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9 Unexpected Workplace Lessons from Bees

Perhaps the most underrated, yet hardworking institution in our world, a bee colony is an ecological model of a strong workplace with a value-centric culture.

One-third of the food in the U.S. is derived from crops pollinated by honeybees. As a result, we truly depend on their organized efficiency and shared responsibility across the hive. 

When it comes to navigating the demands of the workplace, we can draw inspiration from these small workers. In their millions of years of existence, bees have survived and thrived due to their emphasis on collaboration, commitment to achievement, and unique sense of beeing.


1. What’s my Part?

From foragers to undertakers to nurses, bees have a complex system of labor amongst their female worker bee population. Every bee plays a critical part to work towards the common goal of caring for the hive. Just like humans, they derive strength from their collective ability to plan and work together. 

2. A Working Queen

Contrary to what you might think, the queen bee is not exactly the supreme leader of the hive. Her role is to lay eggs and provide a consistent labor force. She is not at the top of a hierarchy, but a worker herself. The worker bees are even quick to replace her if she becomes no longer beneficial to the colony. Workers determine their queen’s ability to lead, not the other way around. 

3. Situational Coaches

A colony appreciates the stamina and strength of young bees, but also values the wisdom and accumulated knowledge of older bees. These two types of bees are often paired together, offering them an opportunity to aid and learn from each other as they forage. The older bee acts as a guide, who mutually invests her energy to teach and benefit from their partnership.


4. Honey in Bunches

It might be surprising to learn that a bee can only produce a teaspoon of honey (about 5 grams) in her lifetime. It takes the combined effort of thousands of bees to produce enough honey for the hive to survive. It is crucial that workers feel like their work is meaningful and valued, even if it is only one small component of the organization’s end goal.

5. Detect, Judge, and Decide

With such brief lifespans, every decision matters for a bee. Efficiency is crucial, even in the seemingly random act of visiting a flower. Honeybees use visual cues to detect flowers and then use their judgment to determine whether that flower will be worthwhile. They must think before deciding to engage, choosing to ration their limited energy towards achieving the tasks that are most productive.

6. Going the Distance

Every year, a honeybee hive will split its population in two—one half stays while the other half searches for a new location. Looking for the best flower fields, they deploy a team of scouts to fly out in different directions and distances. Just like these bees, when it comes to workplace innovation, it can be incredibly beneficial to foster and support a wide range of ideas, in which some stay closer to home while others fly further. 


7. Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

Armed with a hard outer shell of an exoskeleton, honeybees have the bodily support that allows them to be the round, fuzzy little insects we know and love. In the words of Buddhist author Joan Halifax, “if we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open.” With this bee-like balance, we can allow our hearts to run wild and free.

8. Waggle Dance

Honeybees use dance as a method to communicate the location of the best flower foraging site. In a complex ritual that indicates both distance and direction, the bee performs a “waggle dance” to help her fellow workers find food. As silly as it sounds, humans could learn a lot from the vulnerability of these dancing bees, who prioritize open, effective communication and caring for others above all else.

9. Plight of the Bumblebee

Living on every continent except Antarctica, these tiny creatures have pushed through millions of years of environmental obstacles. However, we now bear witness to bees dying on an unimaginable scale. It takes almost too much energy for these little beings to remain resilient and persevere on a rapidly warming planet. When workers are facing unequal conditions outside of their control, leaders have a responsibility to remove the structural barriers that result in unequal demands for their workers. 

Listening to the Buzz

Culturebie has always placed an emphasis on helping leaders navigate the workplace with collaboration, achievement, and well-bee-ing in mind. At Culturebie, we equip leaders with the tools they need to truly listen to workers and understand their goals for success and wellness. Reach out to us today for a demo to explore how our employee listening platform can work for your organization. 

About the Author:

Emily Paterson is Culturebie’s marketing intern and content writer. She is passionate about caring for the environment and, of course, saving the bees. As the foundation for this blog, one of her college instructors at Michigan State asked her to define her signature brand of leadership, so naturally she looked towards nature’s hardest workers for inspiration. 

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