How to cope with a bad boss…

I know this sounds like a feel good, “live your best life now” kind of post. I can hear the criticism already, “This is another Christian giving extra-biblical advice to make people feel good.”  On the contrary – in fact this post is in response to the misconceptions of the Bible and poor use of context when it comes to giving advice on coping with problems in the workplace.  In fact, I believe that people have a way too narrow view of scripture and this has lead to some really bad advice.

Most commonly, the advice given about dealing with a numb skull leader at work is to be in submission to their authority.  These  people usually quote two proof texts to provide “teeth” for their argument.  These texts are Hebrews 13:17 and Romans 13:1-7.  I think it might be helpful to take a look at these passages and see if they give us guidance with dealing with a bad boss.

Hebrews 13:17 states:

(17) “Obey your leaders and submit to the, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. “

Most certainly this verse is teaching submission, but the context of the passage does not allow us to extrapolate submission to anyone who is in a leadership role over us.  The passage is speaking specifically of spiritual leaders who are “keeping watch over your souls”.  Additionally, if we move up the page a bit we see that the author of Hebrews defines this even clearer when he states in verse 7:

“Remember your leaders who spoke to you the word of God”

That best we can say about Hebrews in context to a bad boss is, if you work for a spiritual leader, you should submit.  If you work for MacDonald’s, or IrreliTek, or anyone else for that matter, the issue is not being resolved by these versus.

Like Hebrews, Romans 13:1-7 is another proof text for submission.  This verse is a little more “muddy” than the last because it is speaking of those who govern.  Romans states:

(1)  Every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God”

There it is, clear as day!  Your boss governs over you and thus you should submit because God put them in power over you. Is this verse really telling us to be in submission to our bosses?  Certainly not, the passage is speaking directly of your government.  Paul clears the context up when he provides examples of submissive activities later on down the page.  He writes in verse 6:

(6) “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

This verse too gives us little help in deciding how we are to deal with the tyrant of a boss we might have (or likely will have at some point in our lives).  So how are we to handle issues in the workplace?

Unfortunately, the answer is simple, but buying my answer requires that the reader understand a very important principle that has unfortunately nearly completely disappeared from the Christian thinking.   For many (if not most) Christians they have created an imaginary line between their Christian lives and their work lives.  How often I have heard “it’s just business” escape the lips of a Christian brother.   It is important that we understand that we do not cease to be a Christian when we go to work.  We are not atheists on the job and Christians when we clock out.  We are always Christians and as such the love of Christ and our heightened conscience given to us by the Holy Spirit should guide our path when dealing with ugly issues.    In some cases submission is what’s best, no doubt about it.  In other cases, it’s not.  We all believe this to some level.  No one thinks it right to submit to your authority at work if he or she is stealing money or creating an unsafe work environment.  Certainly submission is not always appropriate.  Think about it this way, if we just lived the principles spelled out in the Bible, a great majority of problems in the workplace would go away.  Pride, arrogance, gossip, and boasting are all forbidden biblically, yet how many times do these lead to a poor work environments?  Many times from the actions of Christians.

So my advice is quite simple. There is no verse in the bible that tells you how to act at the workplace or how to deal with conflict with a crappy boss.  The entire bible deals with it!  The bible is simply a story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration and though we are redeemed as Christians we still live in a fallen world. We should not expect that those in rebellion to the creator are going to live up Christ’s standard.  Remember you don’t cease to be a Christian when you go to work and the rebellious don’t cease to be rebellious when they clock in either. We will always have conflict until the world is restored back to its intended goodness, and until then we are called to strive to be more like Christ.  Therefore the best we can ever do is to preach the gospel to ourselves daily and live in obedience and submission to Christ.  Let Him be responsible for the jerk you call a boss.

Oh yeah on last point, you can always quit!

  1. It’s inevitable that either you or someone you know will work for a bad boss sometime during your professional career. Bad bosses can come in a variety of forms and can cause untold damage to a firm’s productivity (and in some cases, people’s health).

    Working for a bad boss has a large effect on your work experience and your performance. Whether you’re the one in this relationship, or know someone affected by a bad boss, we have a few tips (See: for how to cope and make the most of the situation..

    Matt Martell
    CEB Views

  2. “How to cope with a bad boss School of
    Fish” ended up being really compelling and
    enlightening! In modern society honestly, that is very hard to execute.
    Thx, Andrea

  1. May 17th, 2011

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