bully than men.  

Forms of Bullying:

  • Words & Actions that are designed to demean and belittle
  • Humiliating Comments
  • Excessive Yelling
  • Undermining your status at work
  • Failing to give credit  

How to Stop Bullying:      

  • Stop it on the spot
  • Walk away
  • Confront the bully calmly
  • Document all abuse, using facts and not opinion.  Use statements with "When"; "Where"; and provide a list of witnesses who were present
  • Last resort - Find a new job  

"No job is worth risking your mental and physical health or repeated blows to your self-esteem." 

This reader’s information comes from Tory Johnson, who is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. 

Do a keyword search on the word “bully” in Joan Lloyd’s article archive to read 16 more articles, by Joan, referring to workplace bullying. 

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Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized training (leadership skills, presentation skills, internal consulting skills & facilitation skills), team conflict resolution and retreat facilitation.
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