"Banning" a word from your vocabulary (or the collective vocabulary) is #horseshit. We don’t need to ban "bossy"; what we need to do is teach people comprehension. Here’s the thing: bossy is a word people need to hear. Because bossy people suck. I should know, I am one.
In one week I turn 34. For the past 29 years I’ve been called bossy; on a near daily basis in elementary school and on a weekly basis since then. Being called bossy didn’t hold me back as a child, in a weird way it made me proud. I always had my hand up first in class - waving it as hard as I could to get my teacher’s attention only to hear her (they were almost all women) sigh “Sara G, give someone else a chance.” and then come back to me when they got it wrong. As we matured out of elementary school and into middle school, I changed schools because we moved across the country. Being bossy helped me make friends. I wasn’t scared to volunteer to lead and I wasn’t scared to talk first, I always made the first move - because in my mind, I was already in charge. When we moved on to high school and team projects, guess who always put herself in charge? Me. I had no desire to have someone else tell me what my job on the project was going to be, so I doled them out instead. And I yelled at everyone else to make sure they did their part as well.
And that, kids, is the part where vocabulary comprehension comes in. I was not leading, I was bossing. Erasing the word bossy and replacing it with “leader” is stupid. I mean STUPID. Bossy is a word that needs to be in our world, granted it has negative connotations to many, many people, but that’s no reason to get rid of it. What we need to do is find those bossy little girls (and boys) and teach them that bossy is bad (because it is), but that healthy leadership skills are good (and what those look like.)
Had someone pulled me aside when I was little and taught me that while it’s great to take charge and dole out jobs to make sure things get done, it is NOT ok to yell at others to make sure they get them done, I might be in a totally different place than I am today. I was literally 25 years of age before anyone pointed out the distinction to me. In the preceding twenty years bossy had been the word used to describe both sets of behaviors. This is wrong, no doubt. Bossy can’t be used as a catchall term, and in the same way, it can’t be stricken from the world because it is abused.
Bossy is an important word. It’s a word that holds a lot of weight and emotion. It’s a word that needs to be used, properly that is. Once someone showed me what bossy really looks like and showed me how it affected the people around me, I no longer wanted to be bossy. Bossy isn’t respected, bossy isn’t like, bossy doesn’t actually get the job done (whether you’re male or female.) Do you know how long it took me to become un-bossy? Let’s just say I’m still working on it. In the last nine years I’ve come a long way, but I still have a way to go. Just last week I found myself biting my tongue to keep from telling someone what do to and instead making a suggestion about what might need to be done. Yes, there are times when you have to tell people what to do and when to do it: when you’re instructing someone on how to sky dive, when you’re teaching someone to perform open heart surgery, when you’re showing a child how to cook, in emergencies (actual call 911 emergencies.) Not when you work in retail, not over a spreadsheet, not when you’re trying to decide which movie to watch.
Being bossy is bad, it really is. Little girls and boys need to know that being bossy is bad. The less bossy people we have in the workplace, the happier the workers will be. We need leaders who can listen, who can collaborate, who can take criticism, who can see the big picture instead of what is right in front of them. Bossy people don’t do any of that. Leaders do. Banning bossy won’t suddenly turn bossy little boys and girls into leaders. Using bossy correctly might help. Had someone used leader instead of bossy when I was little I can assure you I’d still be bossy. In the workplace I was finally taught leadership skills that were useful, and the only reason I paid them any attention at all was because my bosses told me I couldn’t be bossy anymore, I had to be a leader. I figured out what the difference was and started working to change my skill set. Imagine your whole life being told you were being a leader and then suddenly all those “skills” were no longer leadership skills? Because they aren’t. Bossy skills ≠ leadership skills. I’m thankful I was called bossy, because now I can put bossy behind me and put leader in front of me. That’d be a lot harder to do if I was already convinced I was being a “leader”. Let’s get kids learning the difference and learning which skills will get them far in life (and which won’t.) Deal? Deal.
TL;DR - Vocabulary comprehension, not banishment, that’s what “bossy” needs.