In light of this trend and growing interest in the word’s impacts, we conducted research on the role of the word in the workplace.
After surveying about 200 U.S. leaders, we discovered:
- The term isn’t a synonym for assertiveness, or other positive executive leadership skills.
- Women are called bossy in the workplace more often than men are.
- Bossy coworkers are described as unpopular and unlikely to be successful in the future, and bossy women coworkers are seen as more unpopular and less successful compared to bossy men coworkers.
- When we look at bossy behaviors — without the label — men are just as likely as women to exhibit bossiness in the workplace.
- Acting bossy is related to being seen as less promotable by bosses for both men and women. However, the relationship was stronger for women. Altogether, our results show a consistent trend that bossiness in the workplace has negative consequences, and those consequences are particularly harsh for women.
Do Women Act Bossier than Men Do?
Is There a Penalty?
What Does This Mean?
- Leaders should make an effort to avoid being bossy at work regardless of gender.
- Leaders should be cautious about using the word “bossy” in the workplace.
- It’s important for leaders to learn and develop strong interpersonal skills.
Men need to focus on their behavior and perception just as much as women do in order to become more effective, and more promotable, leaders.
Dig deeper into our research findings by downloading the full white paper below.
Additional Contributing Authors
Julia Fernando is an intern in Research, Innovation and Product Development at CCL. Recently graduating from an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Surrey, UK, Julia is embarking on a career in research in the hopes of entering onto a postdoctoral program in the near future. She has a background in clinical psychology, having worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for children in London as an assistant psychologist in neurodisability.
Christine Crumbacher did her post-doctoral work serving as an evaluator for CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries Program, with a concentration in early leadership development projects such as Ravenscroft School and the Golden LEAF Foundation. She contributed as a design and survey developer as well as champion for youth leadership development. Prior to CCL, Christine worked in the statistics lab housed in the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University.