A lot of us in the working world have more than likely had a tough boss to work with. I’d like to define “harsh bosses” as those who are hard to please, excessively critical, impatient, and—I must add—unappreciative. You may feel as though he or she is micromanaging you…and it’s just uncomfortable. I can definitely touch and agree that working with a harsh boss is no bed of flowers.
Sometimes we just want to ditch everything we’ve learned from God and His Word and go off on our bosses, but how does that glorify God?
How are we, as God’s children, expected to respond to these toughies? Should we clap back or respond with grace? Here are some scriptures below that can help you survive working with your hard boss which range from controlling our tongue to forgiving our boss.
- James 1:5—“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
Pray for wisdom. One of the greatest things we need to pray for while working with harsh bosses is wisdom. Wisdom is the main thing that Solomon prayed for right before He became king. He wanted to know how to rule wisely. So if we want to know how to handle our bosses in a way that pleases and glorifies God, then we’ll need to ask Him for wisdom before anything.
- 1 Peter 2:18-19—“You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment.”
Obedience and submission. I know this may sound counterintuitive in the worldly sense of things but we must stay humble and obedient to our bosses…even if they are harsh. This shows modesty before God’s eyes. He is pleased when we are strong enough to refrain from arrogance and defy our boss. We must also keep God and His will in mind while being submissive to our bosses. This world has a way of making us think that being quiet and submissive shows weakness. But in God’s eyes, it’s actually a sign of strength.
- Proverbs 15:1—”A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Handle those bosses with gentleness. When your boss happens to get loud or fussy with you, now is not the time to get loud and shout back at her. The word of God clearly says that gentle, soft words repel a harsh response. Getting loud with our bosses will only make matters worse. Being gentle is the way to go when we get yelled at. People actually listen more closely to those who speak softly. My boss used to raise her voice at me, but every time—although it was just plain hard sometimes—I responded back with a gentle answer. Remember, “gentleness” is one of the spiritual fruits.
- Proverbs 17:12—“It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than to confront a fool caught in foolishness.”
If you need to address your boss, do so in a calmer moment. I had to do this two weeks ago with my boss so this was very recent. One day I was working with her and it was super busy. I was being trained on making appointments for brides and other customers (I work at David’s Bridal) and ringing up their alterations at the cash register. Mind you, my job is extremely detail-oriented making it one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had thus far (and because I have to do so much talking and making phone calls). Although I really love my job and I thank God for it constantly, that day my boss was extra hard on me. I was getting so anxious and overwhelmed that I couldn’t think straight and I kept making minor mistakes.
My boss kept noticing my smallest mistakes but she kept making the biggest deal out of all of them when some of them really weren’t that serious. I kept getting yelled and cursed at. But because I was back and forth dealing with customers, I stayed gentle and polite towards her (again, think of Proverbs 15:1). Inside, though, I wanted to cry. My heart kept pounding. I was on edge during my whole shift. I wanted to tell her to calm down! I wanted to tell her that her nervous energy was affecting my work performance. But I left home without doing any of that.
Instead—after having long talks with Mom and God—I waited until I had to work with my boss again which was two days later. It was Saturday, another busy day. Right when I clocked in I spotted my boss and told her that I wanted to talk with her. She seemed calmer at the moment and in a good mood. In a nutshell I gently told her that I get so nervous when I find out that I have to work with her. I also told her that I needed a different approach from her if she wants to see me perform better. I also apologized for “driving her crazy” a few days ago. She listened to me and, thankfully, understood what I told her! I definitely feel like God used me to reach out to her because that entire day—and from that day on—she was less hard on not only me, but she was also more patient with my other work members (though she still has her fussy moments, but not as much anymore)! I felt so much better after speaking with her.
I did not share this story to make my boss look bad, but intently to show that we must address our harsh bosses when things are calmer. If God is leading you to tell them to relax a little, wait until your boss is in a better and more stable mood, even if you have to wait a day or two. They will then be more open to what you have to say and they will more than likely receive your message. We can’t try to confront them in the midst of the fire because we will only get burned if we do. They may not listen or be receptive.
