What is a Boss?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A boss is a person who exercises control over other employees in a workplace environment. Over time, the term has come to have negative connotations, (note words like bossy and mob boss), and many people who now lead others in the workplace prefer to be called supervisors, foreman or forepersons, leads, or managers. “The boss” may refer to the person who is the head of a company, not merely in charge of subordinate workers but in charge of all lower level manager and supervisors, sometimes called middle management.

Some people don’t mind being called bosses, when the term does not occur out of disrespect. In such cases, it can merely mean the person has authority over subordinates. Yet it is more common to see people labeled as bosses who possess and abuse authority. When a manager becomes overly bossy, he or she is a boss in the worst sense of the word.


Throughout your career, you’ll encounter many different types of supervisors, managers and bosses. Those most effective are usually the ones who are innately good at effective communication. They all share the important objective of making sure the work environment runs at peak efficiency and represents the company well, and they are sometimes called upon to do disagreeable tasks like reprimanding employees, firing them, or writing up performance reviews that are not exactly favorable. The differences between a good and bad boss tends to be decided in whether or not employees feel intrinsically valued for their worth, work and contributions. If a boss exists only to exert authority and to scream at people, he or she is not popular, and tends to create a work environment that is less stable, with a higher turnover rate.

Boss remains an overhead term for people filling a variety of different positions, so there’s no single job description that quite fits the term. Such a person may only supervise a few workers, may run a department or might be in charge of a whole company. One thing is common to most bosses—they usually have some people who work for them. Beyond that, their responsibilities may be little or great. They may write performance reviews, create employee work schedules, report on their department’s performance to their bosses, or run an entire company. Much depends upon the scope of the company and the number of employees.

You could literally fill libraries, at least small ones, with books written on the topic of how to effectively manage or supervise employees. Many of these books emphasize the importance of the boss in the workplace, and how the tone of a manager can set the tone for a whole company or department. A cheerful supervisor/manager/owner who is appreciative of other people’s work, has a strong sense of the strengths and weaknesses of employees, and is able to suggest concrete improvements to work performance without provoking defensiveness can be an enviable asset to a company.


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Post 2

I like to think I'm a pretty good boss. I understand when someone shows up late because of car trouble or a family emergency. I don't get upset when someone clocks in a little late after lunch, since I've also gotten in traffic or had slow service. For the most part, I try to let my employees do what they do best and stay behind the scenes until a problem arises.

However, I have noticed that some employees don't do well without someone in authority staying on top of them. That's when I have to be "the boss man" and scare them into working harder. I don't really enjoy that part of the job, but some people will take advantage of a boss who doesn't lay down the law once in a while.

Post 1

I used to dread seeing my boss coming through the door every morning, because I knew I would be called into his office and chewed out for something that probably wasn't my fault. Once he had his temper fit, however, he was alright for the rest of the day. I still felt like I had to be on my best behavior whenever he was around. He motivated a lot of employees through fear, and I really couldn't understand why.

Then one day he called me from his house and said he was about to undergo some major surgery. He wanted me to supervise the office while he was out of commission. I became "the boss" for 6 weeks, and

by the end of it I understood why someone in that position might stay mad all the time. It's not easy to be a boss.

Sometimes a nasty job has to be done, and nobody will be willing to do it voluntarily. A boss has to be the one who orders an employee to work late or take out the garbage or do something equally unpleasant. It takes someone with a forceful personality to get others to stay motivated.

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