boss mug

Boss? I cringe when I hear that word. Career coaching on workplace environment can help you navigate this role for yourself and your supervisor,

Is this scene familiar? You’re at some event for work….a party, a company picnic perhaps. Or maybe you’re enjoying lunch at the café downstairs when one of your associates comes by with their spouse, parent, friend, or child. As you stand up respectfully to warmly greet them, your co-worker says:

“I’d like you to meet my boss.”

Grrrrr … I’d take “manager ” over “boss” any day. I’ll even take being called “chief,” “big cheese,” or “head honcho” before you lay the “B’ title on me.

When I hear that word I think of the guy with no regard for your development who most certainly does not care if you have an opinion about your team issues or not. The enforcer—the uncompromising, self-serving dictator who expects respect without having earned it.

I know you’re thinking I’m being too sensitive, right? There are plenty of people who use “boss” in a respectful, almost jovial manner with no disrespect to you or your position. In fact, some use it as a playful term.

“Call me what you want,” you say, “as long as the job gets done, and we can work together in harmony.”

Ok…no argument there, but I still hate the word. Why? Because it implies someone who has no willingness to work as part of the team. Very few bosses possess the flexibility and emotional intelligence required to be the type of influential leader that efficient and productive teams demand.

Instead of developing, coaching and building the associate, mistakes become immediate performance write-ups or disciplinary actions instead of first becoming teachable moments. The method of operation becomes “my way or the highway,” and soon after, the organization begins to churn through employees like my grandmother whipping home-made butter to cook for a family of ten.

Think I’m wrong? Take a gander at this. Webster’s dictionary defines “boss” as:

“A person who makes decisions, exercises authority, dominates.” Dominates? Really? I know I’m a Type A personality, but dominates?

Or try this one on for size: “A politician who controls the party organization, as in a particular district.” Oh, Lordy…please…not a politician. That’s worse than being a dominator.

Not convinced? How about as a verb? “To be master of or over; manage; direct; control. ” or “To order about, especially in an arrogant manner.Control? Order? Arrogant? Holy insults, Batman…this isn’t getting any better. Maybe in a personal context? Like when my daughter screams at her older brother, “You’re not the boss of me!”

I’ve worked for great leaders, and I’ve worked for a few that used questionable tactics, yet I’m sure there are others out there that could dwarf my experiences. In retrospect, I realize  I owe each of my past supervisors a debt of gratitude. They’ve all helped to shape who and what I am today. I’ve learned how to lead a successful team from some of the best, but more importantly, I’ve learned how not to manage people from some of the worst. For that, I’m thankful. Every experience, good and/or bad, helps to make us what we are today.

Take a moment and think about the leaders who have made the greatest impressions on you. They stick out like a sore thumb in your memory, don’t they? Like anyone who has a story to tell about something very bad or very good—the service at your local restaurant last night, the DJ at the wedding reception you attended a year ago, or the burrito you just had for lunch—everyone can talk about the leader who was perfect, and a boss who was a monster. And then there is that gray area where it’s neither one or the other, or a little bit of both.

I am thrilled to have a supervisor now who is among the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and I’ll admit that I have kiddingly referred to her as my boss from time to time. I can do that, because we have an awesome working relationship based on open communication, an understanding of each other’s goals and responsibilities, and, at times, uncompromising brutal honesty. There’s no disrespect, though. We both appreciate the equal importance of not only making the company successful, but supporting the people who make our jobs easier to do.

Neither one of us wants to be “the boss.” To our teams and to the people whom we supervise, we want to be the co-worker, the leader—maybe even friend.


Beth Kelzer
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