Can’t Stand Your Boss?

5 strategies for dealing with a difficult boss.

Do you like your boss? Are you thinking about quitting your job because of your boss? According to Gallup, 50% of people in the United States have quit their job at some point in their career to get away from their boss. What do we do when we work for a difficult boss?

The Harvard Business Review recently wrote a great article titled “Do You Hate Your Boss?” They lay out steps you should take if you work for a difficult boss. As Christians, we have a unique view of the world and work. While HBR’s article outlines some great steps, they left some out that we should pursue as people of faith. Here are my suggestions on what to do when you can’t stand your boss.

  1. Put yourself in his/her shoes. Most of our bosses aren’t bad people. Often they’re good people in a bad situation or with weaknesses (and we all have those!) The HBR calls this “practice empathy.” Empathy happens through listening and understanding. Ask questions. Look for informal opportunities to connect with your boss and understand where they are at. It’s amazing how your perspective of someone changes as you learn more about them. Your criticism may just change to compassion.
  2. Look at yourself. Very rarely are our bosses totally responsible for our problems. What role are you playing in it? This isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s important to be introspective and honest. We need to own up to our weaknesses, attitudes, behaviors and mindsets that are contributing to the difficult relationship or environment. If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust for observations on what you’re doing to contribute to the problems.
  3. Pray for your boss. 1 Timothy 2:2 instructs us as Christians to pray for our leaders and those in authority. A simple question, are you praying for your boss? If not you need to start before you move on to steps 4 and 5. It’s amazing how prayer will change our perspective of a situation or person.
  4. Talk to your boss. At some point, you need to have a conversation about the difficulty you are having with them. You need to bring up the tension or the difficulty the two of you are having with each other. While it’s difficult, don’t shy away from having an open and honest conversation. If you’re afraid of how your boss will react, invite them out to lunch or do it in a safe place where you won’t be interrupted and you’ll both keep calm (if you’re worried about tempers flaring up.) You may just find out that your boss wasn’t even aware of the tension or impact they are having on you!
  5. Discern the season. Why are you at this job working for this boss? This is an important question. As we discussed before, work being difficult doesn’t mean that you’re not where you are supposed to be. Here are just a few reasons you may be in the position you’re in:
    A) To develop your character or to learn lessons of perseverance
    B) To change the culture of the organization or team
    C) To serve and impact your boss’s life (or those on your team)
    D) To be in a strategic position for a greater purpose or plan God is doing
    E) To gain experience or develop a skill that you will utilize in the future
    F) To work with your boss’s boss in your organization to bring about a needed change that is causing harm (this is mutiny but is necessary at times.)

As you can see, there are lots of possibilities on why you are in that particular role working for that particular boss. You don’t want to short-circuit the work God is doing by quitting or running from difficulty. Or, perhaps as you pray through #5 you sense that God is giving you a release and it’s time to move on. That’s ok too if it’s God’s plan.

Question: How have you learned to handle working for a difficult boss? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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