8 Ways to Get Motivated When You Have a Bad Boss

It seems in the wonderful world of work there’s always a trade-off. You love the location, but the commute sucks. The pay is great, but the hours are gruelling. In a perfect world you could choose your “options” like amenities that come with a new car or a newly constructed home.

Yet just because you work in less than ideal conditions, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of your work day and survive the insanity. Particularly, a supervisor who works your nerves and wreaks havoc with your peace of mind.

It’s simply a matter of mind over matter. And I should know. For years I worked for a woman who seemed to have it in for me. Once I even got in hot water because I ordered stationery for the office that apparently was the wrong shade of white! Who knew that white had so many variations in hues? Go figure.

Despite my boss’s oppressive ways, and her less than lovable personality, I managed to have more seniority than my peers, and a performance record that garnered some not too shabby pay raises along the way. And you can too.

Here are eight awesome ways to get motivated when you work for a bad boss:

1. Learn the Serenity Prayer.

I kid you not. Knowing what you can change and what is beyond your control will contribute greatly to your productivity and peace of mind. For years, I pulled my hair out trying to deal with the toxic, the “taxing”, and the down right troublesome. Then I had a revelation. You can’t change other people, but you can change how you choose to react to them! Act accordingly.

2. If you can’t win them over, don’t get overwhelmed.

In other words, don’t try to even the score by working slower, or taking excessive “mental health” days, or longer lunches. It will only put you further behind in your work load, and build a case for your boss to give you the old heave-ho before you’re ready to go. As they say, “Don’t cut your nose to spite your face.”

3. Try to find something positive or redeeming about your supervisor.

Does he have a warm smile? Was he raised by wolves? Have a generous nature? A good work ethic? A killer body? Fashion taste to emulate? Good ideas? Dig deep! Oftentimes if we look hard enough we can find something that allows us to see our leaders in a more compassionate and accepting way. What have you got to lose?

4. Choose your battles wisely.

It’s not always necessary to take big stands on small issues. For instance, why spend hours defending your decision to vote for Obama, or battling with your boss over a new policy, or justifying the merits of “casual work day”? Take a chill pill. When necessary, learn to go with the flow in order to go the distance!

5. Keep your eye on the prize.

Remember your reasons for being in the workplace. It’s not to win a popularity contest, but to pay your mortgage, put your kids through college, meet your responsibilities, keep up with the Joneses, and to pursue your passion.

6. Take the high road.

In the words of Dr. Phil:

“Somebody’s gotta’ be the hero in this relationship.”

7. Keep the faith.

Whether you believe in Buddha, Allah, Jehovah or some other deity, now is the time to put your faith in to practice. In fact, studies show that folks who embrace religious beliefs and have a strong sense of faith are able to use it as an arsenal for combating everything from illnesses, to tragedies, to bad marriages, to even bad bosses. You’ll find answers and anecdotes to this increasing phenomenon at 101prayer.com.

8. Learn to laugh in the face of adversity.

A wise person once said, “Struggle is inevitable, but misery is optional.” Happiness is a choice. Choose to maintain a positive state of mind and your own state of Nirvana. (Mo)re (Jo)y is what it’s all about.

Though no individual principle above may work alone, the combination and variation of several of these practices is sure to make a difference in your efforts to make a living, regardless as to your industry, level of angst, or brand of bad boss.


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Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, popular relationship columnist and Managing Editor at Coffeehouseforwriters.com. Formerly an "awesome" public relations professional, she now enjoys the spoils of the entrepreneurial life. Additionally, she is a columnist for Technorati.


  1. Claude on the 2nd November

    Good post, but I find this funny: “For instance, why spend hours defending your decision to vote for Obama…?” Buyer’s remorse, perhaps?

  2. Sarah on the 2nd November

    I love that you included the Serenity Prayer! So true.

