You have worked for a lousy boss at some point in your career. You’ve had a manager, supervisor, professor, or teacher who not only didn’t “get” you; they did not seem to interact well with anyone else either.
Maybe you felt like they micromanaged you, or maybe they were never around when you needed them. Perhaps they were so stringent with rules and procedures, you and your team never got a chance to use your talents to problem solve or innovate. Maybe they were recalcitrant and seemed to break every rule and norm imaginable, perhaps even engaging in criminal behavior. They might have had poor customer service skills, and no business acumen. It’s possible that their standards were so high, you considered them one of the “perfect people” and began to doubt your abilities. Eventually, retreating under the burden of imposter syndrome.
Everyone has a horror story, one they are currently living, or if they have not been able to put the nightmare to rest, they are reliving years later. It is time to move on.
It is time to write a thank you note to your lousy boss. You do not have to send it to them, but you need to invest time reframing your experience. You have a different perspective now. Like how teenagers think their parents are pretty stupid at the moment, but over time grow amazed at how much smarter they become.
Generally, your boss sees things you do not. They have more data points with which to make decisions than you do. Now, even with that knowledge, sometimes they’re still idiots. In your thank you letter, think objectively and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Many times the chemistry isn’t right, and you just are not destined to get along. You may grate on each other. Thank them for that. A lousy boss clarifies your dreams and values better than anyone else can. A lousy boss can motivate you into action — to find a new job, learn new skills, or try new industries, anything to get away from them.
Not to get dramatic, but to underscore an unfortunately common reality, maybe they did ruin your life. Their actions sent you down a spiral of disheartenment, uncertainty, self-loathing and despair. Write the letter and take back your agency. They may have been the trigger that put you where you are today, but today you get your power back. Express some gratitude for how far you have come and faith in where you intend to go. Use this opportunity to clarify your thoughts and set clear-cut positive goals.
Again, this is a private exercise that is meant to be cathartic. There is no need to send what you write. However, if you would like to share your insights and comments with others, so they know they are not alone that would be a terrific thing to do. I would love to read what you have learned from having a lousy boss in your life.
Also published on Medium.