Ten Powerful Lessons Learned from a Bad Boss
Successful leaders turn problems into opportunities. Your bad boss is an opportunity to develop ten essential leadership qualities.
Think of a bad boss as a catalyst that propels your leadership journey.
If you don’t step up, you step down.
10 leadership lessons from a bad boss:
- Humility. Bad bosses bring out arrogance. You deserve better. But, every leader faces the crucible of unjust treatment. On the other side of mistreatment is humility or arrogance. Those who suffer well are humbled. Those who suffer poorly are hardened.
- Forgiveness. The way you treat others is about you not them. Weak leaders blame their poor behaviors on others. Forgiveness says, I’m not going to treat you with your offenses in mind.
- Adaptability. Leaders who can’t adapt are tyrants. Adapting to the strengths and weaknesses of those around you takes you further than pressuring everyone to be like you.
- Gratitude. Ungratefulness makes you ugly. Find and focus on points of gratitude. I’m not saying to be grateful for being yelled at.
- Conflict. The path to exceptional is paved with tough conversations. Few conversations are tougher than those with bad bosses. Keep humility, forgiveness, adaptability, and gratitude as your companions during tension.
- Resilience. Your bad boss may be reason enough to leave your organization. But, if you gut it out, resiliency is strengthened. Everything worth doing requires resilience.
- Networking. Let a bad boss motivate you to build strong relationships within and outside your organization. You may need them.
- Listening. Bad bosses are hard to listen to. If you can listen well when your boss sucks, you’re becoming a great listener.
- Perspective taking. Learn to see the world from their perspective.
- Calmness. Calmness reflects strength.
Every leadership quality or behavior I listed is profoundly connected to humility. Let your bad boss propel you toward humility.
What leadership lessons are learned while serving bad bosses?
Good afternoon Dan
We could all follow the advice of Bible Scrpture when dealing with a lousy boss. For the agressive leaders out there, YES, there does come a time to stand up for what is worthy and what is right. God call his people to stand against injustice, to fight the oppressor. But he also instructs us to turn the other cheek. To treat people better than they deserve. Lousy bosses provide us with an excellant forum to practice Asset Based Leadership-thinking. (I think ABT was once called ‘The Power of Positive thinking) . Alowing our emotions to control our actions when dealing with a lousy boss also controls our thought process. When we think negativley, we react negatively. Negativity spawns negativity while it inhibits us from thinking logically and objectively. When you begin the practice of thinking positivley it’s amazing how the mind works. You find answers and solutions to problems and issues you once thought were unsolveable. This may not be easy at first nor does it seem logical at times. However, once you apply ABT principals and retrain your brain to think positively problems seem smaller and challenges no longer seem so challenging.
Thanks SGT. I always enjoy reading your comments. The nugget I’m taking with me today is “When we think negatively, we react negatively.”
It takes awhile to realize that pointing out problems isn’t necessarily negativity, as long as we point them out while pursuing solutions.
Thanks Dan. It is a priveledge to have accsess to the worlds No#1 Leadership blog. You provide a forum for others to both share and learn. As well, several good friendships have spawned from reading and responding to Leadership Freak. I hope you realize the positive impact your making in the lives of your readers. “THANK YOU my friend”!!!!!!
SGT Steve: It’s wonderful to see you use scripture as foundation for both thought and action in your capacity as leader. For those of us who believe in the power of thought–of positive belief–
and also for those who do not, there’s a couple of additional scriptures that are rather powerful:
1) “Just as we speak and say is the way it shall be” (Numbers 14:28). What we say to ourselves
and to others will be either positive, or detrimental…and we make that choice.
2) “Speak things that are not–as if they already are” (Romans 4:17). Wow! What power our
words have over our faith, prosperity, destiny, and eternity–and thus on others lower and
higher in our midst just as you say.
What I take from your comments is that regarding working with a “bad boss” it’s not up to us to mend him rather allowing him to transform himself…via our continued support and good work.
Thanks for the kind words Book. You are correct, it is not our respondsability to change others. Change is of the Lord. We do however have a responsability to set a positive example for others to emulate. We can’t be men of integrity and pick and choose when to live and act humbly and with honor. It is through the trails and tuff times of life that great leaders and great Christians rise above negative circumstances and be the man our Lord commands us to be, in thought, words, and actions.
I am a young leader, but I attribute all of my success to a Godzilla boss, who passed off all of the work and led by terror. I ended up doing work that usually would not have been assigned and building good relationships to keep my boss looking good (I can really smooth some stuff over). I actually feel lucky having. Worked for her because I was prepared for my promotion.
Thanks New! KaPow!! Best wishes on your journey and thanks for sharing your story.
It’s almost like when you view your boss, peers, yourself, and all other peopl around you, as LEADERS, the idea of someone being “right or wrong” goes out the window. But this is hard when a bad boss is doing something very much in the wrong (hence they’re a bad boss!). Would love your thoughts dan!
Thanks Sally. Consequences for bad behavior are appropriate. Humble leaders hold people accountable. The trouble is, do we have the authority to bring consequences. Often we don’t. That’s where dealing wisely with a bad boss is essential.
Great Post Dan!!!!
Turning lemon into lemonade!!!!!!
Mostly I find opportunities to learn everywhere!!!!
I say mostly cause sometimes I am dreaming instead of paying attention!!
So many distractions!!! Pretty girls, how beautiful it is outside right now as I watch THE MASTERS, great TV like Curb Your Enthusiasm, great videos on Youtube, regretting the past, fearing the future, pretty girls!!!!
