6 Signs Of A Toxic Boss & How To Deal With Them

Christina J Colclough

By Christina Colclough

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Do you dread emails or meetings with your manager? Do their comments and requests feel like nightmares? Toxic bosses can drain your motivation, but there’s still hope!

toxic boss

Read my article to learn some toxic boss signs and practical tips for staying sane and surviving confrontations with tyrants.

Top 6 Toxic Boss Signs

1. They Lack Communication Skills

Does your manager seem to ignore your concerns, and you must seek information or answers from outside the immediate team? If yes, he is a prime example of a toxic boss. Consequently, the lack of feedback and guidance from your boss leads to constant uncertainty about your responsibilities and goals.

Professor Tiziana Casciaro at the University of Toronto stated that the disconnect between managers and employees seriously affects both parties. Employees miss out on learning and growth, while businesses lose valuable ideas and contributions.

2. They Perform Micromanagement

Micromanagement crosses the line from detail-oriented leadership to excessive control. This shows that the boss constantly seeks dominance and control over every aspect of the work. Some even feel threatened and try to undermine their talented employees.

Red flags include constant progress reports for every task and immediate reminders for minor errors. Such excessive actions aim to maintain a fragile sense of control and power, showing the manager’s need for control over the team’s growth.

3. They Make You Feel Insecure

Lack Or Poor Communication

Great managers foster a secure and supportive work environment, but toxic ones do the opposite. This lack of support takes a toll on the psychological and mental health of employees. Once you constantly feel anxious and nervous when facing your supervisor, it clearly indicates toxicity in the workplace.

Such leaders often sow seeds of uncertainty about your future stability within the organization. They create an unhealthy office by spreading rumors, making you feel alienated, and eventually draining your work ethics and enthusiasm.

4. They Have “Two-Faced” Behavior

Toxic bosses are chameleons, adapting their behavior to their audience. They might act like a pressure cooker with their staff, squeezing them with demands, but then turn friendly and mild-mannered around higher-ups.

This creates a blind spot. Unaware of the true dynamic, senior management fails to address the toxicity, allowing the problem to worsen.

5. They Don’t Foster Growth

Toxic bosses show a lack of interest in or actively impede your personal and professional development. They are often reluctant to guide or support employees and unwilling to provide resources or feedback to enhance their skills. Over time, you may be trapped in a repetitive grind of mundane tasks with little opportunity for progress.

As a result, your career may experience no achievements, recognition, or tangible advancement. You feel stuck when you cannot see a clear future path within the following 1-2 years.

6. They Set Unreasonable Expectations

Some leaders are so focused on winning their own power struggles with colleagues that they throw team harmony under the bus. Their relentless ambition translates to an undue burden on their subordinates.

Some surefire signs include assigning an overwhelming workload within tight deadlines, expecting immediate success, and disregarding your work-life balance. They also tend to make unfair comparisons that leave employees feeling undervalued, which further spreads anxiety among employees and compromises their well-being.

9 Tips To Deal With A Toxic Boss

1. Give Them Feedback

two colleagues sitting together

The quickest way to deal with pressure from toxic managers is to open up with them. Some managers are just unaware of how rude and offensive their actions are, which might stem from stress or loss of emotional control. Hence, your genuine feedback helps them work towards resolving their issues when they are already in good condition.

Speak up about what you have endured in an unhealthy environment. Even if your polite and constructive feedback goes unnoticed, at least you can clearly identify if your boss is truly toxic. A good leader will acknowledge your concerns and take steps to improve. Otherwise, Start documenting your boss’s behavior and consider seeking support from HR or exploring new opportunities.

See more: 30+ Feedback to Manager Examples

2. Minimize Interaction As Much As Possible

When your boss is toxic, take a step back to assess the situation. Is their behavior pervasive, affecting other colleagues as well? If so, it’s a strong indicator of a toxic management style. If so, you can easily identify it as his toxic management style. In such cases, maintain a low profile and avoid them whenever possible.

