Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean it’s ok to be bossy.

Leaders from a survey panel of 201 leaders from the United States shared their experiences with the word bossy in the workplace and what it’s like to have a bossy coworker.

Being bossy was seen as showing a lack of interpersonal leadership skills, including:

  • Being directive and controlling
  • Ignoring others’ perspectives
  • Being rude and pushy
  • Micromanaging
  • Focused on power
  • Being aggressive

Bossy coworkers were seen as:

  • Unlikeable
  • Unpopular
  • Unlikely to be successful
  • At risk for career derailment

6 Key Indicators of Bossiness

What does it really mean to be a bossy leader?

In our research, leaders were asked to define the word bossy in their own words. We found substantial agreement among the 201 leaders about what the word “bossy” means, and very few thought the word was positive.

Overall, 6 key indicators of bossiness emerged in the definitions:

We also found that bossiness is a common issue in the workplace:

  • 25% of the leaders surveyed said they’ve been called bossy at work.
  • 92% of the leaders surveyed said they’ve worked with someone bossy.

What to Do About Bossiness

Our findings shed light on what it means to be bossy and suggest that bossiness can hinder promotion and success. Based on our research, we have 2 conclusions for leaders:

  1. Being bossy is not the same as being the boss. Bossy is a lack of interpersonal leadership skills, including being overly directive and controlling, ignoring others’ perspectives, being rude and pushy, micromanaging, focused on power, and being aggressive.
  2. Being bossy can hurt your career. Regardless of gender or status, if you are being bossy, it is probably harming your career. Bossy coworkers are seen as unlikeable, unpopular, and unsuccessful, have derailment risks, and are rated as less promotable by their bosses.

Considering that 1 out of 4 people have been called bossy and nearly everyone has worked with someone they would consider bossy, chances are that bossiness is an issue in your workplace as well.

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