Just SO many distractions!!!
My Grandfather Senator Mckenzie was a Member at Augusta 50 years! I been 3 times and recommend every one go at least once!!! I been 3 times!! Wow that place is amazing in person!!
Mostly though I can learn from the folks two things and two things only!!!
What to and what not to do, that is not the question, but the opportunities to learn!!!
Yeppers like Mr Larry says, Pretty Pretty Good!!!
Oh my goodness!! What if Freddie wins THE MASTERS???
I enrolled in an online course and they said start a blog and I did and got my first comment!
How cool is dat???
Take care Dan!!
Party on Wayne!!
Ah if one’s character can survive a bad boss, it can survive almost anything. Thanks Dan!
Yep – if nothing else, bad bosses teach us what not to do.
A bitter experience & the sufferings under the regime of a bad boss teach you good lessons in a professional life. I have always felt that the struggling phase as experienced moulds you to become a better human being and you shall not repeat the things that can hurt the self-respect of subordinates and make them humiliated with an undesired treatment. It also compels you to prove your competence and strengths in a yet another progressive work environment.
My experience has made me realize two good things, one being ”I am at a wrong place” and the other being ”You can’t change the boss in a semi-professional work culture.”
The most practical approach is you continue to remain committed to your job role and keep your own professional image intact by practicing all good things that strengthens your own character. Also, try to improve things in the interest of an organization that you work for and concentrate in solving the issues rather.people.
I enjoyed this post. I would not say I worked for bad bosses, but I certainly made mental notes on what NOT to do when I became a boss. Their mistakes and shortcomings make me a good leader. The same applies for parenting, relationships, etc. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Dealing with a bad boss…No Way. When a bad boss says: My way or the highway”…Take the highway.
Liked a crisp solution! It’s much better to look for better pastures rather than go through a series of insulting moments which can lower your self-esteem.
Bad bosses teaches one resilence, compassion for them as they humiliates others and Not even knowing themselves that they have subjected their staffs to their insults, persistently one learn about humility. Nothing is more difficult than staying calm when facing a storm. Through years, my contact with patients shows what a sad figure bad bosses have turned out to be. After spending so much time and money to train staffs, who end up leaving the company. What a waste! Once told staffs of a company who was subjected to this kind of treatment. At the end of the day, informed them that a boss who intimidates their staff are actually doing a good deed to their competitors and staffs. In a way, they learn the ropes and how to manage as a future leader.That is a positive attitude as the staff gets a promotion and better perks in another company. Always turn a negative to a positive.Life is a constant process of learning whether from a good or bad leader. It’s really how one perceive it. No one can lower one’s self esteem . The only person who can control your mind is actually yourself. Its not personnel when bad leaders act silly.We cannot be responsible for others behaviour but our own. Never let anyone control your mind.
A fundamental resiliency skill is empathy or empathic listening, which I tend to think of as the capability to understand another’s point-of-view, emotions and feelings while not necessarily implying compassion, sympathy or empathic concern, as these can be present in the context of compassionate or cruel behavior – such as a bad boss.
Because empathy is a cornerstone to critical thinking – or purposeful and reflective judgment of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment and the confidence with which we accept or reject a statement – bad bosses allow us to practice empathic listening, subsequently improving our critical thinking skills along our journey.
BTW, boss IS a four-letter word!
Enjoy the blog.
Great Piece. I speak from my experience. I had this Boss who lived all these traits from day one I started working for him. Nothing will satisfy him. Fault finding, egoism, use of abusive language etc; was common. But I put up with all this for close to 7 years learning in the process humbleness, humility, valuable lessons on leadership etc; I must at the same time give credit for the fact that he was just brilliant but a poor man manager. But because I could imbibe quite a few things I put up with everything. Those years spent under him transformed me and helped me a lot since I was required to take charge of the entire function in my next assignment. Looking back I feel it was worth putting up and learning. The same boss keeps calling me to say ‘thank you’ for all the work done despite his tantrums
Liked your views/experience. I had a similar experience but stayed with the boss for 1 1/ years. While opting to leave I had mentioned to him saying that I am at a wrong place and in the wrong environment. The bitter experience of humiliation helped me in vouching that I shall always work with my team and colleagues with a good human touch and shall never give a bad treatment to anyone just because I am on the other side of a table occupying an authority position. The post experience has been quite rewarding and satisfactory. Yet, the fault-finding nature of that boss and loosing his temper just for nothing compelled me to look for better pastures outside.
I just started a series on my blog on this very subject “what I have learnt from bad bosses”…at the time it seemed like there was nothing good coming out of it, but in hindsight, I had my some of my greatest growth and development because I was forced to from bad Managers. Of course…I would still choose to work for inspiring and empowering leaders, but when I don’t, I can at least remind myself that I’m learning
I really appreciate your comments today. I have been really depressed about a recent reassignment with a boss that I have had before. As you may have summarized, he is not my favorite. But this post has helped me to have a more positive outlook. Thank you very much.
Sage advice. A lot of the time a bad boss ‘thinks’ they’re a great boss. “This is how you do it.” they are saying with their deed and word because it got them where they are. We have to remind ourselves who WE are in the midst of all that. 🙂
Hey Dan! Hard to pick which item I like best in this post! I love them all. Unfortunately the “bad boss craze” continues to run rampant across the world. This advice should help many people. Thanks again!
Many have the experience, few learn the lessons.