Ask a Buddhist: My Boss is Stressing Me Out!

"You have created the stress-inducing boss," says Buddhist teacher Kadam Morten
  • Transcript


Kadam Morten:  For many people, their relationship with their boss--or it could be with anyone, but let’s just say for the sake of argument, your boss--is seen as a major source of stress in your life.  And what can happen over time is that just hearing your boss’s voice or even hearing the name of your boss or just seeing your boss come walking down the corridor induces tension right, in our body and in our mind.  And we feel, my boss is stressing me out.  That’s what we actually say, as if my boss had, like, this special power to induce stress in me from his own side or her own side.  But if that were the case, if the boss was actually a stress inducer, then you would just see everyone around the boss getting stressed out.  This obviously has to do with how you are perceiving your boss.  In other words, the stress-inducing boss has to do with your perception of the boss.  So, this is interesting: basically, you have created the stress-inducing boss.  

Now that is super empowering to hear because that means, this is wonderful, there’s something I can do about this.  If the boss were, like, intrinsically, you know, a stress-inducer, then what could you do?  But because it’s a reflection of your own mind, the boss then becomes, yeah, like a mirror reflecting back at you your own uncontrolled states of mind.  And this again is where meditation is very important because it’s important that we cultivate an experience of inner stillness in our heart so that, within that experience of stillness, we can actually think of our boss and watch what comes up in our mind.  So perhaps it’ll be anger that’ll come up in our mind or perhaps you’ll also discover that associated with that is a strong sense of yourself as someone who can’t deal with your boss, can’t deal with certain situations.  So, in other words, you’re relating to yourself as being someone inadequate or limited, incapable, and the boss is causing that sense of limited sense of self to arise in your mind.   

So we can discover, in other words, what are the underlying psychological states?  What are the underlying states of mind that are producing this rather unhappy relationship?  And once you see that especially on the basis of that peaceful, still mind, well, then you can begin to do something about it.  Then you can go, “Oh, because the unattractive aspect of my boss is arising due to my own anger, if I start letting go of the anger, if I breathe it out and develop a peaceful mind” and then in meditation begin to think, “What would be the better response?  Well, for example, I can think about how my boss is helping me train my mind.”  So rather than regarding your boss as Mister or Ms. Stress, you can regard your boss as your object of improving your patience.  We all need such an object in our life.  Or you can think about, why does your boss act that way?  They must have unhappy states of mind.  They must be unhappy, they must be angry.  And you can develop compassion.  So your boss is then transformed from someone who’s just an obstacle in your life to actually someone who’s helping you develop good qualities.   

Now, that’s not to say that you should be completely passive and just, you know, sometimes it is appropriate to say certain things, if you can, of course.  But you still want to be able to say something from the right place, from a good-hearted place, through having let go of the delusion.   

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd