Are you a worker bee or queen bee?

The study of nature has long fascinated me; it seems to be a living analogy of how we can live our lives better.

This remains true when comparing our workplaces to a colony of bees.

A colony is centred on the queen bee and the bees that serve her.

This concept is similar to a corporate organisation that has a few key strategic decision-makers at the top, driving the masses at the bottom to execute.

This execution is to produce a commodity or service that improves the environment the corporation finds itself in.

And just like a beehive one wrong move and you could get stung in the corporate.

I have long held a theory that there are two types of employees, the worker bee or the queen bee.

My theory is on the basis that some of us make the choice to be worker bees, to be seen as busy, to become a jack of all trades, to be perceived as contributing to the greater whole.

Whilst some make the choice to be queen bees, to have laser like focus, becoming an expert on a few key topics, making strategic decisions, determining the direction for whole groups of people, rising to the top, having others execute on your plan, leaving a legacy and influencing generations to come.

Both worker and queen bees start off with the same potential of being the queen bee, but somewhere along the line one becomes aware of her potential and rises to the throne whilst the other becomes submissive and bows to the compliant role of worker.

This truth resonates as we look at corporate, seeing two equally ambitious graduates enter a business simultaneously, fast forward a decade or two one is the Chief Executive Officer and the other remains a hardworking manager.

The manager who had the same potential as the now CEO is praised for knowing the ins and outs of the company because of his years of experience, happily implementing the vision for who was once his peer and now is his boss.

What creates this difference? What makes two people with the exact same opportunities, challenges and prospectives end up in two fundamentally different places? I am of the opinion it’s the worker bee versus queen bee mentality.

The worker bee remains crucial in the ecosystem of both nature and its colony.

The worker bees existence is to ensure the pollination of flowers, foraging for feed, importing water into the hive, removal of other dead bees, maintain the temperature of the hive, protect and serve the interest of the queen bee.

This is a myriad of responsibilities which can acutely be summarised into executing the desires of and protecting the flourishing of the queen.

Similarly in the corporate world there are employees who busy themselves in executing on the vision of senior executives to ensure that the organisation continues to thrive.

Queen bees from birth destroy potential rivals that have not hatched, furthermore they ensure that they remain the only female capable of reproducing, which for me is a challenge as to how do you beat the competition.

How does your presence in the work place result in your competitors surrendering because you are so good at what you do?

It makes me question daily my unique value proposition that will ensure not only that I succeed but that I stay ahead of the innovation curve in an ever changing environment.

As you enter the work force this week, you will be surrounded by colleagues who have the same opportunity and potential that you do.

My question to you is what will you be, a worker or a queen bee?

Vumi Msweli is a South African born career coach, international speaker and CEO of Hesed Consulting, a consulting firm specialising in career coaching, leadership acceleration, women empowerment, team dynamics, facilitation and training on the African continent.

Vumile has worked in Europe, Asia and across the African continent

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