Most of us have suffered from at least one awful boss. Someone whose insecurity is manifested in arrogance, indecision, and manipulation. The kind of manager who won’t respect your boundaries, can’t handle feedback, and constantly makes you wonder, “How the hell is this person in charge?”
These situations turn serious when they tempt you to leave an otherwise good job just to get away from the toxic leader. While leaving is sometimes the right choice, it shouldn’t be done hastily because the detour might slow the progression of your career.
So in this post, we’re going explore how to be happy, or at least peaceful, while you’re working for a boss who oozes negative energy. This will empower you to rise above the drama so you can excel at your job—even if it’s just until you find a better job.
The first step to finding peace in this choppy chapter of your career is to see it for what it is—a tremendous opportunity for growth. Working with a bad boss will give you massive advantages later in life if you learn from this experience.
Here are six surprising gifts your terrible boss is giving you every day.
1. Your boss is helping you clarify your values.
A crucial step in personal growth is getting clear on what you stand for—and what you stand against. This clarity empowers you make confident decisions that align with what you believe.
One of the most effective ways to discover your values is to spend time with someone who does not share them. Like a foil in literature, horrible bosses help you get to know yourself by showing you who you’re not. Every time your boss does something that makes your stomach churn, you’re learning more about what you stand against.
2. Your boss is teaching you what to look for in a future job.
Some of the most miserable people I know earn massive paychecks—because money is only a small part of what makes a job fulfilling. More important are the work itself and the people you work with.
Horrible bosses are a constant reminder that no amount of money makes up for a bad work environment. After this experience, you’ll evaluate future opportunities more wholistically, avoiding bad fits.
3. Your boss is motivating you to chase your own goals.
Everyone has goals, but most people will never reach them. Not because they don’t have the chance—they just lack the focus and motivation to make daily progress.
Bad bosses are the antidote for a lack of motivation. They make your life painful enough to demand focused change, inspiring you to work hard for the side business, promotion, or better job you dream about.
4. Your boss is helping you develop the empathy you’ll need to be a good leader.
One of the most common flaws among leaders is failing to understand how their actions affect other people. And the leaders who who are most lacking in empathy are often the ones who never spent time working in the trenches—what you’re doing right now.
Experiencing the effects of poor leadership is preparing you for the years when you’ll be the one calling the shots. You’re learning the importance of leading with empathy—and you aren’t likely to forget it anytime soon.
5. Your boss is strengthening your confidence by proving imperfect people can succeed.
As Seth Godin writes, “Fear of success is at least as big a challenge as fear of failure. Because if it works, things are going to change.”
We all wonder if we really have what it takes to thrive at the next level. But working for horrible bosses puts that fear in perspective. If they can do it, so can you, right?
This isn’t to say you should mimic their poor leadership, or use it as an excuse to slack off in your future role, but it gives you room to try, make mistakes, learn, and get better—a powerful recipe for growth and success.
6. Your boss is catalyzing valuable friendships.
Nothing brings people together like a common problem. And even the most ineffective leaders can accidentally inspire camaraderie in teams, simply by being a source of chaos.
Even if you don’t see a future in your current job, invest in your relationships with co-workers, and treat work as an opportunity to build your network. I’m routinely amazed at how often these friendships pay dividends later.
Don’t waste this valuable season of your life.
If you examine the success quotes of famous business leaders and entrepreneurs, you’ll notice many of them reference lessons they learned from challenging seasons like the one you’re in now.
Every job—and every boss—has pros and cons. If you dread going into work each morning, remember that your current situation is just a stepping stone to something better.
If you receive the gifts your bad boss unknowingly gives, you won’t be wasting your time.
Kyle Young is the author of QuitterProof. He blogs to help creative people make daily progress toward their goals.