A Gospel Response to A Difficult Boss


A Gospel Response to A Difficult Boss

Have you ever worked for a toxic boss? I’m not talking quirky, or even annoying. I mean the kind that says one thing to your face and another behind your back. The kind who takes credit for your work, or throws blame your way when something doesn’t go well, even if it wasn’t your fault. Maybe you have a boss who yells and stomps around like a T-Rex, or maybe your boss flat out just doesn’t care about anything other than him or herself. I’ve worked for a few of these bosses over the years and I’ve also heard plenty of stories from friends and clients who work under the reign of such a leader (using that term generously, of course). Working for a toxic boss feels heavy. You may feel dread at the thought of going into work or logging on or your heart rate may start to quicken when you interact with them because you don’t know what kind of mood they might be in. It’s stressful, hard to stay focused, and sometimes it even takes a toll on your personal relationships or your health.

As a Christian, what should you do if you work for a toxic boss?  It’s not always as simple as find another job. That may be what God is calling you to do, but He may also be calling you to lean into this difficult season so that you can grow in your faith and Christlikeness. I’m not here to tell you whether you should stay or go – that is between you and God. What I will do is point you back to Jesus and the truth found in the Scriptures so long as you are working for a toxic boss.

Let’s start with 1 Peter 2:11-25. I encourage you to read the entirety of these verses, but for brevity I will highlight only a few. Right out of the gate in verses 11-12, Peter gives us a tall order: Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. I love how Peter reminds us that we are foreigners here. You may live in Northeast Indiana, but Northeast Indiana is not your home when you belong to the Kingdom of God. As citizens of a different land, we play by a set of different rules, one of which is to abstain from sinful desires. What might that look like? You may have the desire to punch your boss in the face. Thankfully, most of you can hold back from punching, but what about complaining about your boss to a coworker? You may justify it by calling it venting but what you are really doing is planting seeds of negativity in the heart of your coworker. What about thinking snarky thoughts about your boss? What about rolling your eyes as you walk away from him? If we are being honest, it can be hard to resist these seemingly small behaviors. But notice, that’s why Peter says these desires wage war against your soul. This. Is. A. War. It’s easy to forget the seriousness of warfare when it comes as little whispers in your ear. Don’t fall for it, friend! 

Then, Peter talks about slaves and masters. In today’s terms, apply this to employees and bosses. In verse 18, he says: submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.Later in verse 20: if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Okay, wait a minute!! Is Peter saying we are just supposed to suck it up when we have a toxic boss? Check out what he says next in verse 21: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.Whoa. But you don’t know my boss! How am I supposed to just do that?!  The answer comes in verse 23. Speaking of Jesus’ example of suffering on the cross for us without retaliation, Peter says: he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 

As Christians, we are to submit to the authority of our leaders, even the unjust and toxic ones, resisting the typical worldly response because we trust in God’s promise to judge justly. When we give in to sinful desires a couple things happen: you are taking over as judge, you are missing out on God’s blessing, and you are squashing the chance that your boss or coworkers see Jesus in you. Now let me ask you a tough question. What would you rather have: the momentary pleasure of venting about your horrible boss or the eternal reward of being commendable before the real Judge because you choose to be respectful? I get it; it’s really difficult to show respect to someone who has not earned it. But Peter shows us that God is calling you to respect the position of authority, which you demonstrate by showing respect to the person in that position. Remember, we play by a different set of rules.

There’s a clear Biblical call for us to submit to your boss, and while your head might understand it your heart may not be on board yet. That’s okay. Peter knows you are going to feel those sinful desires, otherwise he wouldn’t have needed to urge anyone to avoid them. What can you do to help your heart catch up? You can pray. Pray both for your heart to be changed and for your boss. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus tells us: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. I’m not going to lie – sometimes that is incredibly hard to do. Sometimes my prayers for difficult people came out sounding more like asking God to heap burning coals upon their heads, or like David asking for Him to destroy all my foes. It’s a start, but it reveals more about your heart than anything else. Instead, ask God to help you see your boss as He sees them. God sees a person with wounds, insecurities, and fears on the inside that manifest themselves as really crappy leadership on the outside. God sees a valuable soul that He created, one who is as dearly loved as you are, and one who needs Jesus to the exact same degreethat you do. 

Please know that no one is advocating for you to stay in a toxic environment that is compromising your health or your relationship with others. The Bible also clearly tells us that God is our ultimate authority and there may be times when you must defy earthly leadership if they ask you to do something that is not ethical or biblical. You always have a choice. But there will be moments or seasons when you are faced with toxicity, so now you know how you are called to behave while you are in those valleys.  he writer of Hebrews says it well in chapter 12 verses 14-15: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.Remember, this is war! We have a very real enemy who wants your boss to miss out on the grace of God because of you. Don’t fall for it, Christian! Remember, we play by a different set of rules.  

by Sally Stitzer