How to Identify and Deal With a Toxic Boss

1. Make the decision to stay or go

The first step in dealing with a toxic boss is to make a realistic decision about whether to stay or go. If you feel trapped, realistically evaluate how severely the situation is impacting you emotionally and mentally. If you decide to stay, it’s important to develop some coping mechanisms to limit the effect of their behavior on your mental well-being.

Others will notice your professionalism despite poor leadership.

3) Use Body Language to Your Advantage

The power of body language is too often underestimated, but the influence body language has on how people perceive you can be the difference between night and day in your relationships.

Bullies, like a toxic boss, jump at the first opening to intimidate and abuse those around them, so it’s your job to show them that you are the furthest thing from an easy target.

Try out the following power play body language techniques and see how they naturally dissuade your boss:

 When you aren’t talking to your boss, turn away from them. Avoid facing your body towards them as much as possible; only show them your side or back

 During face-to-face interactions, ensure that your chin and chest are lifted and your back is straight. Your hands should also stay in front of you

 Avoid twitchy movements. If they call you, turn to them slowly rather than jerking your head.

After serious changes to your body language, your boss will naturally sense your powerful vibe, and in turn begin treating you with more respect. 

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2. Understand the bully

The boss who is a bully at his/her core is an insecure, manipulative person who throws tantrums. They are selfish and immature. Most of you would not put up with this type of behavior in your own children and should not tolerate this type of treatment from your boss. The problem is your boss has a significant amount of control over your position. For this reason, you cannot meet fire with fire.

Toxic bosses manipulate their demand-arsenal so rapidly that it makes it difficult to meet their expectations or correctly follow their direction. It is a good practice to take detailed notes with times, dates and details of conversations you have had with your boss. This helps you stay on task. You will have evidence of what was said and requested, when and on what date, when your boss makes a move to gaslight you on what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Keeping this log available helps you stay grounded in the facts and out of the fire of emotional drama.

These notes also keep your boss in check with the fear that you may report him/her to human resources. Taking notes allows you to stay organized and to call your toxic boss out on your terms.

Related: The 6 Most Familiar ‘Bad Boss’ Types and What to Do About Them

The dark boss

There are two good methods for dealing with a dark boss.

  • Address your fears: Toxic people thrive on exploiting the fears of others. Don’t think you’re good at spreadsheets? They’ll pick your spreadsheets apart. Don’t feel confident in your project management skills? They’ll pick that apart, too. Wherever you feel insecure, a toxic boss will pick up on those things and use them against you. Real leadership can guide you through flaws and help you grow while toxic leadership may prey on your insecurities.
  • Reframe your story: When a toxic person wants to win, they often create a narrative that paints other people in a negative light. Gaslighting is common and gossiping is the norm. To combat this situation, you should keep your head in the real story. If your boss is always yelling, reframe the story so that your boss is a hurt person instead of a jerk. If your boss continually criticizes you, take it as an opportunity to grow.

Reframing your story keeps you in control of what’s happening. You know the criticism isn’t valid, but since you can’t do anything about the situation right now, try reframing the situation to something positive.

This strategy is all about mindset. And for more on mindset, here is an excellent resource from Entrepreneur.com.

4. Don’t gossip 

To help keep your sanity intact, distance yourself from the source. That means seeing the toxic person as separate and distinct from you.

You may not like or respect them, but don’t disparage them. Speaking positively of others – or at least resisting the temptation to speak negatively – is a strong demonstration of emotional intelligence. If you do need to vent, do it outside the workplace.

If your colleagues are also being negatively affected, you can lend support by offering an understanding ear, but make sure any discussions don’t devolve into negativity or personal attacks. If you feel like there is a legitimate case for bullying, intimidation, or harassment, consider getting HR involved … which brings us to my next point.

If your colleagues are also being negatively affected, offer support but make sure any discussions don’t devolve into personal attacks.

2. Mental fatigue

"Chronic exposure to a toxic boss has a profound impact on well-being," the authors write."Your efforts to just get by from day to day are downright exhausting."

This daily pressure can lead to mental fatigue, which neuroscientists say impairs your cognitive performance and reduces your motivation to get things done. Mental fatigue also makes it harder to focus on tasks at hand, resulting in decreased productivity and work efficiency.

Solution: Overcoming mental fatigue requires that you stay calm, says Emma Seppälä, a Stanford psychologist. To get to this state, she advises that you do things that make you feel positive, detach from work when you're not working and remember the big picture.

VIDEO 0:52 00:52 Things to give up if you want to be a great bossMake It

Helen Unwin

Helen Unwin is a coach devoted to helping others design and create their lives on their own terms, by rediscovering who they are – their key strengths, values, and motivations.

Putting People First

When Orly rejoined Myriad360, her work became more about building relationships than pushing products. “This is a people-to-people business, you are selling the idea of making their life easier,” Orly explains.

Myriad360 sells millions of tech products but working in tech sales doesn’t mean you have to be a tech expert. “What I like about Myriad360 is that we focus on the business outcomes,” explains Orly. “At the end of the day, the technology that we’re selling is there to impact our client’s business—to give them a competitive edge, to save money, to be more efficient.”

Through her experience, she’s learned that what’s most important is understanding how to identify her clients’ pain points so that she can work with the engineers on her team to help solve them.

Providing solutions to her clients is what keeps Orly feeling fulfilled, even when the job itself gets stressful. “I’ve truly become friends with a lot of my clients,” she elaborates. “It’s very rewarding knowing you’re actually making an impact for them personally and professionally.”

5. Build a network

It is important to keep in communication with other employees who are also targets of your boss’s poor treatment. Encourage your coworkers to document dates, times and conversations they have with your boss. The more people involved in documenting the facts the stronger the case you give to human resources to intervene and possibly seek to further train or terminate your toxic boss. The more evidence that is brought into human resources from multiple people the clearer the pattern of abuse is to diagnose and treat.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get started.

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