If the offensive actions persist, seeking legitimate reasons to stay in your safe zone is advisable. This strategy only makes sense when you believe you can endure their toxicity for an extended period. When you decide to stay in the short term, focus on fulfilling your core responsibilities and prioritize self-care strategies to manage the stress. It would help if you also looked for other approaches to escape this nightmare.

3. Keep A Record

Once you have identified instances of bullying, collect evidence for various reasons. Above all, you need to prove the authenticity of your claims when addressing the issue with higher authorities. Describe what happened to you in detail, including time, location, people involved, witnesses, the sequence of toxic actions, and their impact on you.

Though writing down negative things is never easy, take immediate action when faced with bullying. These records will assist you when seeking assistance from your organization or filing a lawsuit.

4. Ask For Help

Before things get out of hand, seek help from someone you trust. You can request intervention from your human resources department, a business advisor, an inspector, or a senior management board. In a worse situation where your manager is a cog in a rude management system, seeking guidance from external experts will help to escape the toxicity.

5. Find Allies

You are not alone if your boss exhibits rude management over the entire team. Get involved with other victims and raise concerns. As you navigate the challenges ahead, these people will become trusted allies, friends, and advisors. Together, you can form a support network and share strategies. Regardless of the outcome, these relationships can positively impact your future career.

While seeking support from colleagues who witnessed the behavior can be helpful, avoid gossiping or bad-mouthing your boss to unrelated people. It can create unnecessary tension and potentially damage your reputation.

6. Learn And Adapt

Sometimes, no one can get you out of the toxicity but yourself, and leaving might be out of the question. Accept the stark reality and find a way to survive in such cases.

Start by setting healthy boundaries for yourself and communicate frankly with your boss. For example, you can negotiate to adjust deadlines when swamped with an overwhelming workload or refuse to handle emails after work.

Additionally, learn your boss’s communication style and adjust yours accordingly. This can help minimize misunderstandings and frustration. Remember, adapting doesn’t mean accepting abuse. Once you feel like they are crossing the line, it’s best to let go of all the negativity.

7. Do Your Work Well

Feedback to Manager Examples

Delivering high-quality work might shield you from a toxic boss. Strong performance can make it harder for them to criticize you unfairly, and your achievements might reflect well on your boss. In some cases, this could lead to a slight improvement in the dynamic (though prioritize your values over people-pleasing).

If the situation remains unbearable, don’t hesitate to explore other options within the company or elsewhere.

8. Stay Out Of The Drama

Stay sober, maintain a positive attitude, and keep a safe distance from toxic people. Respond to negativity with respect and avoid getting caught up in gossip or negativity. This reduces tension and keeps the focus on work.

You may be unhappy with your boss, but never say negative things or criticize others. If your boss’s behavior affects you and your colleagues, discuss concerns constructively, focusing on solutions rather than placing blame. When you need to release built-up stress, do it with trusted friends or family outside of work.

9. Prioritize Self-Care

Regardless of your approach to workplace violence, always put yourself first. Self-care is crucial in maintaining your mental and emotional health in the face of attacks from a bad boss. When your mood is down, take a break and give yourself the time and space to recharge.

Try cultivating a positive mindset even when you are down in the dumps. You can try to understand the reasons behind negative behaviors, but it is unnecessary to excuse them. Find joy in your workday and happiness in the little things, such as meaningful moments with a co-worker or a small achievement. If you feel your well-being is at risk, contact a psychologist immediately.

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Dealing with an abusive boss is a constant battle, but you can navigate this situation with patience and a clear plan. However, always put your mental health first. If you find your well-being at risk and all your efforts are not paying off, consider seeking opportunities in a new company. Toxic managers can dampen your enthusiasm, but don’t let their negativity hinder your career growth.

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Christina J Colclough

Christina J. Colclough

Dr Christina J. Colclough is an expert on The Future World of Work and the politics of digital technology advocating globally for the importance of the workers’ voice. She has extensive regional and global labour movement experience, is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach, and strategist advising progressive governments and worker organisations.

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