Is your boss dragging you down? Learn what your favorite movie can teach you about thriving despite your boss’s behavior

The Society for HR Management recently released their annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report for 2015.  In that report they reveal the top factors that contribute to employee job satisfaction.  The top 2 contributors had to do with relationships at work:


  1. Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
  2. Trust between employees and senior management


Following this theme around relationships with people…


Relationship with immediate supervisor ranked #6, Immediate supervisors respect for my ideas ranked #7, Communication between employees and senior management ranked #8, and Relationships with co-workers ranked #15.


The work itself ranked #11, Meaningfulness of the job ranked #14, and Variety of work ranked #21.


Relationships at work rule!!  More than anything else at your job – because how you feel about the people you work with/for has more to do with your ability to feel happy and fulfilled at your job than any tasks you are accountable to perform.


So, is your boss dragging you down?  Learn what your favorite movie can teach you about thriving despite your boss’s behavior…

I hope this technique will help you to gain a new perspective about anyone – especially a boss – that you may be struggling to accept and work easily with.  Think about this…


  • What’s your favorite movie?
  • Who is the villain in that movie?


  • What actor plays that villain?


We all know there is a distinction between characters in a movie and the actors who play those characters – we do know that – right?  I hope so although I am never really sure.


When I was a teenager, I was in a local TV soap opera and I was very active in school theatrical productions.  I most enjoyed playing villainess characters and I guess I did a really good job because I was shocked at how many schoolmates would come up to me to tell me things like “Wow, you were really cold/a bitch/evil/scary, etc.!”  I took it as a compliment (I guess I was really convincing) but I would worry about the individual telling me that – they could see there is a difference between ME and my character – right?  It only seemed logical to me that they could so I would go about my merry way.


But this concept became relevant in my professional life – fast forward to my years as a corporate executive…


The truth is we all play parts in our job and sometimes our interpretation of that role with all the challenges we see ourselves to be up against sometimes causes us to act in a way that blurs the line for people about who we really are.


As with a movie, you may judge the character (even though it’s a fictitious interpretation of that person/character), but how often to you judge the actor portraying that role?  Pretty much never right?  Through watching that movie, you gain insight into a life, a challenge, a situation that you may never have in your own lifetime but you still are able to learn something about those challenges/situations from having watched that movie (without ever having to actually have that same experience in your real life).


In real life, I believe every interaction we encounter is for our development – no matter how difficult or easy that interaction may be.  Work environments and relationships with our bosses are a sacred, accelerating learning ground for our soul development because there is usually no context of love between you and the other player(s).  A business context is certainly among the top killers of the spirit of love – even in family run businesses.


So imagine that you are the writer, producer, director, casting agent, and star in your work movie.  For every relationship (good and bad), ask yourself this…


“Why did I write them (especially your boss) in the script this way?”  In other words, what’s the possible lesson – the opportunity – for your development?


Answer that question imagining the “player” at work (your boss) as an “actor” – an individual with a higher self that you have no real judgement of for having played this role that calls for them to behave in a way you decided they need to behave in order to have a particular impact on you (the star) that leads to an evolved version of you.  That way of behaving may be kind, supportive, friendly or it may be ugly, disrespectful, mean, unfair, dishonest, etc.  Nonetheless, it is a behavior that you notice that has a distinct impact on you that may be a perfect path to helping you develop a trait or ability that evolves you in some way.


So, imagining the “player” (your boss) as an actor portraying a certain character with traits (you wrote this way in your work-setting movie script), ask yourself…


  • What role (characteristics) do they play (portray)?
  • How do those traits impact me (what behaviors do they provoke within me – how do I commonly react)?
  • What’s the pay-off when I behave in that way (what traits am I developing/strengthening)?


If you don’t like the answers to your questions, ask yourself what’s another way of reacting?  Can you find a way that you would feel proud and grateful to have the chance to develop?


I once had a boss who I thought was very cold.  I felt she showed favor to certain people on our team – I was not one of those people.  Even though I did well in my reviews with her, I hated the wall of formalness/coldness between us.  I wanted her as a confidant, a mentor, an empathetic ear, someone who could laugh with me at the hard stuff we dealt with.  She was none of those things and I found it very hard to be in her presence.


I remember realizing one day that the best way to get through our infrequent one-on-one meetings was to tell her what was happening that may come across her desk, or her bosses desk, tell her how I was handling it and find agreement with her about the point she would want further update/involvement.  After months of reporting to her (and feeling defeated – I would never be a star to her – and disappointed about our relationship – she wasn’t hardly anything I valued in a boss), I realized that I became a much more independent, out-of-the-box thinker and a confident, accountable problem solver.  Soon after that realization, I moved on to a job with a lot more responsibility and she was no longer my boss.  When I resigned, she simply took my resignation letter and said “You’ll be missed” without any other discussion.  I didn’t believe her that I would be missed – I believed she was happy to see me go.  Guess, I will never know the truth – but it doesn’t matter – it was time for me to go.


Looking back, I feel so damn sorry that I wrote her in my script that way.  And I was able to remember many times when she was warm, laughed, and showed kindness – but I couldn’t see any of that at the time she was my boss.  During our time together, I was only able to see what I needed to see to evolve.  And evolve I did.  I landed a job that I served in for a very short period of time before being promoted 2 levels to a head of HR.


During my years as an employee relations specialist, I would offer my co-workers a funny way of coping with challenging people (coping with challenging people was our business after all).  I would say it’s “Company ________ – the movie”, and we would take a short fun break to cast the players with real actors or characters from movies or cartoons.  We would laugh and have so much fun with that – it definitely lightened the mood and gave us strength to move forward and serve another day.


It’s no mistake that in Sedona I really related to this movie exercise because it so closely (but of course more maturely) mimicked my movie exercise with co-workers (of course back then I only offered it to co-workers I liked and found it easy to support).  As Yoda said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”


Unlearn what you think you know about your boss and learn instead to find the opportunity for you to interact with and be in service to your boss (in service to the development opportunity your boss’s behavior provides to you) – I promise there is a virtuous development opportunity for you in it.   You don’t have to “suffer” a boss’s behavior.  Actually, you don’t have to “suffer” anyone’s behavior if you are looking for the development that’s in it for you.  You can change your script – after all, you are the writer, producer, director, casting agent, and star in your LIFE movie.


As I said, evolve I have and evolve you can too! (Now I sound like Yoda) ;-)


About Gina Calvano

Gina Calvano is a certified coach and Senior Professional in Human Resources, with over 20 years of experience as a talent management professional in both the private and non-profit sectors. With a unique approach, she combines her strategic corporate expertise and accreditations with metaphysics and transformational thinking which has resulted in people all over the world feeling good about themselves and connected to a sense of purpose.

She created the Success Readiness Bootcamp™, a step by step process that enables people to easily discover their unique talents and abilities and match them to majors, jobs, industries and leisure pursuits. Gina is also the co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life with NY Times Best Selling Authors Marci Shimoff, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood and Powerful Connections Made Easy™ with Aprille Trupiano, and is currently working on her next book — Caged in My Cube: The Turnaround Guide For Loving The Job You Hate.

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