Living With A Bad Boss Is Fine As Long As You’re Willing To Make It Temporary


Not everyone is cut out to be employed by someone else. Some people have an entrepreneurial spirit that cannot be held back. What you often hear from people who are employed by someone else is that they hate their boss.

Corporate experiences can quickly change into unhealthy situations where your knowledge is pretty much worthless unless it fits within some very hard-to-determine agenda.  To keep your job may require that you give up a piece of your personal integrity – something that is unfortunately very common among many employees who are forced to become blind followers of horrible bosses.

Oftentimes people are forced to say, “oh, it’s just a bad boss.  Not an uncommon situation. It will pass. In the meantime, just suck it up and do whatever the boss asks, even if it‘s unnecessarily time- consuming and totally disorganized and senseless. Be humble and quiet, because revealing or complaining about the boss’s ineptness and general disrespect will only get you in trouble and ultimately fired.”

Too Many People in the Same Situation

There are lots of articles about bad bosses. I took an informal survey among about 25 friends and acquaintances, asking them whether or not they liked their jobs and the people they worked under. The vast majority – I’d say 90 percent – said they hated their jobs, had no respect for their bosses and were working strictly for a paycheck.  Plus, a good deal of the literature about employee/employer working relationships supports this informal finding. 

What Really Motivates Us

Dan Pink is the author of “Drive,” and another book that I enjoyed reading some time back, titled “A Whole New Mind.”  In producing “Drive,” Pink researched the topic of human motivation and discovered that high work performance and satisfaction depends on three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In other words, if you want to have happy and motivated employees, you have to let them direct their own work lives, give them the wherewithal to learn new things, and have them serve a greater purpose other than their selves.  He shows one example after another that proves this point quite convincingly, including a Cornell University study of 320 small businesses – half that practiced giving their employees more autonomy and the other half under the typical top-down management style. Guess what? The ones that practiced autonomy grew at four times the rate of the top-downers and had far less employee turnover. 

I have read a good number of books that strongly support this notion of autonomy, mastery, and purpose as key elements that make people happier because of the intrinsic rewards they can bring into their lives as opposed to material rewards.  Incidentally, Pink further notes that studies show that people become more motivated to produce positive outcomes if given these three elements over a raise or promotion.  So, companies can not only become more productive but also save money in the process if they practice this work philosophy.

Obstacles on the Educational Pathway

Another book worth noting is “A Life at Work” by another one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Thomas Moore.  This is an uplifting book that was written for people who are seekers, always on the lookout for how to make their lives more autonomous, masterful and purposeful, in line with their true ambitions and spiritual selves. It’s a short 180 pages, and I read it whenever I need a lift because it is a simple affirmation of what life is really all about.  You can, indeed, become the person you were meant to be, and there will always be obstacles along that pathway that you need to experience in order to discover your purpose.  That’s how I now look at a corporate experience I had several years ago – it was merely a learning-based obstacle along the educational pathway of what I really wanted to do with my life and work.

Moore explains how many people are working in jobs that he refers to as small in scope and so insignificant that they do not allow them to engage in their higher ideals.  He says that staying in such a job freezes your spirit; you become stagnant, and you wind up retrogressing and unengaged in the visionary aspects of living. “The spirit can be shackled and crushed by the weight of forces that give you money to live on but no opportunity to make progress with your ambitions and ideals. This crushing of the spirit is another form of depression related to work, and it is commonplace.”  Moore adds that “to mature as a person you have to take considerable time sorting through, taking to heart, and resolving the mistakes and failures that have marked your progress.”

More Inspiration

I would like to conclude by mentioning another book that I read repeatedly for inspiration and affirmation that fits within the spirit of this article:  “Living in the Moment: A Prescription for the Soul,” by Gary Null. Here the key takeaway message that I’d like to repeat is that it is unhealthy to wrap one’s self inside issues that cannot be accomplished.  As Null explains:

Like a chain reaction, the stress of dwelling on debts and problems multiplies, increasing the responsibilities you feel compelled to control. So only look at what you can accomplish. By keeping your mind positive and reflecting upon what you can do at this moment, you will find greater ease in pursuing a task. This is how you achieve self-mastery.

So, if you are in an unhealthy job, take some solace in knowing that it is only temporary and that eventually you will figure out how to create the changes you need by simply living fully in the moment.

Daniel H. Pink (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
Thomas Moore (2008). A life at work: The joy of discovering what you were born to do. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Gary Null (2008). Living in the moment: A prescription for the soul. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.