Everyone has had a pink thing for a boss. Here’s my story of how I dealt with it, and hopefully a guide for you on how to step up and do the hard thing.

One afternoon we were out at Coalinga teaching a course and one of our instructors, Arty, had pulled a group of students aside to give them some coaching on elevation. Arty was a very smart guy and especially sharp with technology; he could write code and had a reputation (deserved) as an Internet technology guru. Whenever Arty talked about anything technological, I made sure to listen.

“So, you adjusted your elevation when you shot this morning,” he was explaining, “but now that you’re shooting in the afternoon, you’ll find that when you shoot at 200 yards your existing 200-yard adjustment is an inch too high. That’s because it’s a good 20 degrees warmer now than it was this morning, and as the temperature increases, your chamber pressure also increases, which translates into higher muzzle velocity. So now you have to bring your elevation down an inch to compensate —”

“Stop!” Suddenly there was Harvey, striding out onto the range and interrupting Arty right in the middle of his class. “Stop, stop, stop! You guys, listen, you just trust your dope.” (Dope meaning “data on personal equipment,” the elevation data from a data book.) “Trust your dope. Don’t start changing your settings and messing everything around. Trust your dope!”

I felt the blood drain from my face. Everything Arty was saying was spot-on accurate, of course. Even if it hadn’t been, though, the last thing you want to do is start contradicting your instructor in front of the students. If one of your instructors does screw up, you pull him aside afterward and talk to him in private, but never in front of the students. Do that and everybody loses credibility.

As soon as I could I pulled Harvey aside and said, “Harvey, you’re killing me here. You can’t do things like this to my instructors.” This wasn’t the first time he’d done this; he was becoming infamous for it. And the students weren’t stupid. Between Harvey and Arty, they could clearly see which one knew what he was talking about. Harvey’s behavior was undermining the whole concept of respect for leadership—not only privately, among the instructors, but also among the students.

At the end of Arty’s course, we had everyone in the class fill out critiques, as we did with every course. The students absolutely hammered Harvey. They had their certificates at this point, so they must have figured they had nothing to lose, and they just told the truth. “Unprofessional,” said some of the critiques. “Hurting credibility.” “A clear weak point.” “You need to know,” wrote one, “that Master Chief Clayton is an idiot.”

When Harvey read the critiques he was furious and declared he would order the students to redo them.