Would You Rather Be Right or Be Employed?

by Ron Haynes

drillsergeant The difficult supervisor

When you’re working under a difficult supervisor or boss, it’s easy to develop a poor attitude. A bad attitude feels good for a while but demonizing your boss won’t make things better. A far more productive approach is to think of him or her as a person rather than an ogre or monster (or drill instructor). Chances are very good that he or she is dealing with many of the same pressures you are – from family needs and expectations to the expectations (realistic and unrealistic) of higher ups in the organization. He, like you, has to produce the desired results.

As far as it depends on you, the employee, try to make your boss’ life more pleasant. And let him know that is your goal! How? Do your job according to his or her specifications – not yours. I’ve told my boss that I never want him to be surprised and, if it’s within my power, I make sure he never is. I’ve told him repeatedly that he can depend on me to keep him in important loops, from office gossip to industry information. I’ve also told him that he can depend on me to help him look good because I’m depending on HIM to help make ME look good as well. “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” – but I make sure I take the first step.

Sometimes a boss makes decisions you don’t understand, but like it or not, your boss is in charge, and your personal work situation will improve if you maintain a good attitude and a good relationship (hint: your good attitude about your boss comes before a good relationship with your boss).

How to have a better relationship with your boss

Observe and adapt.

Pay attention to how your boss works and adapt yourself to that style. Listen to what he or she says or doesn’t say. Don’t be a complete copycat, but if he or she wants no less than three options when you present something, give four.

Don’t go above your boss’s head.

If you have an issue, discuss it directly with him or her. If the problem persists, wait a few days and ask, “Have you had a chance to think about that issue we discussed?” If the problem still hangs on or is particularly serious, seek advice from your human resources department.

Take the phrase “team player” seriously.

Never use phrases such as, “But that’s not my job.” It makes you seem whiny and uncooperative and that’s not the best way to have a good performance review or get paid what you’re worth.

Do your homework.

Before you go to your boss with a new idea, extensively prepare background materials for support, but don’t neglect your current assignments! Going off the reservation on a personal quest doesn’t make you look like a team player either.

Respect your boss’s authority.

He or she has been placed in that position to get things done. Once a decision is made, respect it regardless of whether you agree or not.

Stay loyal in public.

If you have differences with your boss, don’t let the whole office know. Don’t just agree in public then complain in the break-room.

Compliment your boss.

When your boss has done something particularly well, offer a compliment, but do this only for significant achievements or milestones. Otherwise you seem like an apple-polishing suck-up. No one likes insincere flattery.>

If you still have a problem, maybe your boss isn’t the problem. Maybe it’s you. It never hurts to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask your self, “Am I being unreasonable?” or “Should I have this response? Is it in my personal best interest?”

What’s really important? Being right or being employed? In today’s job market, that’s not a crazy question. If you’d rather be right, I’d suggest dusting off your resume.

Photo by The U.S. Army

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Credit Girl

I would much rather be employed than right. Sometimes it’s best to just swallow your pride and accept that your supervisor/boss is still the one in charge. Someday, you can reach that level and run your administration differently but until then you might have to take one for the team so you can bring home the bacon to your family!


that’s an intelligent way of thinking , its not wise to go against a boss
thanks for sharing


In general I agree with you in that having the right attitude and supporting your boss is really a part of your job description whether or not you like the boss as a person. After all, you were hired to do a job under his/her aegis and whether or not you’re right on technical and operational matters tends not to be the point.

I do have to point out that there are times it’s got to be better to be right and walk away than be complicit when your boss crosses the line to behaving illegally and unethically though (discriminatory hiring practices, lying to “test” employees, and setting specific employees up for failure by giving false information [admitting to this], practicing retaliation, etc. All things that are explicitly labeled as discrimination and termination-worthy by HR).

I suppose it may be considered a Morals issue, but beyond that, I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay in that environment any longer than you can help as it’s only a matter of time before the guns are turned on you, no matter how carefully you tread.


Certainly if your boss is committing illegal acts you should consider walking away, but I would first recommend talking with him or her, pointing these out, then following up with a phone call/email with your HR department.

There are always exceptions, but in my 25 years of experience in the work force, I’ve learned to manage my life by the “rule” rather than those few exceptions.


While you’re at it maybe you could try licking his boots after he kicks you with them. That might get you a few more brownie points on your next performance review too.


That’s quite a childish and immature way to look at things. With an attitude like that, you’re probably not going to experience what it’s like to have a good working relationship with ANY boss. I feel quite sorry for you.

In my 25+ years experience in the workforce, I’ve observed that people with these type of juvenile attitudes toward a boss have never been in an authoritative position, nor will they. If they have, I would surmise that they probably were poor performers.

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