Are you miserable at work because of your manager's behavior or unprofessional practices? You could very well be dealing with a toxic boss. In this article, we are going to cover toxic boss signs and how to deal with them professionally!
You may think having a toxic boss is rare, but it's more common than you will believe. Let's discuss this before we dive into what warning signs to keep an eye out for.
Toxic bosses are more common than you realize
Dealing with a toxic coworker is one thing, but dealing with a toxic boss can be extremely difficult. It’s disappointing to know, but there may be more toxic managers than good ones based on these statistics from Emtrain on workplace culture:
- Only one out of three employees feel that their bosses create a sense of belonging for all members of the company.
- 44 percent of workers were not confident that their Human Resources would take a reported complaint.
- Only 33 percent of employees are comfortable saying “No” to their manager’s unreasonable requests.
These are pretty dire numbers. Unpleasant workplaces are very stressful, which leads to many health problems among employees. In addition, researchers found that working in a toxic environment can result in increased depression and substance abuse.
When you’re dealing with a toxic boss, it’s not just your livelihood at stake. Your health and home life may suffer as well. With that being said, let's dive into the most common toxic boss signs.
6 Signs you have a toxic boss
The first step to navigating a toxic work environment is knowing what’s going on. Unfortunately, a lot of toxic managers get to stay in their positions because they can be sneaky with their unfair behaviors. So, look out for these subtle toxic boss signs:
1. A toxic boss tries to micromanage everything
Micromanaging is one of the most common toxic boss signs. Notice what your manager does after they assign a task – do they let you work on your own? Or do they want to be in control all the time and refuse to hear others’ opinions?
2. They use their authority to avoid responsibility
If your manager is quick to blame you or others instead of coming up with a solution to the problem, then that’s a tell-tale sign you’re dealing with a toxic boss.
These types of managers would throw anyone under the boss to avoid responsibility. And most likely, they’d also take credit for your work if you get good results.
3. They don't care about the well-being of their employees
The worst toxic bosses are the ones who don’t care about their employees. These are the managers who don’t know what you’re working on. They don’t provide the resources you need to do your job.
They’re the ones who leave their employees constantly understaffed to keep costs low. This could also be for reasons such as earning bonuses for themselves, etc.
4. A toxic boss has unrealistic expectations
Having unrealistic expectations is a behavior common to toxic managers. They give unsustainable workloads and ignore your needs to rest or have a personal life. These are also the type who expect you to be available on your days off or to work overtime without notice.
5. They are unpredictable
One of the toxic boss signs is when you feel like you’re walking on eggshells at work. Toxic managers use fear to control. So, often, they’d be friendly one minute and threaten your position in the company the next.
6. There’s favoritism and bullying in the workplace
You’ve probably seen this scenario play out before. A manager plays favorites – the favorites get access to resources that are not available to all employees.
When a toxic boss has favorites, they’re also most likely a bully. And when they bully their employees, there’s no accountability because their favorites cover for them.
How to deal with a toxic boss: 7 Key tips
Studies have proven over and over again that people leave managers, not companies. The latest data found that 57 percent of employees have left a job because of their manager.
But for every one person that quits, there’s another who has to stay because they don’t have much choice. So, what can you do when you have to deal with a toxic boss?
1. Decide whether to stay or quit
Your plans and strategies on how to deal with a toxic manager depend on whether you decide to stay or leave the company. Sometimes you may not realize right away that you’re ready to move on and that’s okay, too. Just make sure you have a strategy at play.
If you’re ready to quit, then you must take charge of your life and career. You can’t leave it up to chance. You already know your toxic boss won’t have your best interest at heart. Even if they are giving you signs that they want you to stay.
So, know what you want for yourself moving forward. Talk it over with a mentor or a trusted friend. Or if you want, you can hire a career coach. But ultimately, come up with a plan to leave.
2. Find friends at work
If your boss is not a good leader, there’s a fair chance, your co-workers know it too. Don’t engage in gossip that can come back to bite you in the end.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have friends at work. At the very least, they can make your days bearable. Plus, you’ll have people in your corner who understand what you’re going through.
3. Be professional even when your boss isn't
Even if your boss is toxic, keep things professional. Be polite, honest, and clear.
Don’t let their negative behaviors and actions affect how you do your job. Other people may still notice your professionalism even under bad leadership.
Bosses who use their position to intimidate just want to display their power. So, let them think they won. Don’t let them get under your skin.
4. Don’t be a target (do your job and do it well)
If you need to stay in a job under a toxic boss, find ways to cope outside of work. Talk to someone you trust whom you can confide in – a friend, a family member, or a therapist.
You may want to take up hobbies like running or painting. All of which will help you have an outlet for your frustrations.
So, when you get to work, you can do your job and do it to the best of your ability. When you have good results, it may make you less of a target for your toxic manager.
5. Learn and adapt to their leadership style
Just because you have a toxic manager doesn’t mean you can’t have professional growth. You can start with setting small goals for yourself to help you get through the day.
While you’re deciding whether you want to stay or go, assess how your role in this company fits the career you have in mind.
What you are hoping to achieve with your current position? What would you need to move on? Ask yourself these questions to determine what is best for you.
6. Don’t take it personally
Know that your toxic boss behaves the way they do because of who they are. It’s not because of you or something you did.
So, don’t take things personally, no matter how hurtful they are. Your boss will probably behave the same way to whoever has your role.
7. Talk to HR when necessary and keep detailed records
If you think you have a strong and valid case, talk to human resources. But make your own judgment on this – you know your company culture and management better than anyone.
Although we hope that employees should be able to speak out against unfair treatment by their boss, we also know that it harms the employees more when they do.
Make sure you have detailed and accurate records if you’re going to HR. Report on your toxic manager’s abusive or inappropriate behaviors as clearly and concretely as you can.
Don’t exaggerate anything and avoid vague references, unsubstantiated stories, or opinions.
Keep your head up when dealing with a toxic boss
Working in an unpleasant environment is stressful. Stress leads to a host of health problems and can affect all aspects of your life negatively. So, if you’re dealing with a toxic boss, take time to really think about your options.
If you decide to stay, then use the tips above to remain positive and productive at work. Don’t allow a toxic manager to jeopardize a job you love.
If the next right step for you is to resign and move on, then you need to come up with a plan. Know where you want to go next. Enlist some people – family, friends, or a career coach – to help you.
Most importantly, make sure you are prepared financially for the transition. Build up your emergency fund, just in case you can’t start with a new job immediately. Remember, you can find a great job where you are treated with respect and get paid what you are deserved!