Boss Is Not Boss (At All) by Amy Goldberg

Contrary to the urban dictionary definition of “That’s Boss,” meaning Awesome!! I’m here to say that the word “Boss” is nothing BUT Boss.

As long as I can remember every time, I heard someone utter the word “boss” I had a visceral response. It conjured up images of submissiveness, hierarchal behaviour, upper hand, barking orders, ego, and one having no voice.

Interestingly, I have had no horrible experiences in my life where the word boss would have solicited such a reaction. And yet, I just knew in my entire being that the word should never be used ever again. EVER.

Is it my entrepreneurial free spirit where I believe in a collaborative approach, where everyone has a voice, and needs to be heard? Or my hang up with titles, where I feel they tend to keep one in their place and stifle creativity. Partly, yes.

And yet …

Did you know …

… that the origin of the word “boss” originated from a Dutch word “baas” that means “master.” Ah THAT’S why I truly despise that word.

According to Gifford Thomas, Founder of Leadership First he wrote; “Its use was a uniquely American way of avoiding the word “master,” which had quickly become associated with slavery by the mid-19th century. Have you ever heard the phrase “my boss is a slave driver,” note the words boss and slave? In those days many workers were fond of using ‘boss’ primarily because they despised calling their superior ‘master.’ But all their efforts were in vain because the connotation of the word remains the same despite all effort to normalize its existence.” 

It’s unimaginable to me that people STILL, to this day, use the word boss interchangeably with leadership. The two are entirely different. Ironically, I just read an article entitled. “The Best Bosses Have These Three Skills” with a tagline, “The most effective bosses are the ones who give their employees permission to slip up.” Arianna Huffington reposted this to her THRIVE GLOBAL websiteHmmm, I use to be a fan.

Does anyone, other than me see the irony of this? Doesn’t this sound pathetically submissive and ridiculously condescending. Notice how they liberally interchangeably used boss and leadership. There is no LEADERSHIP in this article when the word Permission and Boss are used everywhere on the page. “Give Permission?” What are we 5? You just set us back 100 years.

It’s time to rethink what we’re saying.

So, what can we do about it? Let’s start educating ourselves. Let’s not use words just because seemingly everyone uses them. Particularly when the context of the word is the complete opposite of what one is trying to convey.

In the context of this post, by contrast, a leader is there to listen, to create a culture for everyone to collaborate and engage. Where people can thrive. Does the b-word say any of that? If we continue to use words like “boss” think about how we are limiting ourselves and our beliefs. Let’s not become complacent. Let’s think, then take action.

It starts with each and every one of us.