I spent the summer of my fifteenth year enduring the worst job I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t muck out horse stalls or wash toilets. I sat alone in a room, eight hours a day, cutting up books of quotes and poems and organizing them into notebooks by subject. It was a made up, thrown together job. I knew it and so did everyone else in the organization.
Earlier that Spring my father connected with family friends who ran a parachurch ministry. He inquired about a place for me working with children, one of their main missions. A key director assured Dad that I would be interviewed as a formality but should plan on spending my summer days at their facility engaged with kiddos.
Weeks passed. No one called. Finally, I phoned the personnel director. She not only didn’t recognize my name, she informed me that all summer positions had been filled. When Dad phoned the director himself, the embarrassed man hemmed and hawed and muttered some things about miscommunication.
I had turned down other job opportunities due to the promise of this one. Angered, my father firmly stated that the director would be a man of his word and that I would be working there that summer. He seemed angry that my father didn’t just go back down. Instead of finding a solution involving children, he created the job I described above.
Another branch of this ministry involved a popular radio show. The host loved to use quotes in his opening monologue but struggled to find them in a timely manner. It was decided that I would spend my summer being his human google search engine.
All summer long I sat at a table cutting and pasting, listening to the sounds of children and the other young staff through the open windows. Struck with a guilty conscience, I believe, the director came into my little prison every single day to either thank me for my “very important work” or say something encouraging. He sounded like some of the syrupy quotes in the books. Never once did he apologize.
At home, I never said a word about my misery. I didn’t want to create trouble between my parents and this ministry which did great work. And since they raised me right, I did not spread an evil report about the unfairness of my situation to the other junior staff who I ate lunch with every day. The loneliness of feeling jerked around by someone else’s mistake and attempted cover up, ached inside me.
That certainly wasn’t the last time I was manhandled by an authority. The pain of being messed with by someone above you can be isolating. When the same person refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing, it makes for a tough situation. As believers, we know it’s wrong to be running to co-workers with gossip and complaints concerning our bosses. On the other hand we are fearful of confronting a boss for fear of making our situation worse or losing our job. What can we do?
Discern whether to stand your ground or shake off the dust. In 2 Chronicles 20:17 and Exodus 14:14, God tells his people to stand their ground and He will fight for them. In Matthew 10:14 Jesus tells his disciples to leave towns that don’t receive them. In some situations, I’ve been a tenacious terrier, refusing to allow a difficult superior to drive me out. Other times, I’ve left situations where I was tolerated, not celebrated. The only way I knew whether to dig in or bug out was by listening to God and gaining clear direction. I ask Him for specific verses. I fasten myself to them so I can endure the headwinds of staying in a difficult circumstance or the fallout from leaving.
If you stay, ask God to change you and the one above you. I grew in grace and patience under difficult people. I learned to hold my tongue and refuse to take up offense. Sometimes God changed the people above me or just removed them entirely. A few times he led me to stay and deepen my character through unchanging, unmoving folks.
Seek counsel from mature believers outside of your circumstances. It’s good to find someone who has no dog in whatever hunt you’re running in, to talk to. Please be warned, it’s easy to flow in a victim mentality and paint a grand picture of how villainous your boss is. Try to just state facts and share how you feel. Assassinating a character is not kingdom behavior. Besides, we need to consider the fact that some of our behavior might be triggering the negative responses in our superiors. An objective outsider can help us see that if we will be truthful and fact-based. Sometimes we think others are the problem when it’s us.
God allows everyone to encounter a bad boss at some point in their lives. How we handle that challenge can either set us up for our next success or hold us back in spiritual elementary school.