Every morning when I walked into work I didn’t know how the day would unfold. Some days were filled with productivity and camaraderie with co-workers. Other days it was difficult to focus and there was little interaction with others due to an angry outburst from the Chief Operating Officer. Employees retreated to their respective offices with closed doors to stay out of his way.

I persevered through this challenging time in my career through my friendship with Diane.

Diane was a co-worker who was someone I could trust. We mutually could share work experiences and get a reality check about the impact of our abrasive boss. Both of us were committed to not allow the unpredictable moods of our boss to affect our work even though at times it was hard to concentrate after one of his outbursts. The anticipation of “who would be his next target” left everyone in an anxious state. Being able to support, empathize, and validate that what was happening was real and we weren’t crazy kept us going.

Many mornings before our work day would begin we met to pray for the day ahead. We were intentional about focusing our mindset on being positive, instead of dwelling on the chaos and unpredictability of how our boss would behave. We had no control over how he would handle himself, but we could control our response. That’s what we supported one another to do.

We also challenged one another to grow through questions such as “What did I miss? What could I have done differently? How can I look at what’s happening rationally and not get caught in the volatility?” These type of questions kept us from becoming victims or martyrs and instead to grow as people.

In essence, we had one another’s backs.

The importance of having best friend at work is backed by research as one of the strongest predictors of productivity. Studies show that when employees have a good friend at work, there is less absenteeism, fewer accidents, and more staff retention. There is also increased loyalty to the organizations and satisfied clients.

Diane and I didn’t always get it right. There were times when we reacted to the irrationality of our boss or when another verbal lashing would occur to one of our fellow co-workers. Even though we were never singled out, we were still affected by what we observed and the tension in the office. Those were the times we met to regroup, give each other a reality check, and choose the best way forward. The connection to one another was a lifeline that kept us anchored to manage the stress and focus on learning behaviors to protect our own well-being.

If you are working with an abrasive boss, focus on what you can control to better yourself and your situation. Choose a trusted colleague who will give you perspective and insight, as well as be a truth teller about your own behavior.

We need good relationships to help us make sense of bad ones.

Who’s got your back?

Make the Conscious Choice to surround yourself with people who will inspire you to be your best and have your back