The Problem with Queen Bees

The Problem with Queen Bees

Phoenix Normand 16/02/2019 5

I know, for a fact, that my shit stinks. No need to get graphic, but I know it. In the physical realm, but more importantly in the business realm. I know, for a fact, that I haven't mastered everything, I don't execute everything absolutely perfectly, I still have a ton of learning to do, and that my advice is sound, but may not be the exact advice someone needs to unlock their fullest potential. But the pursuit of perfecting all of those imperfections is what makes me excited to wake up every day and get after it.

More and more lately, I've come across people with what I call "Queen Bee Syndrome." My definition of a Queen Bee is someone who has found or created a following (a hive) and rules it, through influence, in whatever way they see fit and that aligns with their agenda. This has manifested in numerous versions throughout my industry such as heads of EA-centric groups, EA advocates with large followings, EAs who build their followings by attaching long-winded, authoritative op-eds in others' comments sections, Lead or Head EAs in larger organizations who manage EA teams, and Legacy of Heritage EAs who lounge on their years of experience in the C-suite and demand (vs. command) respect accordingly. While I am all for Executive Assistants finding their audience, starting side hustles, and collaborating with others in the industry who have done the same, I'm finding that it's now breeding unnecessary competition and petty, bullshit behaviors like backstabbing, sabotage, gossip cabals, and essentially everything I detested about attending High School and being one of the popular kids.

Admission: I sunsetted MEGA University last year and went back to working as an EA full time because I was emotionally exhausted, depressed, and OVER dealing with Queen Bees in the wild. I really wasn't prepared for the depth and breadth of the bullshit and cliques plaguing this community. Sure, I'm guilty of poking several of their hives with a stick especially when I felt that they were exploiting my community financially with exorbitantly high-priced registration fees and claiming such expertise having never sat in the seat as an Executive Assistant. And they and their swarm went on the attack. Good for them. Still doesn't change the aforementioned #facts tho and lack integrity as I see it.

The time back in the EA seat was incredibly therapeutic. Diving into the day-to-day responsibilities, working in a completely new town in a completely different industry than I'd previously worked, and being an integral part of a Series B fundraise quickly brought me back to life by reminding me of my aptitude as an Executive Assistant and how far I'd come in the last 26 years. It also allowed me to remember that the sole purpose I was in the company was THE BUSINESS and doing the job to the best of my abilities in an effort to make my boss successful, thus fulfilling my obligation as an EA. I did end up leaving the company for personal reasons, but I appreciated the rejuvenation of spirit and purpose that my time there provided and instantly hopped back on my EA advocacy horse with my new workshop TRIBE U. And I'm even more effective helping EAs succeed than I was in my previous iteration because of it.

One of the main tenets I espouse in my LinkedIn articles and teach in my classes and my upcoming book "As I See It" is one simple phrase: IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS. And what disappoints me most is that this message and important focus is being completely lost or diluted with numerous, competing awards shows, cocktail parties, fluffy, expensive conferences, and Queen Bee behavior that's far more self-aggrandizing than benefitting the community at large. I'm seeing organizations calling each other out for stealing party ideas. I'm seeing grown-ass women resorting to the same, petty shenanigans that ruled their High School years. And for what? A few more likes on your socials? "OMG...the best party, like, EVER..." comments? "Our group is better than their group" assurances from followers? It's all such bullshit, especially when you consider that 30% of ALL EAs will be jobless in the next 3-5 years. #becauseAI

We have a real problem with delusion in this community. The few strides we've made in recent years and the false wave of acceptance and validation this hot job market has created has given us permission to run completely the fuck amok, swimming laps in the perceived invincibility and indispensability fountain we've fallen into. Let me be expressly clear, here. If you work for anyone else and your name isn't on the signage outside, and you haven't filed for a business license with your name prominently displayed in bold, 14pt. courier font at the top of it, YOU ARE NOT INDISPENSABLE. That goes for everyone reading this, not just Executive Assistants. Unless you have keys in hand, you are a player in the game. Sure, you can be quarterback, but you're not the owner. In fact, you can be the best quarterback in history, but you're still not the owner of the team. And at any point in time, for reasons you may never understand or privy to, you can be cut and walked right out the front door, even if your name is stenciled on the glass. Any questions?

