By the time most people hit 25, they've come up with a single password that gets them into everything from their bank account to their e-mail box. If you decide to stay with a bad boss, you need to come up with a password that lets you into an emotional place where you do not ride your bad boss experience like a roller coaster every single day.

A friend who worked at an intensely political company once ended up working for a man who ardently wanted him to fail so his own guy would get ahead. After a few months of punching the dashboard of his car every morning, my friend's password became “Deliver and this will pass.” For three years, during every grueling day, he stayed focused on building his own team's morale and new product innovation, not his boss's scrutiny. It worked: He was promoted to another division (and a good boss).

I myself had one terrible boss, who was moody and secretive. My password became “You cannot have it all, all at once.” My job had enormous flexibility. I got through the rough weeks by reminding myself that by staying, I was able to be a better, more present mother. It didn't make me like my boss, but it made me tolerate her, a much more sustainable emotional alternative.

With a password, you may still have bad days, but you will have taken yourself out of the vortex of victimhood. This brings me back to Amanda, the young woman whose life had been thrown into disarray by a bad boss. She's still at the same company, working for the same person. “But you'll never believe it,” her mother told me recently, “things are really looking up.”

I do believe it. Back in the days before Amanda bumped into messy reality (as we all eventually do), she had believed the future was hers for the making. No doubt there was now a dent in that youthful optimism, but Amanda's perseverance could mean only one thing. She had made a choice: No one could take her happiness, or her success, away.

Read more of Suzy Welch's smartest advice to get ahead at work


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