Bossy vs Assertive – 5 Differences (With Examples)

Imagine you’re in a meeting, sharing your ideas with confidence and clarity, earning the respect of your colleagues. Now, picture someone labeling you as bossy instead of assertive. 

It can be disheartening and frustrating, especially when you believe you’re portraying confidence without coming off as authoritative. Understanding the subtle nuances between being assertive and bossy can help us navigate interpersonal relationships more effectively and create a positive work environment.

As you dive into this topic, you’ll discover that being assertive means confidently expressing your opinions, protecting your rights, and respecting the needs and feelings of others. 

On the other hand, being bossy involves demanding, oppressive behavior, often accompanied by an overbearing attitude that disregards the needs and feelings of others. 

Spotting the difference between the two can often be challenging but can save you from unwanted labels and foster effective communication. So, get ready to explore this interesting dynamic, and who knows, maybe by the end, you might even get a chuckle or two.

What Does Being Assertive Mean?

Being assertive means standing up for your rights and expressing your thoughts and feelings, while respecting others and working on resolving conflicts. 

It requires a healthy balance between passivity and aggression, demonstrating that you value yourself and your interests without disregarding the rights of others.


In day-to-day interactions, assertiveness can manifest itself in a variety of ways. 

For instance, you might calmly express your discontent when a colleague fails to meet a deadline, negotiate for a pay raise, or refuse to take on an unreasonable workload. 

The key to being assertive is communicating your needs without resorting to passive or aggressive behaviors, ultimately promoting mutual respect and effective problem-solving.

Developing assertive communication skills can take practice, but it’s an essential component of healthy, stress-free relationships.

When you are assertive, your message is expressed clearly and openly, ensuring that your message is heard and your needs are addressed.

For example, imagine you’ve been given credit for a project that a coworker led. An assertive response would be to clarify the situation and share the credit with your coworker. Not only does this show respect for your coworker, but it also demonstrates your integrity and promotes a positive work environment.

What Does Being Bossy Mean?

Being bossy refers to a tendency to give orders to others, especially when it’s unwarranted, and exerting an overbearing presence. 

This behavior often stems from a desire to control situations and people, and can make those around you feel belittled or undervalued. 

Bossy individuals might come across as overbearing or even aggressive. However, there’s a distinct difference between being bossy and being assertive, which is important to recognize.

It’s not always easy to know when you’re being perceived as bossy, so consider the following example: 

-Let’s say you’re working on a group project and you start dictating tasks to your team members without allowing them any input or considering their opinions. In this case, your actions could be viewed as bossy. On the other hand, being assertive would involve articulating your thoughts and finding common ground that takes everyone’s perspective into account.

When it comes to interpersonal skills, bossiness can be detrimental. Being seen as bossy may result in your colleagues believing you lack these important abilities, such as being directive, controlling, and ignoring the perspectives of others, as well as coming across as rude, pushy, micromanaging, power-hungry, or aggressive.

Humorously enough, imagine a coworker who’s nickname is “the bulldozer” because they always seem to steamroll over everyone else’s ideas. 

This type of behavior could definitely be seen as bossy. It’s not the most endearing moniker to carry around, so it’s important for you to recognize the difference between being assertive and being bossy when interacting with others.

5 Differences Between Assertiveness and Bossiness

1. Communication Style 

When you’re assertive, you express your needs and opinions in a clear and direct manner without violating others’ rights. On the other hand, being bossy often means you use an aggressive or oppressive approach, focusing on your own needs and disregarding other people’s feelings. 

For example, an assertive person might say, “I need your input on this project by Friday,” while a bossy person might say, “You better have that done by Friday, or else.”

2. Tone of Voice and Language

Being assertive involves using “I” statements and a respectful, neutral tone of voice, while being bossy often includes using “you” statements and a condescending or harsh tone. 

Remember that time you asked your coworker for help with a gentle tone, and they were happy to assist you? That’s assertiveness. Alternatively, when your colleague barked at you to fix their coffee, that’s bossiness in action.

3. Respect for Others

Assertiveness includes listening to the other person and showing interest or concern, striving for a win-win solution in conversations and disagreements. However, being bossy often means disregarding others’ opinions or feelings and making demands without considering their needs. 

Imagine a group discussion where each person shares their thoughts respectfully– that’s assertiveness. Conversely, picture a commanding figure who forces their opinion without any regard for other participants– that’s bossiness.

4. Feedback and Criticism

When receiving feedback or criticism, an assertive person listens, acknowledges the input, and chooses how to respond based on its validity. On the other hand, a bossy individual might react defensively, dismiss the feedback as irrelevant, or even retaliate. 

The assertive person knows how to say, “I appreciate your feedback, and I’ll consider your perspective,” whereas a bossy person might say, “Who do you think you are, telling me how to do my job?”

5. Perception by Others

Assertiveness is typically viewed positively, as it demonstrates self-confidence and respect for others’ rights. However, bossiness can be perceived negatively due to its controlling and domineering nature. 

Just like how people admire that coworker who stands up for themselves while being respectful to others, they tend to resent the one who always tries to push their agenda without any consideration for the team’s needs.

Impacts on the Workplace

When it comes to assertiveness and being perceived as bossy, the effects can have significant impacts on the workplace environment. Understanding how these behaviors manifest can provide insights into improving team dynamics and productivity.

Team Dynamics

Assertiveness can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem, enabling you to gain the respect of your colleagues, improving communication within the team, and ultimately contributing to a healthy working environment. 

However, if you’re perceived as bossy, the opposite occurs. Instead of respect, you may face prejudice, especially as a female leader, which can lead to negative impacts on team dynamics.

bossy attitude


Being assertive can create win-win situations, improve decision-making skills, and contribute to better job satisfaction. On the other hand, being labeled as bossy might hinder productivity as colleagues may not respond positively to perceived bossiness. 

Prefacing statements with a ‘value phrase’ can reduce the assertiveness backlash by up to 27% and put your comments into context, helping your team to work more efficiently.

For instance, try saying, “I’ll be as direct as possible here…” before making a potentially ‘bossy’ statement. Your team will appreciate the candid approach, and productivity will likely improve.


In summary, being assertive is about expressing your needs and opinions while respecting the needs and opinions of others. 

Remember, being assertive does not mean being aggressive, difficult, or selfish; rather, it’s a powerful tool to support yourself and strengthen your relationships.

As you continue to develop your assertiveness skills, be mindful of the fine line between being assertive and bossy. Keep communication open and use negotiation to find middle ground whenever possible. 

By following these guidelines, you’ll cultivate a more positive and empowering interaction with others while maintaining your confidence and staying true to yourself. And, who knows? You might even find yourself cracking a witty remark or humorous anecdote to lighten up the conversation along the way.