Last year, I started to learn Spanish. I felt it was an important skill for work and my interest in expanding my cultural intelligence. One lesson in my Spanish course focused on the workplace. This lesson included worlds like trabajador (worker), trabajo (work), oficinia (office), acuerdo (agreement), and reunion (meeting). I could not help but pause when it was being taught “el jefe” and “la jefa” which means “boss” in the language.
A lot of people have an aversion to certain words in the English language. The word “moist” often tops the list and there is science that supports why these words are hated. According to April 27, 2016, PLOS ONE journal article, the aversion to the word moist and other disliked words like crevice and slacks relates to several reasons. Those reasons include how it sounds, the connotations to actual physical response and actions, as well as the facial movements used when saying the words out loud. But what would science say about my aversion to the word “boss” in any language?
Let me be clear. I am OK if “boss” is used in certain phrases and connotations like “girl boss,” “boss bitch,” “boss up,” “like a boss,” and “who’s the boss.” I am even OK with “mob boss.” But when someone is speaking with me about the person they report to, I will quickly correct them. “Manager” is the more appropriate word to use, not boss.
For me, the word “boss” implies full control over everything I do. It is a word that has too much power. The people who are called boss, in my opinion, don’t have the same level of power the word conveys. For that matter, the person you report to is your manager. They are not your boss.
A former co-worker who was a training manager often referred to the people she trained as “boss.” In simple conversations or even in training sessions she would use the term for others. She used the word “boss” as a nickname. Giving it more thought, the way she used “boss” when referring to others was rather brilliant. When she referred to us all as “boss,” she let us know that we were powerful. Equally powerful. And, she never seemed to expect to be called “boss” in return.
In business, many may equate boss to leadership. I won’t assign to this either. Leadership is related to influence and anyone can be a leader. I would go as far as to say that the best leaders understand the power they have and use it wisely. They do not need the term “boss” to define their position. Their position is defined by the people they influence and how those people feel about that specific leader.
I don’t think most people have given the use of the word too much thought. As you can see, I have. Maybe some of it comes from seeing older family members refer to people who don’t look like them as “boss.” Doing so is an immediate transfer of power. Here is yet another reason I dislike the word.
No one has full control over everything a person does, do they? Maybe this is where free will comes into play. But even on a job, an employee has a choice. It is that choice that limits the power of their manager. With that, we are our el jefe or la jefa. You are the true boss.