5 Christian Tips For Dealing With A Difficult Supervisor or Boss

by David Peach · Print Print · Email Email

While there are several good examples in the Bible of those who worked for bad bosses, Joseph is the one that immediately sticks out to me. Though his father loved him disproportionately you couldn’t say he was a bad boss to work for. But the supervisors over Joseph (his older brothers) hated him so much they threw him in a pit and decided not to kill him only because they could make more money by selling him as a slave. I can’t imagine any of us have had to deal with a situation this bad. The point is that you are not alone in dealing with a difficult boss or supervisor.

Joseph then went from one bad situation to another. While his slavemaster seemed kind and trusting, the boss’ wife was intent on Joseph’s destruction. Joseph ended up in jail for his efforts to please God and honor his boss.

All along the way Joseph showed a godly character in the way he handled each situation. Even the jailer trusted Joseph enough to put him in charge of all the other prisoners. When Joseph did right by giving God’s interpretation of a couple of dreams, he was still forgotten and languished in prison for 2 more years.

Through it all Joseph continued to do what was right even though he was treated unfairly by those around him. The wonderful result was that Joseph lived most of his life not as a slave to bad bosses, but as the Prime Minister or Grand Vizier of the world. Joseph controlled all commerce and was second only to Pharaoh for 80 years.

Here are some tips from the life of Joseph that we can apply today when dealing with difficult situations at work with a manager or boss.

Joseph Did Right

Joseph had the Word of God on his side when he spoke. While God does not give us new information concerning His eternal Word today through dreams like He gave Joseph, we can trust that His revealed Word is true and right. Make sure that the position you hold in the conflict with your boss is the right one. Is your attitude proper? Is it honoring to God? Are you certain that you are dealing honestly and honorably with your boss or supervisor? If these things are not in place then the conflict may be God’s way of teaching you how to behave as a Christian.

When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he was determined not to sin before God or his boss in that way. Having the confidence that his position was right gave him the courage to flee from the situation and accept the consequences of his right actions.

Make sure that the position you hold in the conflict with your boss is the right one.

Make sure that the position you hold in the conflict with your boss is the right one.

Joseph Submitted to Authority

There is a great distinction between being obedient and being submissive. While it seems like a contradiction, you can be disobedient and still be submissive. Joseph was obedient to his boss (Potiphar), while being disobedient to his supervisor (Potiphar’s wife). Joseph was right in his disobedience. He chose to obey God and His Word while disobeying Mrs. Potiphar (Genesis 39). Yet in each action, Joseph submitted to the authority over him. He accepted the consequences of his disobedience. The result is that we see Joseph as a man of integrity and we hold him up as a hero. We do the same thing with Daniel who disobeyed the law, but still submitted to the consequences of that law (Daniel 6). The three Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace are another example (Daniel 3). They disobeyed the boss (King Nebuchadnezzar), but submitted to the consequences of their actions.

An important element in each of these situations is that the decree and disobedience were documented events in the Bible. You should write down what is going on in your work situation. Get clarification from your boss of exactly what he expects. If you find he is unjust in his requests and you must disobey, be prepared to submit to the consequences. Having documentation of your position and the consequences will help justify your actions to others. While it often comes down to “he said, she said,” you will at least have notes that support you and it keeps you from overblowing a situation. I am not saying you won’t suffer consequences, but you need to be submissive to the authority over you even if you can’t be obedient. In the end, I believe the principles in the Bible teach us that God will be honored and He will walk along with you through the fiery furnace of the trial.

Joseph Took Initiative

When Joseph was thrown into the prison for refusing to sin with Mrs. Potiphar he quickly rose to a position of leadership with the prison guard. Joseph did not get that position by sitting around in the corner of his cell refusing to be helpful. Joseph showed initiative. He then spoke up when it was time to interpret a few dreams. He was not afraid to tell one man that a dream prophesied death while another would be spared (Genesis 40). I can only imagine that it was with kindness that Joseph spoke those words; otherwise, the cup bearer would have been afraid to suggest to Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret the ruler’s dreams in case the dreams were negative (Genesis 41).

Like Joseph you should seek to take the initiative on projects and get things done ahead of schedule. These are things that will help your boss trust you and back off of the pressure they are putting on you. You may be thinking that your boss isn’t as kind as the jailer or Pharaoh. However you must remember that these men probably did not have the position they were in because they were kind and gentle people.

Joseph Never Complained

Was anything that happened to Joseph his own fault? It doesn’t appear to be. Yet he never complained about what was happening to him. Of course the Bible does not tell us every word that came out of Joseph’s mouth or every thought that went through his head, but it does indicate that Joseph had a pleasant attitude that people wanted to work with and he was confident in God’s leading in everything that happened (Genesis 41:37-44).

Joseph Did Not Take the Attacks Personally

Oh how easy it would have been to blame his brothers, his bosses, and the leadership over him. Yet, Joseph had assurance that everything that happened was because God had a plan. I certainly don’t think that Joseph enjoyed everything that went on in his life, but I do think that he was able to bear whatever took place because of a solid trust in the promises of God. Joseph had been told through a couple of dreams that he would one day be a savior for and rule over his own family (Genesis 37). I am sure there were times when he may have doubted how that would take place, but he continued to trust in the Lord.

I think Joseph’s attitude that he expressed to his brothers at the end of Genesis is very telling for how he handled the difficulty that came up in his life. Joseph had already told his brothers that he forgave them, but they approached him in fear when their father died. They assumed that Joseph only treated them properly because of love for their father Jacob. Joseph knew that they were still afraid of him and it broke his heart.

With tears Joseph said in Genesis 50:19, 20: “…Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Joseph did not regard anything that happened to him as a personal attack. He only saw the leading of the Lord.

Final Thoughts

I would love to be like Joseph. I have been through those rough times of having an unrelenting supervisor. I can look back and thank God for the way He worked through the situation. He was teaching me and preparing me for future ministry even though I did not see it at the time. I wish I had responded like Joseph in every instance. I pray that I will in the future.

Read this other article, also by David: 7 Spiritual Growth Tips

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version

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