March 6, 2013

When a Queen Bee Zaps Your Ass-Ana.

I will never forget the day the ballerina came to teach yoga at my local studio.

She did not actually walk into the building. She kind of sailed in on tiptoe, then with arms overhead she did a pirouette and landed at the front desk.

Entrances were her thing.

Within two weeks the ballerina had taken over the schedule teaching more than 20 classes a week, including mine. It happened so fast that I didn’t even notice it. At first, I needed a sub. Then she offered to teach my class for the summer, which is hard for working moms. Then, I was out of a class.

“But everyone loves the ballerina,” my manager said when I mentioned that she was teaching four classes a day and maybe the students wanted to practice yoga with alignment.

Then, one day, I must have said something like “OMG” or “Fabulous,” and that’s when the Universe pulled back the curtain to reveal the tiny woman at the controls.

“Oh you should hear the ballerina’s imitation of you saying that exact thing,” my manager said. “It’s sooooo funny!”

That is how I realized had been stung not by a prima donna, but by a Queen Bee.

The term “Queen Bee” was coined in the 70s after an article in Psychology Today noted that women who achieved success were often likely to block the rise of other women. Go figure. It turns out that after fighting the men to get to the top, we are the first to eat our own.

Queen Bees are vicious, and sneaky. They do not do their dirty work to your face. They do not say, “Please fix this report.” They whisper behind your back. They may say you are stealing when you are not. Or, they make fun of you with a wicked imitation.

In yoga, Queen Bees are everywhere. Those new to teaching yoga might think it is all love and light in the studios, but in fact, it is more like “Survivor.” The last one standing gets to teach.

Unfortunately, I never learned how to fight the Queen Bee. I went to a small high school (less than 100 students in all) and so I do not recall ever having encountered female hostility. With only 10 other women in my grade, we worked together.

To contrast, in 2011 a study of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association revealed that 95% of them thought they had been undermined by another woman. If they had surveyed the yoga business, I bet 100% would have answered yes.

So when I whined that this younger, pretty ballerina had ousted me from my class, my husband gave me the ‘Marchildon pep talk.’

“Fight back,” he said. But how?

Here are ways to know if a Queen Bee is buzzing around your studio:

  • She tells you one day, “Gosh those pants make your butt look big!”
  • Longtime yoga teachers are being moved off the schedule to make way for a “fresh approach.” It’s a 2,000 year old practice, right?
  • While others worry, the Queen Bee is calm. It is never her fault. When you confront her, she smiles radiantly to say, “I have no idea what you are talking about. But maybe you should consider retiring?”
  • She is teaching every class in a desirable time. Yet she graciously offers you the Saturday night slot because “It is just too much for me right now.”

If this is happening to you do not worry. Karma will often do the trick if you cannot. In the meantime, you can speak to others in the studio in an open and non-hostile way about what is happening. If Queen Bees work in the dark, then you need to shed light on their behavior.

Then you can try this: One day I did a pirouette into the studio, announced to my students that for a change we were going to practice yoga instead of ballet, and she was gone two weeks later.

It turns out exits were her thing as well.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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