How a Tough Boss Can Help You Improve Your Life

Bill Abbate

Have you ever had a good boss? I don't mean an easy boss, but a boss who cared about the work you did. A good boss is not your friend, and they are certainly not soft or easy on you. Yet, they do treat you fairly. They do not look down on you, but they expect you to do your job in a timely and efficient manner, producing quality work. Why should they expect anything less?

Let's look at two types of bosses, the bad and the good boss. While it may sound counterintuitive, we will call the bad boss soft and the good boss hard or tough.

The soft boss

Think about it this way; what kind of employee will you become working for a boss that always takes it easy on you? A lackadaisical boss who is never demanding, coming across as uncaring for the company or for your work in it. This is not a healthy environment, is it?

How long will a company put up with such a person and the lack of results they produce? Some of these bosses keep their position far too long to the detriment of their employer and the employee. Ultimately their lack of productivity will catch up with them, but don't let it catch up with you as well!

I had such a boss for a time. Unfortunately, he was the president's brother-in-law, which allowed him to get away with his lack of leadership skills. As the general manager of our division, he hurt the company badly over time. He did not raise any good leaders as the two other general managers in the company had done.

Rather than continue to work for him and his soft and lackadaisical approach to business, I decided to seek employment elsewhere. This turned out to be a good move for my career. A couple of other area managers did the same thing and came out better as well.

Eventually, his poor performance caught up with him. When his brother-in-law left the company, the new president dismissed him because of his poor performance. I saved more than two years by quitting and going to work for a far better boss and employer.

"Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and the worst." Robert I. Sutton (1954-present)

The hard boss

Yet think of what kind of employee you can become if your boss is hard in the sense of being firm. I recently ran across the perfect quote to describe this kind of boss by a wise American author and publisher:

"A good man likes a hard boss. I don't mean a nagging boss or a grouchy boss. I mean a boss who insists on things being done right and on time; a boss who is watching things closely enough so that he knows a good job from a poor one. Nothing is more discouraging to a good man than a boss who is not on the job, and who does not know whether things are going well or badly." William Feather (1889-1981)

I was fortunate to have had such a hard boss early in my career. He not only got more out of me, but he taught me a great deal about being a leader that has paid off many times. He was demanding but was always fair and honest and made many of us who worked for him into better managers and leaders.

As Feather says, this hard boss is not a micromanaging, stick-in-the-mud kind of person. Instead, they insist the work is done correctly and on time. This boss stays on top of things and is keenly aware of what is going on at all times.

What kind of results for the company, and what kind of employee do you think this boss would create? There is a big difference between this boss, and the soft boss, isn't it?


It is evident the better leader of the two bosses is the hard boss. If you are fortunate enough to work for one, see it as an opportunity to gain experience that will help you build your skills and leadership abilities.

A soft boss lacks leadership and management skills, as well as the ability to inspire. Being too easy on employees makes them softer, setting them up for failure in the future. If you are a soft boss, you need to toughen up, but not in a belligerent way. You have much to learn from the hard boss.

If you happen to be the hard boss, do not be an unreasonable boss. Treat everyone fairly and respectfully, appreciating their work when it is appropriate. Ensure employees are clear on their responsibilities, knowing exactly what is expected of them. Remember, you are not their friend, but you are not their enemy either. Let them do their jobs while helping them grow their abilities and skills, and you will create truly dedicated employees.

"Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders." Tom Peters (1942-present)

Final thoughts

A good boss is not a pushover and will challenge you to do more, become more, and accomplish more. Good bosses are tough, and they are excellent leaders and managers who care about the company, its employees, and their results. The good boss ensures their reports get the experience they need to become great leaders.

If you are an employee, do not wish for a soft boss, but for a hard one. Wish for a true manager and leader. Work for them enthusiastically, and you will go far in life!

"A good boss makes his [people] realize they have more ability than they think they have so that they consistently do better work than they thought they could." Charles Erwin Wilson (1890-1961)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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