Why A Bad Boss Can Be Good For You

The old adage that “people don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers” rings true to 55% of people surveyed in a recent poll by Yahoo! HotJobs. That means that over half of us are dealing with poor performances by our managers on a daily basis. I don’t argue with the fact that a boss can make or break a job, no matter how high-paying or engaging the work is, but I also know that working for a less than stellar performer can afford unexpected opportunities that prove valuable in the long run.

Here are some examples of bad bosses and how you can turn working for one to your advantage:

The Incompetent Boss

The incompetent boss is one who, for the most part, has absolutely no idea what to do. They contribute nothing. They do nothing. But manage to skate along on the backs of a constant stream of quality workers.

How this works to your advantage:

The incompetent boss survives on the work of others. This means that as an employee, you are often given decision-making powers and responsibility beyond your station to fill-in the gaps your boss is creating. You’ll probably get a chance to attend upper-level meetings, have a large role in projects and gain valuable management, and administrative experience without having to directly manage a team.

The Over-Demanding Boss

The over-demanding boss comes in early, stays late, and expects his/her employees to do the same. They command the latest data reports and they wanted it yesterday. The over-demanding boss boasts high profits but is plagued by high employee turnover.

How this works to your advantage:

Unless you’re an extreme Type-A personality who thrives in a 24/7 work environment, working for an over-demanding boss usually leads to burnout. However, in the interim, you will learn to function at the top of your game, putting you well ahead of the competition when searching for a new job.

The Jerk Boss

Probably one of the most unpleasant bosses to work for, the jerk boss shows no respect or empathy toward others. He/she prefers to motivate by fear using verbal abuse and shame which in turn makes employees scared enough of retribution to perform.

How this works to your advantage:

Sadly in most companies, if a boss delivers good results, they are often left in their positions in spite of poor social skills. I recommend looking for new work if you are saddled with such a boss, but in the interim the strategies you devise to deal with the day-to-day abuse will help you develop a thick skin and make any future boss seem less awful in comparison.

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15 responses »

  1. Once I had a lady boss. She is MBA boss.(Manage By Anger). She wants everything should be under her control.She edits any letters or outgoing memo.It was the most unpleasant working atmosphere I have ever had in my life. I resigned less than six months.

  2. This is good. I too had a jerk boss who would stand with his face about an inch in front of mine and scream at me for no apparent reason until my eyebrows were dripping with saliva. Basically he couldn’t handle the stress of his position and finally had a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t have been happier for him.

    Just a note though… don’t confuse the incompetent manager with the one who actually knows what he’s doing and manages his team through delagating authority to the people he feels are best qualified for a given task. It may seem as if he’s making you do his job for him (or indeed her)however this one is actually working in your best interests and helping you develope your skills.

    Thanks for the post.


  3. I am happy to see that someone is finally putting a positive spin on a terrible situation.

    Every single one of my bosses, except for the ones I have now, were terrible.

    For someone right out of school, this can be devastating. Worse, I had all ready picked the wrong field. Due to the constant criticism, this pushed a sad person to the edge. I reached the point where I did not care any more. I just came in whenever I wanted and did no real work. I was convinced I was unable to function in the real world. I was depressed and tried to drop out of society altogether. I hated myself and the others around me. I was prone to fits of rage and verbal outbursts.

    Ten years later, I have put myself together. I realized that I should have quit right away. There’s no reason to spend a second longer under such a shitty boss. Instead, I hung on. I suffered underneath more bad bosses thinking that I was the problem not them.

    Only when I got a good boss, I realize that I am a bright, friendly, and talented person who has a lot to offer the office world. I love where I work and enjoy being around my co-workers.

    I know I was the except, but this just goes to show what a bad boss can do to people. I made it a thing to try to take other people who had bad bosses and to tell them that it is not their fault. They should not hate themselves just because their boss is a jerk.

    So I guess the bad bosses helped make the world a rosier place because they have created a person who is out to make their job of making their employees feel like shit a lot harder. Thanks to all the shitty bosses out there. I love you.

  4. Great post – From what I’ve seen, people take notice if you are doing great work, despite any difficult situations with a boss. But it is also important to know when things have gone too far – if you need to talk to someone and don’t know where to turn, you can always speak to HR in confidence.

  5. Pingback: How to Stand Up For Yourself in the Workplace : Brazen Careerist

  6. Nice article – thanks. I, too, have suffered under some incredibly bad bosses, but have been luck enough to work for some good ones, too. Those positive experiences convinced me that personality is a key factor. A good boss has a personality conducive to the position, and lifts up everyone around them. A bad boss can destroy people, but is really hurting themself and the organization as well.
    A good sense of humor is always a survival factor. I have recovered from the bad times in part through writing bad management advice (humorous) at http://www.ineffectivemanagement.wordpress.com, and articles on aspects of good business and management at http://www.oneffectivemanagement.wordpress.com. I hope you enjoy them. I will return to see what else you have written, and thanks for sharing.
    – Tim Prosser

  7. Cannot agree more with Leroy, when your self-esteem is wearing thin (you’re feeling bad, useless, don’t want to wake up on time to join the team, feeling angry and aggressive all the time), it is about time to leave. Too bad that it’s only some years later you realize you shold have left that boss that precise moment.

  8. I had The Jerk Boss who was disrespectful, and made a habit of humiliating and belittling employees in front of their coworkers. He was a verbally abusive bully. He tried theses tactics on me one time.

    After being scolded like a child in front of my coworkers, shouted at and accused of doing something I hadn’t done, I sent him an email explaining that I needed my job, but not at the expense of my dignity and self-respect. I went on to say that I was perfectly happy to receive constructive criticism, but would not tolerate the abusive treatment I had received earlier that day.

    He later took me aside and apologized for his behavior, admitted that it was a problem, and never treated me that way again.

    Now, this worked out well for me, but it could have gone either way. I wouldn’t recommend using this as bluff. I was dead serious and prepared to clear out my desk that very day.

  9. I’ve had two good bosses. One was a tyrant but I learned so much from him that I overlooked his bad qualities. My current boss is excrutiatingly unqualified. We all cringe when he comes near. Learning to manage our emotions is a challenge, especially for the younger associates. We all just lean on each other and avoid him at all costs.

  10. This is really good. I’m currently working for “The Incompetent Boss” but I’ve had my share of “The Jerk Boss”. The great thing about the present is that I can literally do anything I want during the day. As long as I get my work down (which isn’t very mind stimulating or challenging at all) I can afford to spend the rest of the day reading or studying or doing other things. What compounds all of this is that my boss lives in another country and I only ever hear from him once a week or so…..and that’s by email.

    The Jerk Boss I used to work for, well, that was a nightmare. He used to take every opportunity he could to be-little his staff, to give you a visual, he was the stereotypical nerd in university that was probably picked on, now he’s earning a lot of money and he’s taking out his revenge to compensate for his own inferiority.


  11. One thing that every employee with a bad boss should do before acting is to research what their jurisdiction deems to be acceptable behavior. I have found that when a boss is clearly advised they are in contravention of the statutes the nature and tone of interactions improves dramatically. As for the earlier poster who recommended going to HR…. “Human Resources” is there to protect the company from the employee’s not to help the employee’s. If anyone is in any doubt ask someone who works in HR and can speak frankly what happens when an acceptably productive employee complains about an established boss.

  12. Pingback: Why You Should Work For a Bad Boss | Sterling Performance | BNET

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