When Your Workplace Erupts

Posted on November 15, 2012 by - Also by this author

Office harmony can be upset. Restoring peace quickly is essential.
Most of you reading this will relate because you probably have a small office as I do.  We have seven people who work together to run the administrative side of the company. Only two of us are guys. I have learned a lot about human psychology during my 26 years of working in an office, especially about women working together. To my female readers, I want to preface the rest of my blog by saying that nothing I am writing about is intended to diminish or in any way upset you. It is simply my personal point of view based on years of observation in an office where I have had mostly female employees.

Every office has a “Queen Bee.” That queen bee title can be defined by length of service, title or pure commanding presence. When the Queen Bee is agitated, the whole office can start caving in. If the Queen decides to get rid of a worker bee, she will succeed. Whether she has the power to fire doesn’t matter. I have seen the queen run someone off by isolating that person from the rest of the team and making life so miserable that the person must leave because of not fitting in any longer. The worker was ostracized by the queen, and the queen’s loyal followers, who clearly displayed an allegiance to the queen, would not talk to the segregated worker.

If you hire a new female worker who attempts to become the Queen Bee and displace the current reigning Queen Bee, all hell can break loose. The defending queen will attempt to put the new girl in her place. The new girl will attempt to assert her position.  Maybe she does it by forming a strong alliance to the boss or going the extra mile in everything she does or bringing food for everyone each morning. I’ve seen it all. In some cases, if the Queen Bee already has a tight relationship with the boss and the new girl tries to get in better, things can really turn ugly in the blink of an eye.

My best suggestion for this is to have the two employees work on a project together that requires input from both. If you can get them to work together as a team, many times the problem can be fixed by this method. In other cases, I have seen the queen bee knocked off her throne simply because the new hire really does have her act together.  She does a better job in a more efficient manner. I actually had to move a girl to a lesser position five years ago because a new hire was so much better. During the conversation, the girl being moved stated, “I know that she is smarter than me, she is funnier than me and she is prettier than me.” That broke my heart. Only the first claim was correct. Well, maybe not. However, the latter two comments had no bearing on the decision nor would they ever.
If you have office discord, whether among females or males, it is really important that you jump in and do something. You cannot let it fester. It will not resolve itself, and if it continues, factions will develop as people side with one worker bee or another.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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