Certain slang words seem to sweep through the business world every few months. Right now, “badass” is having another day in the sun. Badass women in particular are everywhere these days. They’re kicking in doors, shattering stereotypes, inspiring future generations, making noise, changing the game, and oh yeah—not appearing in your history books. You get the picture.
In that light, it’s interesting to consider the origin of the word. Badass is 1950s slang for a puffed-up, macho bully, the kind of guy who overcompensated by acting tough, even though everyone knew that he wasn’t.
How many of you have read Disrupted, by Dan Lyons? In this book, the tech journalist writes about the “bro” culture he encountered when he worked at HubSpot. What he describes is brutal, dehumanizing, and hostile to outsiders—which include women, older people, people with families, and anyone else who can’t conform to the aggressive subculture that pervades much of the tech industry these days.
I realize that when people celebrate these so-called badasses, they’re merely trying to even the score a bit. But I don’t think putting on a false face and emulating everything that has gone wrong in our corporate culture is the right path forward. It’s true that coarse, tough, insensitive types make great competitors. But how about celebrating some of the other personality types for a change? Who knows—just maybe some of these people might be useful in business, too. I’ll suggest a few:
A fighting spirit comes naturally to some of us. A healthy society would foster it without posturing, while still recognizing the women and men among us who have other gifts, such as working in harmony, boosting morale, taking care of the customer, ensuring great quality, and tending the flames of vision and creativity.