For once, "bossy" is what I'm striving for

It’s been a rough work week from a navel-gazing perspective.  Yesterday’s Work Dread beginning begot a personally uncomfortable ending as I had to “assert my authority.”  Publicly.  After trying valiantly to play nice in the face of a group insistent on trying to play me, I had to end the game.

Does that sound like I’m being neurotic?  I think it does too.

I spent years learning how to play well with others – listen better, give people the space to do their jobs and make their own mistakes, take the time to make sure everyone’s voices were heard and acknowledged – so this “and now I will show you where I stand so you don’t this silliness again” gamesmanship just feels bad.  Very bad.  Like I should be better than this, have some kind of brilliantly elegant solution to both make the point (lying isn’t the way to go, not with me) and allow us to sing kumbaya and move on.  But I didn’t.  With a polite lilt to my voice, I calmly stopped all forward progress to make a point.


I talked to Jen; she said that’s called “being a boss.”  I called my mom; she said being a parent feels the same way.  If you let a little thing slide, it turns into a bigger thing, so sometimes you just can’t let it slide.

I realized I was feeling resentful more than bad or sad or silly.  Every single time I have a public (group) interaction with a certain person, the situation ends with me asserting my authority in some way and I feel like I don’t have a choice.  I do, though – I can choose to let it go, rise above, ignore.  But I don’t.  I choose to “win,” to make my position (org-wise) clear in the hopes that we can avoid the same kind of stand-off again.

I shouldn’t be surprised it’s not working.  That said, apologizing for doing the thing you had a right to do makes the whole thing worse, so I’ll have to move on.

*sigh*  And I think it might be a female thing.  Try as I might, I can’t discount the fact that I recognize the game-playing because I’m a woman – which leaves me feeling like I have to respond.

*sigh* And then I think this debate over the need to assert my authority is a female thing.  Do my male peers worry whether they said something nicely enough or should have let a situation go?  I don’t know.  I doubt it.

I decided a few weeks ago that the only way to get through the learning curve in this new job was to allow myself to suck for a year, thereby freeing myself from my own need to know what I’m doing and prove my worth at this next level.  Chalk this one up to part of the suck.  I think my efforts to be nice (because life’s just a little bit easier when everyone’s nice) have led some people to believe that I’m a pushover – myself included.

This feels like my first year of marriage all over again, trying so hard to be something different I end up overshooting the goal.


5 thoughts on “For once, "bossy" is what I'm striving for

  1. I struggle with being pushed over too. I feel like I’m good at being nice, and I’m good at being a total bitch. But I’m not good at being assertive or achieving a happy medium. It’s so frustrating.

  2. I find this such a tough but important balance as a woman. I had to figure out how to earn people’s respect and credibility through other tools besides assertiveness, but assertiveness is still a key component. Women who don’t take the time to develop a nuanced leadership style that’s reflective of their true character are often just discounted as bitches at my work. I’m sure in time experiences like this will help you establish your reputation as the thoughtful, intelligent professional you are!

  3. Gosh this feels so familiar. It’s hard to know how best to manage projects or events when I’m still figuring out my role, the individuals in other roles within the office, etc… Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that you’re not alone, and I struggle with figuring out the right thing to do at the right time as well.

    And I do definitely think that we struggle partially because we are women. I constantly look for mentors, other women leaders to learn from, and it’s sad to me that there are not very many who I can turn to.

  4. Wow, I identify so much with this. Including the sentiments expressed in the comments. It’s so hard to figure out how to do what is right, how to strike the right balance amongst assertive/bitchy/nice, and yes, it is especially harder for women. I have been drafting a blog post about this so your post is very timely. I have no real conclusions though, but it’s good to know I’m not alone. :/

  5. i’m starting a new job and it makes me feel so much better that other people feel the same way about sucking for the first year. that’s exactly how i feel in my head about starting a new job because i feel like i have to be perfect in the beginning and prove myself – but realistically i won’t know crap and will need to actually suck somewhat in the beginning.
    as for asserting myself, i can totally relate to all of that.

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