Managing People

Does Anyone Really Benefit From Working with a Bad Boss?

Working with a bad boss has many unpredictable challenges. But, there may also be numerous benefits. Here they are.


A while ago, I walked into a bank hall to perform some transactions. While waiting for my turn, I saw a man walk towards a couple of workers. And, then, he started liberally handing out criticisms, right there in front of everyone!


From the look on the faces of the workers, this was a very regular experience. Unfortunately, one they had come to expect and loathe. You could have walked into that bank, informed employees that you have another opportunity in a financial institution, but with less pay and a friendlier atmosphere, and have half of the branch employees turn in their resignations right that afternoon.

Despite this natural distaste we all have for working under bad bosses, I recently came across several articles that tried to show how working with bad bosses is good for employees. The claims were many and they ranged from “bad bosses teach you how not to treat others”, to “being treated badly makes you a battle hardened, competent employee.”

I understand where these articles come from. Many people actually have to work under bad bosses. And, writers usually look for such common issues to write about. Normally, with the aim of providing some relief, and of course, getting more traffic to their website.

However, there are articles and topics that should be left alone, including any about how working with a bad boss can be good for you. Such articles may actually help validate the behaviour of toxic bosses.

In some cases, the writers have so little to say in support of their topic. As a result, their article ends up being quite confusing. Take for example this Forbes article. The article is about the benefits of working with a bad boss. But, 75% of the content actually sites good research that show why working with bad bosses is bad! In fact, I’m going to be referencing this article a lot in support of my topic.

Some of the claimed benefits

1. Bad bosses teach you how not to treat others

I’d like to believe every balanced person knows how to treat and respect the people they interact with. And if indeed you were going to learn social skills from a boss, you are much better off learning from a good leader.

One basic reason for this is that we tend to behave like those around us; especially if they are in a position of authority. So there is a higher possibility that you may learn to treat people badly, if you have a boss who treats you badly.

2. Bad bosses produce competent, battle-hardened employees

Since this claim uses military language, I’m going to tow the same line and use a military illustration. Imagine you are in the army and have been sent on a mission. For this mission, you need a team of soldiers, and you have been asked to choose one of two teams.

The first team has a ton of experience fighting in the field against enemy combatants for several years, and with several successful missions in their portfolio; the second team has also seen some action, but they are most notable for having successfully endured “years of bullying and maltreatment” under a commanding officer who is now indicted. Which team will you place your life on? Of course this isn’t a hard decision (for non-suicidal people).

Further evidence against this claim of benefits to employees can be seen in the results of just about every research into this topic.


“Bad bosses don’t just impact the organization, or the team. They impact the individual. A study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology of 1,100 participants from various industries and company sizes revealed that an employee’s perception of their boss can have a major impact on the way a person deals with their family and their physical health (actually increasing your risk of heart disease if you don’t like your boss, and decreasing the quality of relationships you have with loved ones)…

“A survey of about 2,000 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive and career website Glassdoor, revealed that 2 out of 10 people say a bad boss ‘hurt their career.’” Forbes

Clearly, those who claim that bad bosses produce competent employees, do so in spite of a mountain of research evidence that proves just the opposite.

3. Bad bosses make employees more productive

I’m just going to jump into available research evidence here. Consider this:

The leadership training company Zenger Folkman, conducted a study of 2,865 leaders in a large company. This study which was presented in a Harvard Business Review article, revealed that the most engaged, most committed, and happiest employees where under the supervision of those ranked as the best leaders. Conversely, the most miserable employees where being supervised by bad bosses.

Jim Clifton, the CEO of the Gallup organization, observed that bad bosses may invalidate other employee productivity initiatives. “As Clifton points out, none of the other expensive programs a company institutes to increase employee engagement — excellent rewards, well-thought-out career paths, stimulating work environments, EAP programs, health insurance, and other perks — will make much difference to the people stuck with bad bosses.”

Is having a bad boss completely bad

Sadly, yes it is! No one benefits from constant criticism, bullying, squashing, etc. If you are in the situation, this may not be what you want to hear, but it is the fact.

Of course you can find numerous help articles that show you how to “cope” with bad bosses. But do not be made to believe that you are benefiting somehow.

In a US News article
, Allison Green captured, in simple terms, the effects a bad boss could have on employees. She said: “If you spend too long in a dysfunctional workplace or modifying your behavior to accommodate a bad manager, the experience can recalibrate your ideas of normal in ways that can hurt you personally. For instance, if you work for a manager who always shoots the messenger and punishes dissent, you might get used to keeping your head down, never speaking up and even covering up mistakes when they happen.”

Clearly, if you are in this situation, the best course of action is to learn to cope in the interim, while you frantically search for a job in a different department or company; and do this like your health and career depends on it. Well then again, they do. 

By: Mesheal Fegor
Sales & Support

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