There is No Such Thing as a Bad Boss

If you’re scared of a ‘bad boss’ this Halloween, don’t be. Why? Because a tricky boss could be the key to propelling your career forward.

It’s that spooky time of the year! And nothing scares people quite like a bad boss (any of these sound familiar?)

But here’s a controversial thought: there’s NO such thing as a bad boss. There are only bosses you learn from.

Now this obviously excludes a boss who is bullying or abusive; there’s no excuse for that.

I’m talking about the tough boss. The harsh boss. You know, the one always making you mop up the mess they leave behind.

You might be surprised to learn a bad boss isn’t necessarily bad. Frustrating? Maybe. Difficult to work with? Definitely. 

But a tricky boss could be the key to propelling your career forward.

Uh huh, sure.

I know that sounds crazy. And I’ve definitely had my fair share of ‘bad’ bosses. In fact, 75% of people say their immediate boss is the most stressful aspect of their job. But I was so caught up complaining about them, I didn’t recognise at the time that they were giving me a gift. 

And that gift of experience has served me well throughout my career.

But I don’t want that gift.

I won’t lie to you; the lessons may not seem like welcome gifts in the moment.

And I’ve seen it all – from the recent graduate in tears after receiving constructive feedback, to an executive who slammed his fist and stormed out when someone didn’t agree with his proposal.

But I promise these “gifts” will help you navigate all kinds of workplace environments going forward and help you become a better boss (if that’s the path you want to choose).

So you can spend days complaining to your friends, family, cat and yourself in the mirror about how terrible your boss is. Or you can recognise this time in your life for what it is – a valuable learning opportunity!

Don’t waste a bad boss!

Here’s some things your boss may do that are perfect learning opportunities:

Making you run the team meetings

You think:  My boss is lazy and wants me to do all the hard work.

Maybe: Your boss is trying to push you forward and help you build your leadership skills, while positioning you as a leader to other members of the team.

Making you write up weekly reports

You think: My boss is wasting my time, especially when I could be getting on and actually delivering something important.

Maybe:  Your boss is making sure you go through your “to-dos” and prioritise your projects while getting organised for the following week. Your boss may also use it as evidence to put you forward for opportunities. 

Settling everyone down after a blow-up

You think: I always have to clean up the mess after my boss provides the team with a performance review.

Maybe: Your boss doesn’t have much tact! But you are learning how certain leadership styles make others feel. An important learning for when you become the boss.

Making you attend important meetings in their place

You think: My boss is so lazy. Why don’t they take accountability instead of always delegating to me?

Maybe: Your boss is giving you time in the spotlight with senior management so they can see you’re due for a promotion.

Giving you no notice at all on an important project that’s due

You think: My boss is such a bad planner. And they’re setting me up for failure.

Maybe: Your boss is a bad planner. Or maybe they’re testing you to see how you respond under pressure so they can give you more responsibility.

Putting you forward for project they know you don’t want to work on

You think: My boss doesn’t like me. That’s why they’re punishing me. They’re forcing me out.

Maybe: Your boss is testing your resilience and loyalty. Or they recognise that this is exactly the type of experience you need to push yourself to the next level. 

Not knowing the detail of the projects your team is working on

You think: My boss doesn’t have a clue. They don’t care about me or my work. 

Maybe: Your boss actually is incompetent. Or maybe they trust you and your peers to get on with the details, freeing them up for other important work.

Micromanaging your every move

You think:  My boss treats me like a child. They don’t trust me.

Maybe: They don’t trust you. Or maybe they are just working with you closely to make sure you get up to speed faster, then they’ll back off. 

Like I said, none of these are very pleasant experiences.

But so many people just resign when they think they have a “bad boss”. They don’t seem to think their boss may actually be trying to coach them, or develop them.  

That’s really sad – especially when everyone says they want a mentor but often don’t recognise they already have one! Right there, teaching them everything they need to know.

If you’re desperately unhappy or feel unsafe, by all means get a new job! You don’t have to suffer for the sake of it.

But if you think your job could be a good opportunity for growth, hang in there. You may find that with a bit of patience, even a truly “bad boss” can influence your career for good.

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