Before the Fall, God blessed Adam and Eve by providing them with work under the most pleasant of circumstances, managed by the most benevolent of “bosses.”
Sin, however, changed all that. For many people today, the workplace is anything but pleasant, and the capacity to cope with a difficult manager grows more fragile each day. But in every trial we face—even dealing with a difficult boss—God promises never to leave or forsake us. He will give us the wisdom, tact, and strength we need to witness faithfully for Him in the face of daily, challenging encounters.
Follow these four steps, and you will grow to be a godly employee in spite of—or maybe even because of—having a less-than-perfect relationship with your boss.
1 Ask God to reveal your faults.
I can guess what you’re thinking: Accept the blame for my boss’s bad attitude? But there’s no excuse for such behavior! Yes, it’s true, there may be no excuse—but maybe there’s a reason. Perhaps you’ve unknowingly contributed to your supervisor’s negative disposition, maybe by something you said in a meeting that was spoken in too strong of a tone. Reflect objectively on your behavior. Could it be bordering on insubordination? Ask the Lord to reveal to you any “blunders” that you’ve made and to help you determine godly solutions. Remember that “whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
If you realize that you’ve erred, a simple apology may be enough. If your error is more serious, then allow God to reveal a plan to fix the problem. Imagine your manager’s reaction to such honesty, especially if you come up with a strategy to avoid that error in the future.
2 Pray that you’ll do more than a “good” job.
Often we want to do a good job so that we’ll be noticed. If we’re noticed, then the boss will appreciate us. If the boss appreciates us, then perhaps he or she won’t give us a hard time (and hopefully give us a raise!). But what if our efforts do not result in positive attention? Worse still, what if our manager maintains a nasty outlook? Will we then have permission to slack off?
Nothing can make an angry boss angrier than an employee who doesn’t perform well. Don’t let the stress of an unhealthy work environment lead to mediocre effort on your part. Not only will you shortchange your boss—you’ll cheat God as well. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23).
This may mean a need to improve your prayer life. As a self-employed corporate trainer, I used to ask God to guarantee that I did a good job of presenting the training material. Specifically, I wanted Him to ensure that I would enunciate properly and not stutter or ramble too much. I prayed that way for years. Then one morning my request to God was less selfish. I prayed that my performance would lead to a greater learning experience for my participants. I continued to pray in this manner, and after a year I began to notice that I was making headway with a difficult client. His employees enjoyed my seminars so much that the client retained me for future classes!
Frequently examine your motives in carrying out your work. God wants us to work to His glory, not our own.
3 Avoid asking God to help you to “endure” the difficult boss.
To endure means to undergo or bear pain, or to withstand an adversary. While it’s essential that we call on the Holy Spirit to comfort us in difficult times, do we really want to view our boss as an adversary? Can we really work to God’s glory with that attitude?
Again, I suggest adjusting your prayers. First, thank God for the opportunity to earn a living: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34). Then ask God to reveal new opportunities in your job that will help you to take pleasure in your work. God realizes that we spend a third of our day on the job, and He wants us to enjoy it. Sometimes that pleasure comes from serving. For example, physicians may hate the atmosphere of an emergency room following a multicar accident, but they still enjoy using their talents to help heal the injured victims.
When you focus more on the positive, the Lord can help you to better tolerate a negative situation.
4 Remember that God commands us to love.
Loving a person who is difficult to deal with, including a negative boss, is not always easy to accomplish. But love is an action as well as an emotion. By God’s grace, show love in everything you do and say at work. Avoid a tit-for-tat mentality and learn to forgive. Scripture says this about love: “It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5).
You first may need to give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Ask God to help with this by revealing to you your manager’s perspective and circumstances. It’s easier to empathize with a boss who’s coping with the loss of an important client or has to manage cutbacks.
When you’re facing workplace challenges, it’s tempting to ask God either to remove you from the situation or to change the person you feel is causing the problem. But if you focus on the principles outlined in these four steps, you will become and remain the employee God wants you to be.
Melzetta (Mele) Williams, a former practicing attorney, lives in Maryland and works as a corporate trainer and marketing writer. This article was published January 19, 2012.