Queen Bees aren’t just in high school anymore

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.

Having it all

By Kirthan Aujlay

This article was previously published on July 27, 2012.

Recently, Yahoo! hired a very pregnant Marissa Mayer as their new CEO. Marissa previously worked as the first female engineer at Google and had a key role in developing the design of Google’s homepage. Mayer is clearly a trailblazer, but this hiring seems to be part of a larger trend, as she becomes one of the 20 female CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, many of whom are also mothers.

This brings up the age-old question of women being able to have it all. Although this may mean different things to different women, in order for women to balance having a demanding career and being a mother certain conditions need to be put in place. Canada has some of the best conditions in regards to maternity and paternity leave. It offers new mothers 52 weeks of paid maternity leave at 55% of the original wages, although the exact wages may depend on the province. After the first 17 weeks either the father or mother can take the additional 35 weeks of leave.

Some European countries offer even better benefits, such as Denmark, Serbia and Croatia, which all offer an entire year of leave with 100% of wages paid. But Sweden is leading the way in progressive parental leave. Working parents are entitled to 480 days  (16 months), and in an effort to encourage more paternal involvement, two of the 16 months must be taken by the “minority” parent.

Sadly, most mothers in the U.S., where Mayer works, are offered a measly twelve weeks of unpaid maternity leave, beating out Mexico and Pakistan for the worst conditions around the globe. American fathers are not offered a single day of paid paternity leave. Conditions in the U.S. speak to the fact that work traditionally viewed as “women’s work” such as child rearing, is still grossly undervalued by society.

It may be a while before governments begin changing their policies. However, some workplaces are beginning to appreciate the struggles faced by working parents, and are changing the landscape accordingly by offering onsite daycare for their employees’ children, or are allowing parents to work from home through email and videoconferencing. The issue isn’t so much whether new mothers can handle their workloads, but whether or not employers are willing to alter their views of how work should be completed. Although women have long been balancing work and motherhood, women like Marissa Mayer are challenging traditional notions of what it means to be a working mom.

Finally, it’s important to reiterate that having it all means different things for different people. Not every woman has an innate desire to become a mother and not every woman yearns to work her way up the corporate ladder. Homemaking blogs and Etsy shops are breathing new life into traditional domestic pursuits that many people view as old-fashioned or unimportant. At the same time, many young women are eschewing the entire notion of marriage and children and looking for fulfillment elsewhere. Whether women want one, the other, or everything, there is no right answer. All we know is that society is finally realizing that it is up to women to choose for themselves.

Can you be friends with your co-workers?

by Nicole Duquete

Getting along with the people you work with certainly makes the day more pleasant and go by a lot quicker, but sometimes it is difficult to know if you’ve crossed the line between being just co-workers and being friends.

Recently, I have had a couple of co-workers whom I’ve gotten along with really well. It was a new experience for me to work with people my own age, with similar interests, and with whom I could talk freely about my life outside of work. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to the situation. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to be seen discussing non-work related things at work, and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ask someone I was friendly with to do work-related tasks for me. Luckily, my office is a relaxed environment, and I quickly found that it was easy to combine the professional and personal sides of my relationships with my co-workers. I still wonder, though, what the difference is between being friends and being colleagues who are friendly.

I think the difference lies in whether or not you spend time together outside of work. I was wary of crossing that imaginary line because I thought that, even if we were not at work, the experience of spending time with a co-worker would make my time off feel like work. But, the first time I crossed the line occurred organically. She needed a new outfit for a job interview, so we went shopping. Neither of us found it to be a forced, nor awkward experience. It gave us a chance to vent about work in a neutral setting, and to bond over shopping – the universal female bonding experience. Spending time together outside of work made it clear that we were no longer just co-workers, but now that my friend has started her new job, and we are no longer co-workers, it is clear that we have a true friendship that simply sprang from a work relationship.

My friendship with my colleague developed naturally, but what about when a co-worker makes unwanted advances towards friendship? Another of my co-workers, who I am not particularly fond of, has frequently attempted to friend me on Facebook, and to get assignments which would have us working closely together. I have done my best to continually be polite and pleasant to her, but I have still ignored her friend requests, and dodged working with her as much as possible. It reminds me how lucky it is to be able to develop a friendship with a co-worker because personal compatibility has nothing to do with hiring practices, so one lousy co-worker is a fair trade to find one good one.