Bad bosses are the best

​Other twenty-somethings are working for good and great people. Trailblazers in their fields. Visionaries. People with extreme competence. Individuals who have learnt much and not forgot that it is their responsibility to pass on as much as they can.

And me? I’ve worked for one person who has won my absolute respect and admiration: Lyndon, the man who taught me to suffer better. The others? They’re poor managers. They’re ignorant. Unkind. They spend their time doing the wrong things, inefficiently. Not all their time, but a large portion of it. And they’re not necessarily bad people, they just don’t know how lead, manage and deal with responsibility.

Actually, scratch that. As I look back, past my selective memory, I realise that I’ve worked for many people who have principles and live by them. Those people are uncommon and worthy of respect. But I’ve worked for some idiots too. I suppose I could say, I’ve had just as many bad bosses as good ones. 

Yet, I’ve learnt just as much, if not more, from the bad bosses as I have from the good ones. Think of it like this: A good boss is a good teacher. But a bad boss is a great teacher.

From a good boss, you can learn, directly, what to do, how to act, and how to handle adversity and uncertainty. From a bad boss, you can learn to make good decisions, to surf the waves of misfortune, to solve problems, to build strong relationships, to conduct rigorous self-assessments, to distribute your time, energy and money for maximum returns, and to be humble and curious. But only because bad bosses are, or do, none of these things.

 If you’re blessed enough to have a good boss, someone who you legitimately want to emulate and learn from, congratulations. Enjoy it while it lasts. For good bosses are a rare and valuable thing.

If you have a bad boss, someone who you in no way wish to become, don’t despair. Every person is a teacher in their own way. Even the cowardly, the ignorant and the incompetent. Especially those people.

A good boss can teach us and have a lasting impact on our lives. But a bad boss makes an imprint that is far deeper and distinct. Look back over the timeline over your life. I suspect what jumps out first are the traumas and the trials. That’s because pain leaves a more permanent impression than pleasure. We are scarred more by our suffering than we are uplifted by our experiences of joy, for better or worse. That applies to bosses too. We learn more from the bad than the good. But only if we are receptive to their teaching.