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Even the Worst Boss Is Valuable

I’ve worked for people who were crazy, had quirky interpersonal skills and who spoke only in cryptic analogies. It may sound trite, but I’ve learned something from every boss– the under educated, lacking in experience and emotionally volatile. All of them were good – at something.

My second boss did not have the education or experience to do the job for which he was hired. I was a trainer and there was nothing he could teach me about training. But he was really good politically, and I was really bad. Not only did I not play the game, I didn’t even know which game we were playing. I learned how to navigate a corporate environment from him, and it’s something I write and teach about today. He made me a more savvy careerist. And I taught him a thing or two about training.

My next boss had weird interpersonal skills. He typically had a Cheshire-Cat-like-grin plastered on his face that made all of his direct reports question his authenticity and decide he was downright odd. But he really knew how to package and present information. He told me I was all substance and no sizzle. I actually thought it was a compliment – all meat and no fluff, until I didn’t get a raise one year because I didn’t promote my accomplishments well enough. The Cheshire Cat taught me how to package and present information so I could sell my ideas and in turn get resources to create change.

Make every situation work –for you. You may not get what you want or were expecting from your boss, but she is sure to have something you need. Look for what she does effectively. Watch her in meetings. See the reports she produces. Watch what she is able to sell and how she works with difficult people.

I assure you the day will come that you will need that skill and will be grateful that your worst boss, with little education and poor interpersonal skills was a good example… of something.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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