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Great Bosses Aren't Bossy

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wants to ban the word 'bossy' in the workplace. It's a good first step--but the real problem isn't the word.

As you may already know, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is trying to ban the word bossy and "other b words in the workplace."

Though there's no doubt that women in management are held to different standards than men, the problem isn't in the words people use to describe a boss's behavior. The problem is the behaviors that such words describe.

Yes, when male managers are overbearing and obnoxious, people use other words to describe them, words that may not carry the exact same sting. (I'd argue that the usually-applied-only-to-males term assh*le is worse than the b words.)

But regardless of what gender-specific words employees might use to describe a boss's behavior, as a general rule, bosses only get called nasty names when they give arbitrary orders, throw tantrums, backstab their employees, fail to listen, and so forth.

By contrast, great bosses listen to their employees, explain their decisions, keep their tempers, and coach their employees to become more successful.

Employees love great bosses and will move mountains to make them happy. Employees don't call a great boss nasty names; they follow wherever that boss leads them.

Therefore, if employees are using insulting words to describe you, you should be worrying about your behavior rather than the words themselves.

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Last updated: Mar 17, 2014


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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