Some of us have the privilege of working for a good boss, even a great boss. And then some of us end up working for the bad boss, the boss from hell, the Cruella de Vil of bosses. Either way good or bad boss, we still have to perform our PA duties.

Over the years I have worked for both. Male and female. And the two bad bosses I worked for, one was male and the other female. So I can’t really say whether it was worse working for a man or a woman. They were equally difficult, yet I still managed to perform under very trying and testing circumstances.

We read up and hear of how to deal with or manage the difficult boss. And I wonder just how many of those people giving advice have actually worked for a difficult person? All I can do is tell you how I coped and managed and stuck it out for the length of time I did before moving on to another position.

Support network

It is so important to have a support network in trying times (and good times too). For me, every time I thought I was going to give up or lose hope, these ladies just kept on motivating and uplifting me. It helped to keep me sane. For two years I was out looking for another position. I was eventually starting to come up with all the excuses and reasons why I just wasn’t getting a position (my age was against me, my skin colour was not right, I was too old, I was over qualified, I was too expensive, etc, etc) yet my support network just kept telling me to hold on, the right position will come up at the right time – and it did. When I least expected it to.

Your support network could be your family and friends – mine was both and included fellow colleagues in the profession too. These ladies knew me personally, knew my strengths and weaknesses, they knew what I was capable of and even though they saw me break day by day, lose my confidence and even when the doubt started setting in they kept holding me up. We have a Whatsapp group where we all support and encourage each other on a daily basis. They are also a phone call away.

If I didn’t have that support to help keep my focus and my sanity, I don’t think I would be here writing about it.

Maintain your standard of excellence

You know your strengths, you know your weaknesses, you know how good you are at your job, yet a difficult boss will always find a way to make your think/believe otherwise. I know that standard of excellence I work by (and I set very high standards for myself) helped me keep sane and endure getting up in the morning and getting to work. I love being a PA, I love the work I do and I do it well. And I thought, regardless of the conditions I have to work under, I will still do what I can control and what people know me by. So I focused on just continuing to work and do everything at the standard I was accustomed to. So that when the day came, I left knowing that, that was the one thing they could not fault me on. And they couldn’t.

Don’t lose your smile

Never lose your smile and your inner happiness. And believe working for a difficult boss can do just that. I found that regardless of my unhappy situation, today I can sit back and laugh about some of the things I had to go through. In fact, even whilst going through it at the office, I just had to smile and laugh at the situation. I mean this boss wanted a PA, someone who didn’t need micro-managing, someone proactive yet all she could do was micro-manage. It even got to the stage where if she left the office early she would call my landline, at 4.30pm just to make sure I was at my desk. And when that happened more than once, I began to predict when that call would come through.

Learn from your experience

Just because we work for a bad boss, doesn’t mean it is all bad. There is definitely something to learn from it, like:

Resilience – hanging in there. The more bad vibes given you, the stronger you get to cope with them and not break.

Persistence – never giving up even though it seems like the best option. You just keep moving forward.

Changed focus – instead of focusing on what is not going right, focus on what is. This helps to keep you strong and gives you the courage to carry on regardless.

Never give up attitude – when your situation does change (be it a new position or new boss) this all comes at the right time. Just because it doesn’t come when you want it to, doesn’t mean you give up or lose hope – never give up.

If you are going through a difficult stage and are working for a bad boss – keep smiling, keep in touch with your support network and never lose focus.

Michele Thwaits is the owner of Empowered 4 Success - an experienced and a sought after facilitator and trainer specializing in EA, PA and administrative skills. Since 2006 she has had the privilege of working with audiences through training and speaking ... (Read More)

14 comments on “Good boss or bad boss?

  1. Michele Thwaits on

    Hi Sandy – I think a lot of us have experienced much of what I wrote about. But all I can say as my support network did “the right one will come at the right time” – and it will. Always believe in yourself and your ability and never give up.

  2. Ruth Birungi on

    Thanks for sharing your experience. A lot has been picked from it which will make us more resilient, persistent and have the right attitude.

  3. Claire Broderick on

    Thank you for sharing this article. I could relate to it a lot. Thank you for the helpful hints too.

  4. Michele Thwaits on

    Hi Ruth – I am so glad you found the article helpful. We sometimes forget and get caught up in the “bad” moment – keep up the positive attitude. 🙂

  5. Michele Thwaits on

    Hi Claire – so glad you enjoyed the article. We sometimes forget what is important and what we need to do to cope in that “bad” situation. Stay positive.

  6. Adele on

    Thank you for this article. I am currently in the same position and it is so degrading. Previous bosses speaks so highly of my work as a PA but am currently “down graded” to answering calls. But after reading your article, I will focus on the positive.

  7. Michele Thwaits on

    Thank you for your comment Adele. So glad you enjoyed the article and were able to take something from it. If all else fails, interact with your immediate support system or network (even me if you like) and we will help keep you motivated and stay positive regardless of the circumstances under which you need to work.

  8. Lizzie on

    Thank you so much for your article. Very interesting indeed. I am in the same position, difficult boss, very abusive and is always negative about my work. 15 years of experience and he sees my work otherwise. I have lost hope and have been looking and I know the best is yet to come for me. I will definitely visit your article for some motivation and to stay positive.

  9. Amy on

    Thank you for sharing the article – I am at the” giving up stage” – and now I just have to smile knowing that the right post will open up at the right time.

  10. Mapaseka Chepape on

    I previously worked as a receptionist but fortunate enough to receive on the job training to be a PA. Now that I got the position of a PA in a different department in my company. I’m working for someone who doesn’t even know why I am there in the first place. “Downgraded ” to just answering the telephone. They don’t even tell me when they go on leave. Me and my manager are just like oil and water. I thought I was the only one experiencing this. This article is so encouraging. I have started looking again for other positions.I am very positive that I will find something suitable for me.

  11. Mark walsh on

    Just read this, and sadly it could be to late for me. I dont get on with my boss and it’s taking a ugly turn with a disciplinary, not good.

  12. Michele on

    Hi Mark

    I don’t think it is ever too late. At least at the disciplinary you will be able to defend yourself and state your case – add your side of the story. It is not easy. However, if it doesn’t improve after the disciplinary, maybe start looking for another option. To stay in an unhealthy relationship at the office is not good for your morale and you will get even more unhappy staying on.

    I don’t know the details but has it been going on for a long time that you are not getting on with your boss? We would have to look at what it is that is not working from your side and possibly your boss to see where you could perhaps find middle ground.

    Wishing you all the best for your disciplinary.


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