Four Ideas for Handling a Bad Boss

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Four Ideas for Handling a Bad Boss

Enjoy the long weekend! But you know that you're going to have to face the boss again on Monday.

I’m sorry to bring up the topic of your boss today. You probably wanted to escape that world for a few days and pretend that he or she didn’t exist. Perhaps your boss yells at you or your boss demeans you with passive-aggressive behavior.

I've had both kinds of bosses. One guy acted like his team was in the military and he was a drill sergeant – he actually thought he could motivate us by yelling at us. It just made me shrink up into the fetal position in my emotions, no longer even capable of doing a good job, let alone a better one.

Another boss acted nice and kind all the time, so much so that the hire-ups thought that he was a great guy. But he would subtly seek to get his way by being passive-aggressive. When he got upset with employees, he wouldn’t tell them straight up, but would give them the cold shoulder. He would subtly belittle employees in public comments. He would do his own work poorly but then exploit the talents of his subordinates and take the credit for himself. He would play one employee with more influence against other employees with less.

What if we used this prolonged Sabbath rest from our work to become better equipped for the challenges that are in our workplaces? Yes, you can prayerfully be prepared for Monday with that bad boss, and maybe even make your situation better!

What can you do?

1. Check to see if you are the problem. I know that you’re convinced that your boss is at fault. But one of the things that makes believers in Christ different is supposed to be our willingness and ability to humbly admit that we are sinners, and that we are often wrong and in need of repenting. We realize that our sin often blinds us to our own faults and, in our pride, we too readily blame others for the situations in which we find ourselves.

Ask a close friend to be honest with you about the situation in which you find yourself: Not just someone who will always side with you but who is trusted to tell the truth. Look in the mirror, and be honest about what you see there (James 1:22-25).

After honestly confessing our own faults, we can better deal with the issues of a bad boss. We can move on to #2!

2. Do not take it personally and don't give in to resentment. If your boss treats you poorly, realize that his or her unacceptable behavior has less to do with you and more to do with what they are dealing with.

Non-believers with bad bosses often get bitter, allow themselves to seethe with anger toward this boss, and begin grumbling with other employees about how horrible this person is.

But believers love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-44), and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Christ-followers are better capable of not taking a bad boss's behavior personally, realizing that every single one of us has deep-seated heart issues that we carry with us at all times, and that these issues manifest themselves in sometimes ugly ways, even in the workplace. With that in mind, they are less likely to become gossips and busybodies (1 Timothy 5:13), and more likely to say only that which is helpful to the situation (Ephesians 4:29). 

3. Help your boss set clear expectations, and then surpass them. Sometimes, bad bosses need a help to be better bosses. and they don't even know it. Have a meeting with your boss and ask for specifics of what he or she expects from you. Have them state them very clearly and with deadlines. Be sure to write it down, and then give him or her copy. It is difficult to plan if you do not know what is expected of you (Proverbs 21:5). 

Once you know what you are to do, do it with gusto and excellence. Remember that your real boss is actually Jesus Christ, and you want to do a great job for him (Colossians 3:23-24). Let your good work act as a beacon of light in your workplace (Matthew 5:16). Of course this will not guarantee that your bad boss will get off your back, but at least you will have done all you can to eleviate the problem.

4. Become a student of your boss. What makes your boss tick? What gets your boss excited (in a good way)? What gets your boss upset? What is causing your boss to feel the stress that is trickling down to you and the other employees?

You might find that certain things trigger the poor behavior, and you can work toward minimizing these. You might discover that their personality and yours are just not very compatible, and you can adjust your own expectations accordingly.

Try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes – then you will have a totally different outlook on this person. When Jesus looked at all the sinners with whom he had been living for years, he did not scoff at them or blame them for being such idiots. He understood what was really going on: they were harassed and helpless but were unable to know what to do about it. They were like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus had compassion (Matthew 9:36).