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And Queen Bees (male and female) often have a difficult time navigating that line. I've seen some Queen Bees rule beautifully and they have become my heroes (e.g., Melba Duncan, Patrizia Iacono). They've managed to use their platforms and their decades of experience in the C-suite to continue to help EAs succeed and do it in a way that is so effortlessly regal I'm put to shame. They're not using their legacy to exploit people, only build them up. They're not all up in the socials regaling stories of their past and "holding court." They're counseling EAs in private. They're making referrals behind the scenes. They're holding EAs to a higher standard, thereby making ALL EAs better. And I'm doing my best to do the same thing in support of every Executive Assistant in this community, though I'm guilty of diving down into the comments section from time-to-time to course correct a rogue Queen Bee or two trying (poorly) to derail my message with some self-serving bullshit of their own. #mybad #notchangingtho

I stopped doing "collaborations" of any kind because I found that during my MEGA U days they were often orchestrated by Queen Bees who had zero interest in me as a person and were only using my name and the groundswell I'd created to further or maintain the relevance of their own agendas. I did fall for it a few times and I take full responsibility for those decisions. However, I became much wiser and hip to the Queen Bee game as a result. Anyone or any organization that isn't aligned with my mantra: IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS I really have no time for. I'm here to make Executive Assistants great as professionals. I want every Executive Assistant to succeed wildly in the role by focusing solely on making an impact on THE BUSINESS in support of an executive every single day. Your success should be based on how you move the needle each day, not whether or not you're liked or respected by your peers. That's icing, not the cake. Ironically, if you produce like a mofo, consistently, those things will manifest anyway. So why focus on that from the jump instead of figuring out a way to get your hands on bigger projects or taking stuff off your boss' plate that's above your pay grade and placing yourself in meetings and conversations that give you all the delicious context you need to begin punching above your weight class? Instead, we're bickering with each other about calendar invites, throwing each other under the bus over hearsay, not checking our emotions at the door and getting our feelings hurt at perceived sleights by our over-committed, zero-empathy-for-bullshit bosses, etc.

IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS, kids. Please understand that and jam it in there, especially if you're prone to falling into emotional vs. tactical states. And if you're following a Queen Bee, make sure that they are aligned with helping you succeed individually as a professional with the understanding that your employment at a company has very little do with YOU as a person. Instead, it's what you bring to the table in support of the person to whom you report, with the ultimate goal making an impact on THE BUSINESS.

QUEEN BEES: You have a responsibility to your hive and to this community to be an example of excellence. NOT, simply, superiority. Cut it with the bullshit, petty, competitiveness and sabotage that seems to be the behavior du jour. It's confusing the fuck out of this community and actually doing more harm than good. We are about to engage in the biggest fight for our livelihoods in the history of this role over the next 3-5 years. And as much as I love a good party and happy to see EAs finally be recognized publicly for their awesomeness, we need to remember that there is a much larger, more critical and SELFLESS mission at play here. Getting Executive Assistants ready for battle. Start having AI-learning parties. Start inviting recruiters in to help break down the numerous misconceptions we have about one another's roles. Start inviting your bosses to events so that they can see that we are a force, not just the "gal who runs my life."

I'm a Queen Bee. I accept it. But I know, unequivocally, that IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS. And my solitary focus as an EA advocate, coach, and trainer is to make sure EAs breathe this mantra and set up their own "business" to succeed with that matra in mind. Whatever wisdom I can glean from my 26+ years in the role and pass along, I'm happy to do it. And watching others take that information, apply it, and succeed wildly is what makes all of this worth it to me. I don't crave anyone's acceptance. I don't want to be the "know it all." I'm not trying to get rich off the backs of Executive Assistants. I want to be respected as someone with a unique point of view manifested from a very unique, long journey to the C-suite and who wraps all of that information into easily digestible bites that help others cut to the chase of their own success. And, so far, mission accomplished as evidenced by my #receipts, not just my words.

I know that my shit stinks. I know that I don't know everything. But sharing what I DO know with the intent of helping my community thrive, especially over the next 5 years, is what gets me off. Not the hollow crown of "Queen Bee." I suggest all of us QBs take an audit of our intentions and practices and make sure that we're serving the greater good vs. stroking our own egos, filling our pockets, yet providing nothing of actual value to a community still starving for direction. High School's over. Let's get to work.

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  • Ben Hathaway

    If we can see the behaviour in people we label as queen bees as similar to those that we know and love we will be more likely to see a way forward with them.

  • Gabriel Salamea

    I hate queen bees, they are so disrespectful.

  • Milan De Jong

    Nailed it !!!

  • Karl Yates

    Fascinating read !

  • Tom Prince

    Loved this article....sounds candid as well as too right

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Phoenix Normand

Society Expert

Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.


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