How To Cope With a Bad Boss

  • By Shawn Sommerkamp
  • 15 Jul, 2017

There are so many articles in the business universe about how to manage a bad boss. Just type those words into your favorite internet search engine, and see what you get. You will find articles from The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Harvard Business Review, Inc., Fortune, Fast Company and dozens more. The opinions about what to do and how to do it vary as much as the publications delivering the ideas. Equally, there are no shortages of books and other material written on this sensitive topic. It has even become a popular theme for movies.    

We Have the Ultimate Resource

We are so very fortunate, as followers of Christ, to have access to a reference the world never uses. Of course, that reference would be God’s Holy Word! In it we find that coping with a bad boss is the storyline of many Biblical heroes. Consider Daniel and his employment under King Nebuchadnezzar (the early stages), or how about Joseph working for Potiphar, or even young David under King Saul. These three accounts alone teach us the importance of surrendering to God when in these circumstances.

Secular articles, however, direct us to ‘manage upward’, somehow taking control of the situation and turning it to our benefit. Much time is wasted highlighting the poor character of the boss to justify our actions for subtly taking the helm. Again, mentioning the defects in our superiors is only a huge waste of time.


Focusing on the negative doesn't help

Their shortcomings do not matter. Focusing on negative thoughts about anyone only creates inner turmoil and reduces the motivation to be our best. We become victims instead of victors. It is also not how God handles such cases, whether the boss has ill intent or just accidental incompetence.

We are called to love,persevere, surrender, show humility, offer grace and respond with holiness in situations where we have been wronged. Doing so allows room for misunderstandings to be overlooked, pride to be subdued and unity to be attained.

Yes, sometimes the workplace deed is so egregious, so threatening, that we must respond to protect or defend ourselves. We see Paul doing this in Acts 22 when speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem. They got angry, so the Roman guards took him into custody and were about to flog him. Paul then yelled out that he was a Roman citizen, proclaiming the scourging as unlawful. Instead of saying, “God must want me to learn something from this beating,” Paul decided to act and actually prevented the abuse.  

We will likely never experience such violent attempts on our own safety at work, and yet we might feel like we have been publicly flogged at times, maybe often.  

So, how do we respond when we are disrepected?

This is the right question. It centers on our own actions and looks to God for direction. His word gloriously and abundantly guides us. Here is a short collection of golden scriptures to consider when confronted with a “bad boss.”

Romans 12:18  "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men."  

Philippians 2:3-4  "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."  

Proverbs 15:1  "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  

1 Peter 2:18-21  "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."  

Proverbs 16:7  "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."  

Matthew 5:43-44  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  ' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

Proverbs 12:16  "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult."  

Ephesians 6:5-8  "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free."  

Luke 6:32-36  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

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Give thanks, no matter what is happening in your life.  This is easy…right? 

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