Dealing with Difficult Employers

Have you ever had a boss or supervisor who refused to have a positive opinion about you, no matter how hard you worked and how well you did your job?

Sometimes this can ruin someone’s chances of succeeding at and keeping a job, if your superior refuses to see the quality of your work, based solely on whatever personal dislike they have of you.

It can be very disheartening when, no matter what you do, your livelihood is jeopardized based solely on someone else’s personal dislike, rather than your actual job performance or potential.

Would the Buddha have sympathized with someone in this situation? What kind of advice would he have given?

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Makesure that you do your job to the best of your ability irrespective of whether you are rewarded for it or not. Be nice to all your work including your bad boss. Give him a little present when you come back from holiday or in special occasions.
Trust the Kamma and Vipaka.


The Buddha had boundless compassion for all beings who suffer.

Perhaps it would help to reflect on the Buddha’s teachings regarding ‘praise and blame’, being two of the ‘worldly conditions’, together with ‘pain and loss’, ‘disrepute and fame’, and ‘pleasure and pain’.
cf. Anguttaranikaya book of 8s, 5,1 and 2:


Could it be an employer’s bad karma that they don’t deserve to have you as an employee and that a different employer is out there who does?

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The way I understand it is the Kamma of both. When you are unhappy only you sufer not your boss.

I agree, and it might be karma from past lives that we’re not even aware of. What if a person hurt or abused their current boss in a past life, and the fruit of this karma is experienced today?

Do not worry abut the past or the future just stay in the present moment. This sort of investigation does not aliviate your present pain. Because you have done bad past kamma does not mean that you have to suffer now unless you have done a henious kamma. Perhaps your problem may be a trivial one.

Maybe it is genuinely the boss who is having some issues in which case you need to do better and move upwards or onwards! :+1:

Any abusive figure of authority is also suffering. This is a battle hard to win.

If you can work with metta, without resentment, then perhaps staying might be good for all.

If resentment devours you and anger arises, then perhaps staying might not be good for all.

There is a movie, The Devil Wears Prada, that touches on this issue if the suttas are unclear.

It’s unfortunately an ever present possibility, that someone in a position of power above you can influence your life. Just because they feel bad today they might take out their frustration and fire you?
Or you might even get a promotion depending on how they feel?
Our lives are entangled with each others and there is an ever present danger that some evil person can just come along and affect us in terrible ways in which we cannot control, no matter how amazing we think we are.

Reflecting on the dangers of being in the world, of being subject to other humans , could help you gain a perspective that leaves you in a state of being unsurprised by the way you get treated by others.

Of course, doing what is wholesome i.e not treating others unfairly, purifying your mind of all unwholesomeness etc will result in you not suffering next time someone treats you badly.

The difficult employer is an unpleasant thing,but the ‘suffering’ you feel in regard to not being treated fairly and threat to your livelihood, that’s on you i.e you crave for things to be otherwise…while also choosing to stay in that particular situation.

Removing that craving, you will not suffer no matter how you are treated.
Or you could get another job and hope that the next employer treats you fairly. Life is quite uncertain, but if you remove craving for it, you certainly won’t suffer anymore.

There will always be Difficult people and sometimes you can deal with them and sometimes not, but dealing with yourself induced suffering first, will sort all problems out.

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There is one talk (can’t remember whose) when the monk asked Ajahn Chah why the other senior monk doesn’t lke him without any reason. The teacher explained that in the previous life they were married and he broke wife’s heart (wife - senior monk). Apparently kamma can work this way and there is nothing we can do.
If you tried hard to change this situation and nothing works - I would look for a new job.
Otherwise it is a great opportunity to practice patient endurance and observe Dukkha.
I hope you will be happy and peaceful soon.

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You can speculate about people’s kamma, but I doubt that will help. If you have asked what you can do better, and receive criticism gladly, and still feel nothing is good enough no matter what you do, then he may just be a grumpy person who you can’t take too seriously.

On the other hand, If your boss is unreasonable and vindictive, and doesn’t support his employees, you may be better off finding another job.


This talk might be of interest


An interesting question. I have no idea what advice the Buddha might have given to someone in this situation. Since we have only the Dhamma to guide us as to what the Teacher would say, we might start with Right View. How does this experience equate with not-self, with impermanence, and with dukkha?

These experiences are part of a process. We experience the harm to ourselves, but this this disheartened feeling is one that derives from a sense of self, ie “my feelings are hurt.” “I am criticized.” Yet, these events are all part of a conditioned process. The boss acts this way because she is the product of her own conditioning, and her actions derive from this. As Ajahn Chah once said, “if someone calls you a dog, look at your bottom and see if you have a tail. If you don’t have a tail, you’re not a dog.” So, don’t take the actions of your boss to heart. Try to appreciate the causes and conditions that lead to this event.

Next,. these events are impermanent. All things that arise will pass away. As Ajahn Brahm has reminded, “this too will pass.” So let go of the idea that the situation is permanent or unfixable. In time, things will get better, or worse. As things get processed, meditate to cultivate a clear mind, and try to gain insight into what the best reactions to the situation might be. Things will change, for sure.

Finally, this dukkha, this upset, this disappointment, is inevitable. Don’t cling to the idea that you deserve better, or that “my life is unfair.” Practice the path, and trust that in the end, as the processes play themselves out, that things will be OK. Stuff happens, as it is with all of us that swim in this sea of samsara. Adhere to the pathway out of suffering, the 8fold path, and trust that all will work out as best as it can be.

I’m guessing that if the Buddha was asked this question, he’d be silent. Naturally, I have some gibberish to contribute, and I hope other kalyana mitta here do better with this question than I have… :slight_smile:


Thank you all for your kind words and good wishes. My representative at the temp agency was nice enough to recommend me for a different assignment elsewhere. It’s good being able to have a fresh start.


Best wishes and good luck with your new assignment, Kensho! Glad it all worked out for you.

As all things are impermanent, it’s not surprising that the temp agency was the solution. :slight_smile:


Great news.! Congratulations.
Let us know how you are doing with your new job.


btw Anyone heard of NVC(Non-violence communication)?