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Who’s the Boss

A few days ago, many websites were showing their support for the very trendy #banbossy campaign.  What is it?  The little bit I read about it – before searching for, you know, news stories of import – is that it is trying to correct the attitude some, mostly male, have towards female bosses.  They say that when a man is in charge, he is called a “leader” and is respected for making decisions and giving orders, but when a woman is in charge, she is instead called “bossy” and receives little respect.

Well, as is often stated, he (or she) who defines the rules wins the debate.  I, on the other hand, challenge the precepts.

I have had many bosses over the years.  As it happens, other than a shift manager at McDonalds in my teens and one of my drill instructors in basic, I do not recall working directly for a woman.  I have, however, worked for many, many men.

Did I respect all of them as leaders?  As bosses?  I did as they directed, when I had to, but I hardly respected all of them.  Many of them were just plain bad bosses, some from the perspective of the employees, some from the perspective of the employer, and some from both perspectives.

They were just plain bad at the arts of leadership and management and they should never have been put in those positions in the first place.  Many of them were fine people, many were technically competent in their industry, but they could never seem to navigate to the twin goals of Mission and Morale.  They could not lead the team to their goal or they could not do it without damaging the team in the process.  Of course, a couple of them really were immoral bastards.

Such bad bosses were often called names, sometimes behind their backs and sometimes to their face.  Bossy?  They probably would have enjoyed being called bossy.  Instead, they were called far worse, “asshole” being about the mildest.

So, no, I do not have much sympathy for women in leadership roles who are being called “bossy.”  You have far more important things to worry about than whether your team is using hurtful words to describe you.  You have a job to do.  Go get your team together, get the job done, and try not to drive your team to other employers while you are doing so.  Grow a spine and quit complaining.  If you cannot do that, then find a non-leadership role that you enjoy doing and, in any case, move on, just like the failed male leader you probably replaced.  Do not be upset if you have to do this; leadership is not a job that everyone can do.  Find a job you are good at.

As for the rare team member, male or female, who constitutionally cannot work for a woman – there are some, of course – then you will have to decide how to move him on to another position or, if he turns out to be more important to the mission than you are, how you can move onto another position.  You are not going to change him.  If this is the issue, then whether or not he refers to you as “bossy” – or other words starting with “B” – is really not all that high on the priority scale, now is it?

In the end, whether somebody commands respect is the responsibility of the leader, not the follower.  Get on with it.


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