Are you dreading going to work today because of your bad boss?
Exhausted and fed up with making your boss richer? Wondering why you continue to show up each day when your work feels completely pointless?
Most employees report they’d be more productive and more successful at work if they got along better with their boss. Not only that, they’d be happier and healthier as well.
So why do you continue to put up with a bad boss and is there anything practical you can do to make the situation at work better?
One of the ways a bad boss strips so much joy from lives is they make our work seem absolutely pointless. Most of us long to be more than the sum of the tasks we perform and yet, for many of us, finding meaningful work feels like something we just can’t afford. However, when a sense of meaning is found in our jobs, a growing body of evidence shows that we’re happier, more motivated, more committed, and more satisfied, which enables us to perform better and free ourselves of a bad boss!
Our need to have meaning in our work was brought home to me the first time I met Tal Ben-Shahar, Harvard’s first positive psychology lecturer. An avid sportsman who’s thoughtful, insightful and courageous, Tal consults and lectures around the world to executives in multi-national corporations on leadership, ethics, happiness, resilience, goal setting and mindfulness. He stood up in front of our financially driven leadership team – the odd bad boss among them – and convinced them that meaning was an essential requirement for productive and profitable work. It was quite something.
There is a universal need to feel we matter, that our hard work isn’t futile. We also want to believe that we have a sense of control over our fates. A bad boss tends to strip both of these from our workplaces. The challenge is this makes it hard to justify our actions: why we should forgive, what we have to be grateful for, why we show kindness and so on. It also disconnects from others. The result is left unchecked for weeks, months or even years on end, a bad boss ends up undermining our performance, damaging our health, destroying our relationships and leaving us feeling depressed and anxious.
A sense of meaning fuels your sense of self-worth and allows you to belong to something that is bigger than yourself. It puts a bad boss into perspective rather than letting them ruin your life.
Tal explained that different people find meaning in different things. In order to experience a sense of purpose, the goals you set for yourself need to be intrinsically meaningful. They must be personally significant and in accordance with your own values and passions rather than dictated by your family, friends, workplaces, society or even your bad boss.
I think this idea is best explained with the well-known story of three men who are found smashing boulders with iron hammers. When asked what they are doing, the first man said, “Breaking big rocks into little rocks.” The second man said, “Feeding my family.” The third man said, “Building a cathedral.” In fact, what the hundreds of interviews showed is that how you view and feel about your jobs has as much to do with your beliefs as any actual work that’s being done or your bad boss.
The good news is you can restore meaning to your work without changing your job – or even your bad boss. Try these proven, practical approaches from positive psychology to free yourself from the pointlessness of a bad boss:
Finding meaning in your work satisfies your true values and innate needs, making you happier, healthier and willing to work harder. It frees you to live a life of purpose, regardless of a bad boss.