A Challenging Boss Can Be Good for You
“How was your first week in the new job?” I was eager to hear how his week went.
“Pretty good. I actually did more than I thought I’d do,” he said. I heard a sense of pride and satisfaction in his voice.
“Tell me. What did you expect and what happened?”
“I expected to observe during my first week, and then slowly work up to interacting with clients. But, my mentor insisted I jump in. I didn’t think I was ready, but I did it. I actually enjoyed the challenge after I got over being nervous,” he explained.
“Good for you. I’m glad you took the plunge and it worked out so well. You always step up to challenges,” I said. I was glad the week had gone well for him. A feeling of relief often accompanies doing well.
“My mentor,” he hesitated, “is pretty tough. He’s a really hard worker. He’s serious about the business. He starts early and stays late. Since he’s training me, I had to change my schedule to coincide with his. He wants me to do everything the job involves.”
“Great! It’s helpful to have a coach, mentor or boss who’ll push you to be your best.”
Funny. This conversation took me back in time as many professional firsts flashed through my mind. Then, suddenly, there they were, the two most difficult managers I ever worked for. At the time of our relationship, they seemed impossible to please. Unreasonable. Inhumane. I thought they didn’t respect or trust me. At the time, I was certain they were determined to make my life miserable. They pushed me hard.
Of course, back then I hated it. No! Let me be clear: I loved my job, but I did NOT love either of them. Sad to say, I hated them. Each morning as I drove to work, I would find myself fantasizing about their absence from my life. My fantasies varied. Sometimes, I imagined getting a new job even though I loved my job and enjoyed my colleagues. I didn’t really want to leave.
Most often, my fantasies were about him leaving – for a better situation, a worse situation, accidental injury, I didn’t care. I just wanted relief. Of course, there were days when the Southern Baptist part of me lead to a “selfless” prayer: “Dear Lord, please help [insert the manager’s name] get a new job and move on.” When you’re in pain, you have to call out the big guns. Right!?! I mean, God couldn’t have wanted me to be miserable, and boy was I miserable.
For a long time, whenever I heard either of their names, I cringed and felt angry and wronged. Then, one day a former colleague mentioned both their names and I noticed something miraculous: I felt no negative emotional charge. My angry, resentful and hateful feelings were gone. Instead, I was able to talk about what these two challenging bosses taught me.
It took a long while, but I got there. I moved to a good place – a place where I was free of toxic negativity and I was able to openly acknowledge the contribution these two very challenging men made to my development.
Each manager, in his own way, helped me become a more competent professional; one who completes her work with care and a mind for excellence. And each of them helped me see how important it is to understand what your boss wants and needs from you. And, as long as it’s legal and moral, how much better it makes your life if you give it to her/him. Why? Because helping your boss feel comfortable with your competence increases her confidence and trust in you. With high confidence and trust as the foundation for your relationship, good things happen. People promote and support those they trust and believe in.
Briefly, these are some of the lessons I learned from two very challenging bosses – two people I once wished would disappear. It’s my good fortune they didn’t.
Do you have a challenging boss? Or, maybe your challenge is with a colleague or a client, a spouse or child, a parent or sibling. Whoever it is, whatever the relationship, that person is in your life for a very good reason. What are you to learn from this teacher? Though not initially recognized as such, rest assured, your teachers always come bearing valuable gifts that will serve you well.