If I don’t like my boss, is it wrong not to quit?
In the wake of a record number of people quitting their jobs in 2022, it seems a reasonable questionable to ask. Could the roughly 50.5 million people who left their jobs in 2022, surpassing the previous record of 47.8 million people who left their jobs in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, be partly accounted for by those who had simply had it with working for a jerk?
With the unemployment rate hovering around 3.4%, the lowest in more than 50 years, perhaps employees are quitting because they are confident in finding a new job. It is conceivable that some employees who were willing to put up with an annoying boss when there were few other options available are now more willing to seek opportunities elsewhere than they would have been in January 2009, when the unemployment rate clocked in at 7.8%, more than double the current rate.
But these statistics don’t answer the question of whether it’s wrong to stay in a job where you are working for a boss you don’t like.
To answer that question, you’d have to determine just how much disliking your boss gets in the way of liking your job. It also depends on why you don’t like your boss.
Simply not liking your boss doesn’t strike me as reason enough to bolt, particularly if your able to do good work you enjoy doing. Because many people spend more of their week in the workplace than anyone else, it would be nice and perhaps more productive to be surrounded by people they like.
But there are times when each of us works for or with people who do something we simply don’t like. The boss may, for example, not offer enough praise to make an employee feel as valued as they want to feel. Even that guy in the shipping room who doesn’t always alert us about a package arrival as promptly as we’d like might regularly annoy us. Is it wrong to stay in the job because we find these and other behaviors annoying? No.
Of course, no one should have to work for a boss who is abusive and makes unreasonable demands of his, her or their employees. If the boss’ behavior gets in the way of being able to do your job that too seems a good reason to leave if options are available.
But it’s hard to make the case that we have an ethical responsibility to leave a job because we simply don’t like the boss. That’s particularly true if we respect certain aspects of the way the boss runs the company and treats employees and don’t like those one or two things they do that makes us believe how nice it would be if the boss would just disappear.
Ultimately, the right thing to do if you don’t like your boss is not to flee the premises in search of new opportunities – although that’s sometimes an option – but instead to ask ourselves just how much whatever we don’t like about the boss affects whether we can do the work we’d like to do on this job.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
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