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how to deal with a difficult boss or coworker | A Thing Worth Doing Blog with Daniel Webster

How to Deal with a Difficult Boss (or Coworker)

During the transition into adulthood, getting that first job is challenging but also very exciting. As you get older, you’ll find that keeping a job is a completely new kind of challenge. One thing that can make a job very difficult is the boss you work for and the people you work with. On the flip side, a good relationship with your boss (and coworkers) can also make a job very rewarding. Knowing how to deal with a difficult boss or coworker is a must!

Within the Old Testament narrative, there is a remarkable example of four young men–Daniel, Hanania, Mishael, and Azariah–who determined to stay true to their convictions while striving to win the favor of those around them. What stood in their way? The boss! Let’s look at this text to see how these young men approached their boss and eventually won the favor of this difficult leader.

Below are six practical ways you can deal with a difficult boss. But first, let’s get the context for this story from Daniel 1:

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 

Daniel 1

Choose your battles

Let’s face it. Stuff will happen in the workplace that you don’t like. You’re doing yourself a huge disservice to make drama out of every little thing. In this passage, Daniel and his three friends have two major things happen to them: a diet change (verse 5) and a name change (verse 6). Both of these would have distorted their Hebrew distinction, but Daniel never once challenges the name change. He does however dispute (verse 8a) the required diet that would bring dishonor to his God.

The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

Daniel 1

When you have an issue, go to the one who can fix it

The girl in the cubicle beside you may have a lot of insight, but if she doesn’t have the authority to fix your problem, you may be making matters worse.  Don’t get me wrong, a vent session is occasionally in order. However, venting won’t fix the issue; it will just make you feel better for a period of time. In the narrative we see Daniel make a beeline to the prince of the eunuchs (verse 8b) in order to request that their diet be changed.

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

Daniel 1

Don’t make demands

Your boss probably likes to see you be assertive when it comes to your job, but dealing with problems is not a time to be bossing the boss. Daniel’s approach is humble. The KJV states that Daniel requested (verse 8b). The ESV states that he asked. The NASB states that he sought permission.

Build a relationship with your boss

I didn’t say kiss up to him. Your boss can see right through that. But on the other hand, if all you ever bring to your boss is a problem, he will hate to see you coming. Talk about sports. Ask about his kids. Let him know that you’re praying for his mother who is in the hospital. In case you didn’t know, your boss is a person! God allowed Daniel to win the favor and compassion of the one in charge of him (verse 9).

And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 

Daniel 1

Offer a solution with your problem

No one likes a gripe. Your boss is there to get the job done, not to babysit. If you have a problem, you had better be there to fix it, not to complain. Daniel no doubt had a plan (verses 12, 13) before entering the meeting.

10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 

Daniel 1

Anticipate good results

Daniel and his friends are allowed to have a vegetarian diet, and they end up, through God’s strength, healthier than the other men.

14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel 1


We must note that God was working providentially in this story. Notice that the text is careful to point out that “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (verse 9) and that “God gave them learning and skill” (verse 17). Like Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, and others in the Old Testament, God was sovereignly intervening in their circumstances to do great things in the presence of the nations.

But doesn’t God want to do the same for you?

It’s easy for you to think, “Oh this hamburger thing is JUST a job. I’m only here because I need to pay my bills,” or “This high-paying position is MY job. I am working to advance MY career.” Both mentalities are dangerous. (Read here for more on the subject of vocation and calling.)

We should view every daily task and our vocation as something that we do for the glory of God. What if we viewed our jobs as an opportunity for God to show himself mightily in the nations? What if you viewed your boss as a person made in the image of God and one to whom you can minister grace?

Next time you are frustrated with your boss (or coworker), consider these six reasonable steps. But also, seek to behave as Daniel, Hanania, Mishael, and Azariah so you might be able to win not just the favor of your boss but also his heart for the honor and glory of God.

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Daniel Aaron Webster - blog a thing worth doing - worship, culture, ministry - early Christian music

Daniel Aaron Webster is a minister, writer, and teacher. His primary research interest is early Christian music, especially the musical thought of Clement of Alexandria.

Daniel serves at Welch College as Director of Enrollment & Marketing and as Adjunct Instructor of Music & Theology. He is also the Associate Pastor for Music & Worship at Immanuel Church in Gallatin, TN. 

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