In the 20 years of my career before consulting, I had 18 different bosses. Not every one of those bosses was great. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of bad leadership – both from direct management and in my time providing leadership consulting. Unfortunately, a bad leader creates a toxic environment that poisons not only his team, but also everyone who interacts with them, including their families. This failed leadership can bring down a department, or a whole business.
While I focus a lot of my time in helping individuals avoid being that boss, it is just as important to understand how to respond to that kind of manager – because really, we all have bosses, no matter our position; therefore, we will inevitably encounter those who make life difficult.
When things go wrong, or get hard, the temptation can be to look to others as the problem, or more commonly, blame others for the choices we make or for feeling certain ways. Doing so is not only ineffective in overcoming the challenge before you; it gives your power away.
One of the greatest examples of maintaining a sense of power no matter the situation comes from the incredible life of Viktor Frankl, a renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. Before the beginning of the Nazi invasion and subsequent war, Frankl was a highly educated man, working his way through medical school focusing on psychology – specifically assisting those with depression and suicidal tendencies. He and his family were eventually taken to concentration camps where he lost all immediate family members (including his wife) except for his sister. Despite the brutality, wickedness, and sorrow he experienced, he went on to uplift others and teach the power of response and how ultimately, love conquers all. He said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
A man who had such heinous things happen to him, his family and friends – a man who had accomplished so much and was treated with absolutely no respect – a man who could justifiably have his view of mankind forever changed, instead chose to respond by helping others recognize that they too have the power to choose their attitude and course of thinking no matter what life may present.
Such a valuable lesson and example for all of us, regardless of the environment. In the workplace, we are faced with various challenges and many different personalities that we have to work with to overcome those challenges successfully. So while you may have a difficult boss, or co-workers who aren’t pulling their weight, holding tight to your power to respond effectively and not using others as an excuse, will provide greater satisfaction in your situation – and life in general.