Is it Good to Work for a Bad Boss?

By | July 20, 2021

[July 20, 2021]  Teddy Roosevelt once said that, “With self-discipline most anything is possible.”  Based on experience and study, I believe that the proper development of our own life and discipline requires us to work for a bad boss.  Good people need a bad boss to teach us how not to act.

A bad boss shows us the impact of their efforts; disrespect, a toxic environment, communication failures, narcissism, poor communication skills, etc.  By their own failures, they provide us with explicit examples we should avoid and, as well, provide us with the motivation to improve.  Seeing how a bad boss operates encourages us to work harder, be more focused, and know what life’s priorities really are.

Only those willing and driven to study and are firmly committed to learning more about life will benefit from a bad boss.  Most people will simply suffer and learn nothing.  It’s easy to do so.  Pay close consideration to them because a bad boss will teach us durable lessons that only those paying attention never forget.

We all can empathize with those who work for a bad boss.  My first experience was in my very first military assignment.  The company commander – a Captain – was a good person, but he regularly made poor decisions that caused all of us extra work, embarrassment, loss of sleep, and frustration.  One time in a field exercise, our Commander ordered us to return to our barracks (avoiding the exercise).  It was just too hot outside, he claimed.  His decision was the wrong decision, and put us on the “bad boy” list of the battalion commander.  His mistake was one I would never make as a Commander.

I also learned from mediocre bosses who showed me what worked for them and what didn’t work and why.  They were open about their failures, and we would discuss them without recrimination.  Those mediocre leaders gave me a little guidance (not always good but gave me some anyway), were tolerant of my mistakes and gave me the resources and flexibility to do my job with minimal interference.

Like any person who personally strives for excellence, I took those lessons and adopted them, never forgetting that my buddies and I learned them the hard way through our suffering.  What I found out was not how to avoid a mistake or wrong decision but what you did afterward to correct it and learn from it that matters most.  Learning what not to do from a bad boss is often the best way.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

11 thoughts on “Is it Good to Work for a Bad Boss?

  1. Joe the Aussie

    Great article, Gen. Satterfield. This one is one of your best. Cheers!

    1. Jonathan B.

      Hi Joe the Aussie, we haven’t heard from you in a long time. Great to see you on Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog again.

  2. Linux Man

    Yes, be responsible, tell the truth, do what is right. Show up to work on time and be ready to work. Do as you are told (unless it is illegal, immoral, or unethical) and treat others with respect … that will get you just about anywhere.

  3. Mr. T.J. Asper

    THere is a lesson here that Gen. Satterfield is telling us and that is that we must be responsible for ourselves and for those who work with us. Be honest, be open, don’t complain, be part of the solution. That way you will be satisfied with your life and you will be respected by all.

    1. McStompie

      Mr. TJ, I hope you are still teaching this to your High School students. We need folks like you to continue to pave the way toward a fair future for us all and reject the Critical Race Theory (which is racist and teaches hate) that so many schools are adopting.

      1. Mr. T.J. Asper

        Thank you Mc for your support. It is not easy being a teacher these days with all the red tape and a teacher’s union that support radical racist theories.

        1. Lynn Pitts

          You guys get a big thumbs up from me as well. Too many of us (those who don’t have kids in school anymore) still rely upon folks like TJ to educate our grandkids and our neighbors’ kids so they are not robbing us at night.

  4. Doug Smith

    Seems like all my bosses were bad. I’m not necessarily a better person for it but my life sure has been tough.

    1. Fred Weber

      I think that most of us would agree there is some value here, Doug. Also, my bosses seem bad as well. Not evil but just a terrible boss. They seem to only do things for themselves and screw the rest of us.


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