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd November


      I could not have made it in corporate America without that prayer!
      Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

  3. Dania on the 2nd November

    Great tips 🙂 Luckily my bosses have been great, but these are good tips to keep in mind if I ever run into that hell 😐

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd November

      Dania, Good to hear! Good bosses are definitely a blessing. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd November


    Thanks for your input. Buyer’s remorse with Obama? Not hardly baby. 🙂

  5. Cynthia on the 2nd November

    I’d probably add “and get your resume up to date.” Depending on how bad the boss really is, the tips above can keep you alive while you’re there, but if it’s hideous, and especially if the boss stands in the way of any future improvement, you can plan to move on. A major advantage to living in a free country is the right to change jobs. And sometimes, just feeling like you have the possibility of an escape hatch lightens the mood at work.

  6. Stephanie on the 2nd November

    I worked for two dictators in my life, and I had to learned to live with them until I was able to leave. So, I appreciate the sound advice. Thank you!

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd November

      “Dictators”? I can dig it. Been there. Glad you’re in a better place now. 🙂 Thanks Stephanie for chiming in.

  7. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd November


    Good points. Noted. 🙂 Thanks much!

  8. Gabriele Maidecchi on the 2nd November

    These 8 tips you posted are the exact motivation every good manager needs to be even better at his job. I believe it’s very sad someone had to make use of these tips to go through the swinging moods of a bad manager (and don’t misunderstand me, they are very good tips, but the fact they exist in first place is sad, if you know what I mean).
    I am fairly sure that the people working for me won’t need them anytime soon, but I hope they can be inspiring for who is in such condition to have no other choice but following them.

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 3rd November


      Thanks for weighing in today. I agree that it is sad that folks would have to make use of these–but it’s sometimes a “necessary evil.”

  9. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on the 3rd November

    And always remember, this too shall pass! We’re always thrown these opportunities for serenity for a reason; it helps us develop patience, loads more of grey hairs and an incredible ability to look on the bright side of life.

    I’d love to see an article about surviving the toxicity of a kindergarten-maturity level group, meself…

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 3rd November


      What a great reminder! Yes, “this too shall pass” is a great way to put things in proper perspective. And don’t be surprised if some day you see that article on toxic kindergarten worker bees. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in.

  10. Kathy on the 3rd November

    Great post Jennifer. I think #5 (keep your eye on the prize) is particularly important, and particularly hard. I have a friend who works for a very large entertainment studio. She was regularly overlooked for promotions but always received large raises. When I asked how she stayed so calm she said she was working for the money not an impressive business card.

    Of course she was also a fabulous business women and ultimately landed an EVP slot with the studio. I credit that with the fact that the people above her looked at her and saw a level headed, hard worker.

    Great post.

  11. Smitten on the 3rd November

    Thanks great article, it’s like you read my mind. I am going through the same with my boss. Many of the tips I utilize everyday, especially tip #4, but I must say the unfortunate thing about tip4; it’s the small things that you let fly today that turn into huge issues tomorrow. Been there done that.
    Thanks again. And remorse, ever. lol

  12. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 3rd November

    Sounds like your friend has a good attitude and emotional aptitude as well.
    Thanks Kathy, for shedding some light. 🙂

  13. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 4th November

    Thanks to all of you “awesome” readers for your comments on this post. It was great having your input.

  14. FroZ on the 9th November

    I am in this situation… he is a kind of 2 faced bastard. always stressing us, but i had to learn to live with this stress for my goal in the first place… constantly looking out for new and better opportunities and I am sure i’ll get one pretty soon. Pretty sad that these kind of managers/supervisors exist, who don’t treat their employees as they have to cause in the end his employees make his business work and create the profit.
    That’s what is really pissing me off.

    Ty for the great article.

  15. João Pedro Pereira on the 8th December

    Excellent post ! I loved your advices and I’m sure they’ll be a lot of useful to me!

  16. Melitza Franceschi on the 27th July

    Yes!! Keep prayers up everyday! I have been with a huge worldwide company and as aTop performance in sales, I need to pray everyday before checking in to my boss.
    He won’t say good morning, he will just start with a line of questions and insults that you have to either sit there and listen or just fight back.

    Its a nightmare everyday,

  17. Gaurav on the 4th October

    Nice one!!! ” many people including me always ask, what to do with my boss,my job?” ….You have posted the answers

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