Do you remember the whole #banbossy movement? It was a mostly feminist effort to ban, or socially ostracize the word “bossy” because they decided that it was used to discourage assertive women who sought leadership roles. They seemed to think that only strong women are called “bossy”, while strong men are respected for their leadership skills.
Some time back, I had a boss, an older lady about 5 feet tall, probably around 60 years old, blonde hair, and a deep raspy voice from years of smoking. She was a strong woman who anyone with any sense knew not to mess with. She’s also about the nicest boss I’ve ever worked for! Anytime she wanted me to do something, she never told me. She asked. She’d always call it a “favor”, even though it was really me just doing my job. She’d always say please and thank you. Whenever someone did an exceptional job, she always showered them with verbal appreciation. Result? Everyone loved her, everyone respected her, and stuff got done.
I also remember a young female supervisor from my UPS days, also blonde, also about 5 feet tall. I grew to like her later on, but at first, she was bossy. She shouted orders, repeated them even more angrily if you didn’t hear her (it was a very noisy warehouse environment). She’d instruct me to do one task, and then catch me in mid task and order me to change. I’m a completest by nature, and hate leaving something unfinished. It’s as painful to me as holding my breath, and finishing the task is like suddenly breathing again. Well, she was actually a smart, and very driven lady, but she really needed to change her attitude. Over the years, she did! My last impression of her is of her very effectively running a safe and efficient sort aisle. She still had a stern nature, but had learned to be more consistent with instructions, and explained to her employees why things were being done a certain way, rather than just ranting orders.
I myself, many months ago, was trying to be more leader-like at a job. I started seeing myself as the glue that held that place together, in part because I was training most new hires. I came up with some of my own ideas to make things run better, and made the changes without consulting anyone. My coworkers went along with it, and I’ve seen recently that my changes are still in effect. When I needed something done, I didn’t ask, I told, especially when things were hectic. I didn’t mean to be a prick, but I was. Finally, a much older coworker, a veteran that I respect, pulled me aside and gave me some straight talk. He told me flat out “You’re not the boss around here”. It wasn’t pleasant, but I knew he was right. Did I play victim? Did I act like he was trying to discourage me? Did I try to #banbossy? No. I apologized to him, because I knew he was right. It was no fun being told that I was “bossy”, but I’m so glad that he told me (Oh, and I’m a man by the way). I’ve since learned that no matter how logical my ideas are, you don’t manage people effectively just by being right. If bossy men or women want to be treated with respect, they need to be respectful. I’ve now learned that if I ask people nicely, and then say thank you, I get far better results.
Let’s bring “bossy” back. I don’t mean bossiness, I mean the word “bossy”. If someone is being bossy, have a talk with them one on one. Don’t do it in front of coworkers, it’s embarrassing and disrespectful. Do it in private. That shows that even though you’re having an unpleasant discussion, you’re doing it not to hurt them, but to improve a situation. If any women have been manipulated by the #banbossy video or movement, I ask that you instead take “bossy” as constructive criticism. You’re not being called “bossy” because you’re a woman. It’s because you need to improve you’re PR. I know it’s easy to get so focused on the job itself that you just want things to get done, but your coworkers are human beings, not computers, and will go the extra mile for you if your make them feel good about working for you. The small effort of a few kind words will pay you back tenfold in efforts towards the task at hand. Just try it!