The Silver Lining of a Tough Boss: How to Turn Adversity into Success

17th April 2021

A few of days back, I was speaking with a mentee about dealing with difficult bosses and difficult colleagues. The conversation was regressing into self-pity, the world is unfair mode, and I did not want to get pulled into anything negative.

So, I challenged my mentee, “Instead of feeling negative and defensive, is there something positive you can see for yourself in your current state?”

“How can there be anything positive when I am grappling with a difficult boss who is after my case? I can’t go on like this,” My mentee retorted.

” I know what you are going through emotionally. After all, I have also had my share of difficult bosses. That said, can you deny that your difficult boss has propelled you to a higher level of functioning” I asked my friend.

He nodded his head in the affirmative, saying, ” Yes, I have become hypervigilant, no doubt, but I am operating at my most efficient.”

From experience, I have realized that difficult bosses and difficult colleagues are growth accelerators because,

1. They teach you how not to be. When it’s your turn to be a boss, you know how to operate because you have learned how not to operate.

2. They keep you alert and extra diligent. You learn to cope better with stress and challenges.

3. Raise the stakes for you and give you something to fight for. 

4. Motivate you to prove them wrong.

5. They toughen you. 

6. They help you recognize and appreciate your true friends.

The extent of the struggle determines the extent of our growth. My biggest growth happened when I was dealing with the most challenging bosses and colleagues.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have realized that difficult people at work( or personally) paradoxically help us grow.

When you reframe your situation this way, Instead of difficulty and despair, you will begin to see opportunity in the negative behaviors of others.

• When someone is rude and disrespectful, it means that that person underestimates you. This is a great place to be in. If you know you are capable, you can let your results speak for you.

• When someone is overly critical or questions your abilities, it can be a blessing in disguise. Lower expectations are always easier to exceed. 

• When someone is lazy and tries to get you to do all the work, it’s to your advantage. Whatever you accomplish and deliver will come out as being more valuable. 

• When someone is political and conniving towards you, it may not be bad. You don’t owe them anything, and you can defend yourself in whatever way appropriate without feeling like you are doing anything wrong.

Behind all negative behaviors that challenge us, there is always some opportunity for growth and personal development.

There is a funny anecdote about Socrates. He had a mean, nagging wife, and his view to people was that being married to her was good practice for Philosophy!!

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