Who would you work for: a good boss in a mediocre company or a bad boss in a good company?
Alas, the system of finding jobs is designed to let bosses pick employees, not the other way. You can’t expect to work at all times under a good boss.
Neither will you always have a chance to choose your boss (or your subordinates for that matter.) You’ll need to learn to get along with all sorts of people.
The Surprising Benefits of a Bad Boss
There’re quite a few reasons you’ll be better off for having endured a boss who’s insensitive, moody, manipulative, bad-tempered, or just plain incompetent.
- If the boss is very good at doing something that you aspire to become good at, it worth your while to learn from a master in action. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, portrayed brilliantly by actress Meryl Streep in the movie The Devil Wears Prada (2006,) may be a terrible pain to work for, but she knows more about the fashion business than just about anybody else. Working as her assistant is a priceless experience, not to mention the exposure to some of the most influential people in the world of fashion.
- If you have your antennae up, you can learn a lot about good management by working under a bad manager.
- A stint at a company with an excellent reputation will give you a precious career credential down the road.
A Bad Boss Doesn’t Last Forever
All bosses—good and bad—will leave in due course. They’ll move up, out, or sideways. Organizational changes are widespread in good companies, and personnel departments tend to identify bad bosses and move them around.
Most companies make it easy to move between teams and groups. You can network your way into a fresh opportunity—perhaps with a better boss—within the company.
Think in terms of short-term pains and long-term gains. For the time being, working for a bad boss can a nightmare even in a good company. But in the long-term, until you or your boss can move on, you’ll have to make the best of the learning and networking opportunities.
You Can’t Always Pick Your Own Boss
Be mindful of the organization’s perception of you—do not allow your rocky relationship with your boss to typecast you as a “can’t-get-along.”
One of the best things about working in good companies is networking and becoming known to the people who matter. You can seek doors to new worlds, look for mentors who can guide your career’s progress, and scout job opportunities in other departments. Managers tend to fill up many internal job openings with candidates they have in mind already.