Navigating a toxic supervisor in a professional environment can have negative effects on your overall well-being.
Navigating a toxic supervisor in a professional environment can have negative effects on your overall well-being. The abrasive nature of such a workplace dynamic can create turmoil in your mental health, causing you to doubt yourself and potentially encouraging you to disdain your chosen career. Unfortunately, examples of toxic leadership are common. A study conducted by The Muse found that 64% of 1,300 respondents had experienced a toxic work environment, with 44% attributing this toxicity to leadership.
Explore more to identify telltale signs of toxic bosses and discover effective strategies for navigating these challenging professional relationships.
Signs of a Toxic Manager
• Micromanagement: Toxic managers often feel compelled to monitor every aspect of an employee’s job. They may constantly demand updates, question your abilities, insist on inclusion in every email, and prevent independent decision-making without their input or supervision.
• Lack of Boundaries: Managers without boundaries may intervene in your personal life or expect you to be available at all hours. This toxic behavior blurs the lines between work and personal life, increasing employee burnout.
• Indifference: A toxic boss often undermines your accomplishments, does not take you seriously, and ignores your suggestions without giving them fair consideration.
• Unfair Treatment: Toxic leaders may show favoritism by unfairly assigning tasks or projects, placing a disproportionate burden on some people while others enjoy lighter workloads.
• Inconsistent Behavior: Inconsistent behavior exhibited by toxic bosses, such as mood swings or conflicting instructions, can leave employees stressed and confused. If you constantly find yourself in the unpredictability of your boss’s inconsistency, you may be in a toxic work environment.
• Blame Shifting: Toxic bosses often shift blame and responsibility to others when faced with mistakes or challenges. By pointing fingers without evidence or justification, toxic bosses erode trust in the workplace and cultivate a culture of fear.
Dealing with a Toxic Manager: 5 Strategies for Effective Management
Encountering a toxic manager can turn your professional life into a daily hassle and cause you to feel anxious when you approach the office. Unfortunately, given the general lack of respect toxic bosses display towards their employees, politely requesting a change in their behavior is often futile. Discover these five effective strategies for skillfully managing and redirecting a toxic manager for a healthier work environment.
“Avoid Personalizing Their Behavior,” advises Ashley Rudolph, business consultant and coach at Work With Ashley R. “The best strategy for dealing with harmful bosses is to maintain a neutral stance. Their behavior towards you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.”
Recognizing that your toxic boss’s behavior may stem from his or her personal struggles or insecurities allows you to approach the situation with empathy. This perspective does not mean condoning harmful behavior, but it allows you to emotionally detach from your boss’s actions and avoid blaming yourself.
Seek Friendship and Collaborative Help
As Rudolph emphasizes, creating a conspicuous presence within the organization can serve as a safeguard, especially when faced with unfair targets from a toxic boss. “If you keep your head down and focus on your work in a silo, your boss owns your career story,” Rudolph advises.
Rather than isolating yourself, she recommends actively seeking opportunities to showcase your work, help colleagues, and develop alliances with other members of the leadership team. These connections could potentially open doors to alternative opportunities, including the possibility of a move to another team. “Seek friendship and collaborative help to strengthen your professional standing,” Rudolph concludes.
Take Time to Revitalize
Working in a toxic work environment can have a significant impact on your mental health. Without intentional breaks, the risk of burnout becomes inevitable. According to Rudolph, “This may be easier said than done, especially if your boss creates anxiety about team members taking time off or not missing a day of work themselves. You still need to take time off.”
Drawing on personal experiences with a toxic boss, Rudolph candidly shared her own struggles with concerns about asking for time off from work. Although he felt uneasy, he emphasized the importance of taking regular Fridays off for his own health.
So, if worry or anxiety has led to the accumulation of unused vacation time, it is crucial to recognize that occasional breaks are neither selfish nor inappropriate. By appropriately requesting time off from work, you are within your rights to use the leave days provided as part of your compensation package.
Record, Record, Record
There can often be legal consequences when there is a toxic work environment. Kat Campbell, founder of HowardHelen, a people and culture consulting firm, recommends creating a weekly email practice for yourself to document incidents with your toxic boss. “Be clear about the context, who is involved, and how it makes you feel,” Campbell emphasizes. “Hopefully you never need these emails, but it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.”
Because memories of specific events can fade and blur over time, keeping a written record is vital to accurately recalling event details. This documented record can be invaluable when seeking intervention from human resources or pursuing legal action.
Don’t Defend Yourself
“When your mental, physical or emotional health is suffering, you must be your own advocate and take steps to protect yourself in any way you can control,” Campbell emphasizes. He underlines that defending yourself can come in a variety of ways. One approach is to create a list of your limits, display them on your bedroom wall, and stick to them steadfastly. Alternatively, seeking support from a mental health professional and relying on friends outside of work are also valuable strategies.
Being your own advocate also requires speaking up if you feel it is safe to do so. If you choose this approach, Campbell recommends calmly addressing your concerns with your manager or HR, providing specific examples and remaining open to potential solutions. “Be prepared to prove your claims if necessary,” he advises.
Be Kind to Yourself
Dealing with a toxic boss can drain your energy, compromise your mental health, and erode your self-confidence. It is very important not to direct the blame at yourself in difficult working conditions. Toxic behavior exhibited by your boss often stems from their personal challenges, not your personal problems.
However, if the poisoning is also affecting your personal life and causing misery, it may be appropriate to consider giving two weeks’ notice. Trust that by taking this step, you are prioritizing your well-being and opening the door to better opportunities elsewhere. Remember to be kind to yourself during these challenging moments.