On the Recent Idea of Banning the Word, “Bossy,” Part 2

I was one of the first people to comment on this discussion in an online forum and after following the postings placed after I made my comment (see my blog posting), I wanted to remind us all, men and women, how easy it is to be deceived into believing that the critiques of others are unjustified, because “we are just misunderstood” or because other people are holding us back. Have you manipulated people, telling them what to do without listening to them, imposing your own agenda without thinking of the greater good, and in general, not using the people skills that make other people feel valued? Maybe your demeanor is making people feel uncomfortable and “bossed around?”

Women should be empowered and not held back, but since most of what happens in the world today—at work or in life—happens on teams, they should learn how to work well with people. Teams need leaders, but teams need leaders that communicate well with others. “Bossy” is a word primarily about communication and the communicator’s demeanor; although obviously this word is a hurtful slur used to demean, “bossy” primarily describes a demeanor by which most people would not like to be led, whether the leader is a woman or man.

Name-callers use the word “bossy” against women who step up to lead using ambition, self-direction, and their intelligence or talents in the world or workplace, but sometimes women and men use an ineffective and bossy-style, without listening to others and neglecting to build a team. Shouldn’t our focus be more on helping our girls become leaders and good communicators in whatever situation they find themselves? If so, then girls need to be taught how to communicate excellently and how to evaluate the criticism they receive for their failures to communicate or lead. Girls need to learn to become self-evaluators, rather than to become self-justifiers. Successful people learn from their mistakes.

As women, we will be criticized, rightly or wrongly, but what we do with that criticism will determine our growth—if criticism is misplaced, we grow in stature by rising above it, if the criticism is deserved, in full or in part, we grow by acknowledging our mistakes, changing our behaviors, and learning from the process. Girls need to be taught how to believe in themselves so that they are not crushed when misunderstood, but also, how to see life as a process wherein we must learn truth about ourselves in order to grow and do better. Honest self-examination is required in order to sort out what part of the criticism we receive is justified and what part is not.

The age we live in is not one of self-examination, but one of self-justification, but true leaders take on this challenge to learn from their mistakes.

On the Recent Idea of Banning the Word, “Bossy” Part 1

In the recent discussions of banning the word “bossy,”* I sincerely hope that both women and men would conduct a self-examination of their own leadership style.

There is no need for anyone to defend the word, “bossy,” as if the characteristics the word usually reflects are desirous; or to attack it, as if the use of this word can only reflect the user’s poor view on ambitious women. Ambition is one thing, but there is a huge difference between the effects of someone’s ambition and what we usually “feel” when someone is “bossy” because such a person makes us feel manipulated, un-respected, and walked over. No one should be defending that sort of negative, “bossy” behavior, as if leadership or management require it. We have all met people of either gender, who are confused about how to lead others, thinking that the need to support their own importance gives them a license to tear others down.

We should all be sure that no one has genuine reason to accuse us of being a bossy person, because the connotations of the word have more to do with a lack on our part, not our gifts, no matter our gender.


* Drexler, Peggy. “Sheryl Sandberg wrong on ‘bossy’ ban.” CNN. 01 Jan. 1970. Cable News Network. 13 Mar. 2014 <http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/11/opinion/drexler-sandberg-bossy/>.

Mcfadden, Cynthia, and Jake Whitman. “Sheryl Sandberg Launches ‘Ban Bossy’ Campaign to Empower Girls to Lead.” Video blog post. ABC News. 10 Mar. 2014. 14 Mar. 2014 <http://abcnews.go.com/US/sheryl-sandberg-launches-ban-bossy-campaign-empower-girls/story?id=22819181>.

Rogers, Katie, and Ruth Spencer. “‘Banning bossy isn’t the answer’: What real parents say about Sandberg’s plan.” Theguardian.com. 13 Mar. 2014. Guardian News and Media. 14 Mar. 2014 <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/13/ban-bossy-sheryl-sandberg-quotes-real-parents>.

Wente, Margaret. “Ban ‘bossy’? Suck it up, girlsAdd to …” The Globe and Mail. 14 Mar. 2014 <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/ban-bossy-suck-it-up-girls/article17470665/>.