Labour law, the queen bee syndrome and workplace bullying: A contribution to the shattering of at least one glass ceiling for female employees

Authors Denine Smit

ISSN: 2413-9874
Affiliations: B IUR (Free State), LLB (Free State), Diploma in Labour Law (cum laude), LLM (cum laude) (Free State), LLD (Free State)
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 37 Issue 2, 2016, p. 779 – 803


Along with the rise of women in the workplace has come the rise of the workplace ‘queen bee’ — a female in a senior or authoritative position in a predominantly male workplace who would do everything in her power to keep other females from advancing through the ranks. This article argues that in order to ensure that females in the workplace enjoy the same rights as their male colleagues, it is imperative for all stakeholders to see the queen bee syndrome for what it is — yet another form of workplace bullying. Treating it as such could help shatter at least one of the glass ceilings currently restricting women’s advancement at work. Through a comparison with the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, amongst others, the legal position on this matter in South Africa is assessed. It is concluded that even though there are various potential legal avenues in South Africa through which to address the queen bee syndrome as a form of bullying, there is no single deadly accurate one. For this reason, until government and stakeholders finally develop new, purpose-made legislation or a code to deal with the matter, soft-law approaches may deliver potential solutions. These include the drafting of internal zero-tolerance workplace policies, underpinned by awareness campaigns, employee education and training in problem recognition, coaching and mediation tools, as well as specially created hotlines to report queen bee behaviour.