- Psalm 37:7-9—“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”
Hard bosses also teach us how to be patient with the harshest of people. It’s like learning to drive a large vehicle with a stick shift in an area with many hills if you want to have more confidence driving a regular car. It’s the same concept when you feel like you’re working with the most difficult person. I believe working with harsh bosses is the ultimate training for developing patience. Our bosses, though, may not be the only toughies that we’re going to deal with. God may be training us for harder people in our lives. Or maybe your boss will be the absolute hardest person you’ve ever had to deal with just to warm up for those who are not as difficult.
- Psalm 37:8-9 – Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
- Psalm 34:19—“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15—“See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”
Leave vengeance to God. A lot of people with harsh bosses may label them as ‘enemies.’ And sometimes, we are vengeful and want to get even with those who are unfair and sin against us. But we must bear in mind that it is not our job to avenge, it is God’s job. Look at Romans 12:17-21. All God wants us to do in these situations is to do all we can to live peaceably with our boss. Yes, they can drive you up the wall, but this is God teaching us how to exercise self-control. Practicing kindness towards our bosses—no matter what—eventually creates a good energy.
- Psalm 39:1—“I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.”
We must control our tongues! Believe me, until I stood up to my boss, there were so many moments I wanted to be Sassy Susie and talk back to her. But God kept reminding me quickly that getting salty wasn’t going to please Him. Instead, as hard as it was sometimes, I replaced those sassy urges with polite nods, smiles, and “yes ma’ams.” We must resist the flesh! And the more we resist, the easier it becomes to obey the Holy Spirit.
- Ephesians 4:32—“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Remember that our bosses are people too and they need the love of Christ. Jesus dealt with so many harsh people while He walked the earth. If He loved and forgave them the way He did, so can we because He gives us the ability to do so.
Thank you so much for this article. I get pretty stressed and feel like I want to be a godly example but don’t really know how to respond.
I feel the same way too. It made me even more nervous when i think of having to work with him. God will lead us. Amen.
Thanks for the verses and story! I lost the best job I’ve ever had due to toxic management. Not for performance, safety, or anything pertaining to my actual job. I planned on retiring from that job. It’s just so hard to move on when you go to counseling & are given the same advice you’ve been using already for your own sanity. Yes, I run to the Bible for answers!! (Be kind, stay humble, be respectful, pray for patience). A year later, feeling like a failure, and still no job, but I truly believe God has a better path for me. ?? Thanks again.
Thank you for taking the time to write and share practical/Biblical examples on how to interact with a boss that’s “harsh”
Thank you. The other day my boss began attacking me personally in a meeting and I lost my cool. 20 years ago a me outside of Christ would have come across the table, but with your help I know I must apologize this morning for my short comings. Thank you again.
Thank you so much for this. This was timely. I’m dealing with the harshest boss I’ve ever worked with and I’m counting days down to when I’d stop working with him. I don’t want to endure this time or this season. Enduring makes it longer. I want to enjoy it
Thank You for this. As I prepare to go into a meeting with my boss whom is constantly condescending and manipulative (I am the union president), I was searching for biblical answers to how I should be responding. These scriptures were perfect. I needed to read God’s word this morning.
I have changed my role to new position and work with a young boss. She always challenges me and told me that it is her coaching style. But it seem not coaching and that make me more stress and fear. But through encouragement from my Ps. Dara said God might want to train me with that boss. And now I started to pray for her and let God deal with her.
This helped me so much! I cried, repented, and thanked the Lord for showing me my wicked heart and the offenses that was causing my frustration. My boss is not even harsh! However, I became offended with his feedback, which the Lord showed me it is to prepare me for my next level.
Each verse pierced through my flesh and removed shackles off my heart and mind. Thank you for being a godly example and sharing your experience for us to continue growing in our walk with the Lord!❤️🩹
I really appreciate you for putting this out here, I can’t thank you enough.🕊
Thank you Lord! I needed this so very much! I have been praying and recieved, I am to give the grace God gives me. Practice patience and tolerance. That is why I am in this job.
Thank you for giving practical examples of how to do that!
I came upon this searching on the web for how to deal with a difficult boss but wanted to do so in a Godly way. I have this piece stored in my favorites and go back to it often. I too struggle with a harsh boss whom I fear will terminate my employment at any given time just because she doesn’t like anything about me which is odd since I’m not a threatening person at all. I pray for God’s help and guidance and endurance several times a day. “My grace is sufficient for you” is what I hear a lot from Him. Please keep me in your prayers for endurance. The fear of her keeps me awake at night, and I pray God removes me from this situation soon. Thank you, and God bless us all.