Most have had one or two. Perhaps you have one now. Maybe, heaven forbid, you’ve even been one: a bad boss.

Learning to look at challenges as opportunity has stretched me to the breaking point.

God, show me what you want me to learn was my plea.

Seeing the experience of having a bad boss as chance to learn was an extreme challenge. However, sometimes greater challenge can equate to bigger lessons. A recent manager caused me to feel like I was enrolled in a master’s level course.

The workplace is fertile ground for higher-level learning.

Proverbs 17:33 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”

Even having the worst boss can become a learning experience. At the minimum, the lesson can be how not to treat others.

The first person I would lump into my list of bosses that have been the most challenging was someone who gave no feedback. My perception was that she didn’t like me, and that I was doing a poor job. There was a large learning curve in my new job. I was petrified of my first review. The bottom line message from it was this — since my manager had not had to talk to me I should have known I was doing a good job. I didn’t know! What a relief it was to know she thought I was doing a good job. It was a pity she couldn’t have mentioned it to me earlier, saving me from so much worry. I learned a management technique I would not use in the future. I stored the information.

In another trying situation I felt like a boss did not speak to me respectfully. Now, I knew it was wrong to treat people that way, but after the experience I knew with certainty that I wouldn’t treat people in the same manner. Again a learning experience.

My recent realization was that I am only one bad boss away from being being off-kilter again. It only takes one inadequate manager to upset equilibrium – for an individual or team.

I had two bosses in a row that supported work-life balance. Great people. Great leaders. Counter to current cultural believes that drive people to work nearly 24/7 (no, I’m not a physician, nor are my colleagues), both demonstrated that it is possible to get good work done in a balanced fashion.

Enter in a new manager – young, eager, and perhaps a bit insecure – to the same environment, and everything went topsy-turvy. I was doing the same work, at the same company, at the same desk, yet I plummeted from being extremely satisfied with my work to overwhelmed and stressed. The only thing that changed was my manager.

Have you ever been there? We have choices in these situations. The temptation to flee can be fierce (and it might be the right answer in some situations), yet I felt God call me to stay.

I discovered that I’ve been the same kind of bad boss, and I’ve put the same kind of pressure, inadvertently and wrongly, on others.

We all have different styles—both working and learning. God created us this way. My Human Resources world is full of a myriad of tests and assessments to help learn this valuable information. Assessments recommend ways for us to recognize our differences and leverage them as strengths.

This manager would not recognize our differences and worked hard to make me fit into her mold – insisting I do things in ways that were natural and logical to her. While I would have a different approach to reach an agreed upon end- goal, my roadmap to get there was always disputed and corrected by her.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1-3

I believed God had put me under that authority, and therefore I reasoned that I was reporting to this person for a reason.

The painful experience helped me to have greater sensitivity to others and their learning/working styles.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2

It was my heart God was trying to change through the difficult boss situation.

My experiences have shown that the best bosses allow me to be myself and guide me to align with the vision, while creating a space to work. I want to strive to be a good leader so that my leadership can be a testimony of the One I know. I pray God will allow me to take the lessons I’ve learned and apply them appropriately.

Shari Harris

Author Shari Harris

Shari is a Marketplace Chaplain. Her passion in being a follower of Jesus in the workplace and encouraging others is shared through writing, speaking, and sharing personal stories in her book, Walking in Faith: Stories of Hope and Encouragement for the Workplace (Westbow Press). She lives in Blaine and enjoys riding motorcycles with her husband and sharing life with their son. www.sharijharris.com

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