Do you have a toxic boss creating a toxic workplace? You're about to find out here.
Here on our site, I'm the career, interview, and HR expert. I've worked as a hiring manager for many companies in different industries, and my work has been featured on Outwit Trade and Up Journey. That being said, you can be sure that I'm giving you all the best workplace advice.
Now, let's talk about that abusive boss and their toxic behavior.
What is a Toxic Boss?
A toxic boss is a leader who uses their authority to undermine their subordinates' happiness, success, and/or career growth. They do this by circumventing rules and processes because they believe their position makes them infallible. Rather than admitting a mistake or accepting responsibility for what went wrong, they blame others or make excuses.
Some toxic leaders are overpowering and demanding, while others are so tuned-out that you wonder how they got the position in the first place.
What Makes a Bad Leader
Perhaps they make awkward jokes or publicly point out people's shortcomings. Maybe they treat the office like their clubhouse and try to impose their unpopular opinions.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether your boss is intentional with their toxic leadership or simply out of touch. But whatever it may be, that doesn't make their bad behavior at work acceptable, and it certainly doesn't make it non-toxic.
How to Identify A Bad Boss
If you work for a toxic person, you may feel under attack and flustered because you need the job, yet working under a toxic manager drains your mental health. You might want to confront them, but you're afraid of the implications. Maybe you're even second-guessing whether your toxic leader is even showing a bad attitude. Before going to human resources, know how to identify a bad boss.
1. They are only interested in their own career advancement.
A good leader helps a worker by providing career-boosting training, coaching, and development, and points out and helps nurture their strengths. Unfortunately, bad bosses won't give you career advice even if you ask. They focus solely on their own paths for advancement and are willing to step on anyone to get there.
2. They take credit for your work.
Have you ever had a manager make you question whether recognition is still a thing? Your hard work is overlooked, your ideas and efforts are ignored. What makes this situation worse is your horrible boss then takes ownership of your input or the things you've completed and makes you feel invisible.
3. They play favorites.
It can strike a real emotional chord if your boss is someone that plays favorites, and quite frankly, it is bad behavior! Imagine entering a new job and feeling like you have multiple bosses to impress because it is blatantly obvious who's backed by the boss no matter what. They get the choice assignments, all the special perks no one else does, and they can do no wrong in your boss’s eye.
Favoritism doesn't only make you feel worthless; it can also limit your success. If you're up against that favorite colleague, even if you're more competent and diligent, they may still be chosen over you.
4. They don't respect your time.
If your boss doesn't hesitate to disrupt your personal life, they're toxic. Sure, sometimes an employee is expected to do some extra hours, come in a little earlier or leave a little later. But when your professional life constantly takes over your personal time, and your boss keeps demanding more and more time from you, it's not healthy. It's toxic.
5. They take no responsibility for poor decisions.
An evil boss likes to seek out flaws and is often the first to point out a mistake but the last to ever own up to one. Rather than admitting an error on their part or accepting responsibility for what went wrong, they accuse others or make excuses. They interpret any proof or constructive feedback as an attack.
This nightmare boss may even seek vengeance for being challenged by excluding you in meetings, or worse, get in the way of your next deserved promotion.
6. They unprofessionally gossip.
In a toxic work environment, gossip spreads like wildfire. A bad boss shows ineffective leadership when they participate, encouraging this terrible workplace culture rather than shutting it down. Gossiping is a form of workplace bullying, and a good boss would recognize and stop this kind of thing from happening.
7. They never give constructive feedback.
Have you ever had a botched conversation when receiving feedback?
We all know constructive criticism is meant to be specific, actionable suggestions to do and be better. It helps us learn and understand. However, a bad manager can be quite narrow-minded, quick to make demands but fails to actually ever give recommendations on how to make positive improvements. It becomes a personal attack, harming self-esteem.
Alternatively, they make no comments at all, leaving you guessing whether you're doing the right thing.
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6 Types of Terrible Bosses
There are different types of bosses that are less than ideal. A terrible boss survival guide may be needed, but first, you need to know what you're dealing with.
An incompetent boss shows all or any of the traits above and makes no effort to grow. They may have been promoted too-fast and too-soon, or for the wrong reason, that they don't quite know what they're doing either. Sadly, this terrible boss is in charge of people with more experience and those who know what they're doing.
This person lacks self-control. You'll find yourself dealing with their bad temper more often than not. They are in charge, and they'll raise their voice to make sure you know it.
This boss is an unyielding tyrant! Because they're inflexible, conversations can only go one way. Usually, innovation and progress are very slow or have stalled, and they don't like accepting new ideas. A rigid boss is one that's stuck in their own ways.
A callous boss is not shy to show rude behavior. In fact, they lack empathy and kindness. They can be disrespectful, ignorant of social norms or expectations, and have no etiquette. They behave inconsiderately, aggressively, or are deliberately offensive.
A corrupt boss has questionable integrity and work ethic. They may be involved in violations that venture into gray areas. These could be in the form of ethical, moral, legal, or financial breaches.
An insular boss is fairly disengaged. They look like they're listening but never actually hear or understand anything said. They might smile and nod. They might even tell you they love your idea. But nothing ever changes or gets done.
Effects of Working With A Bad Workplace Environment
Negative work environments and toxic leaders can result in low employee performance and morale. Toxic leadership is a problem. Whether it's bosses who call people names, lose their temper easily, or like to publicly humiliate staff who make mistakes, they have a significant impact.
A lot of research shows how harmful terrible bosses are to people and organizations.
Effect #1: You have no job satisfaction.
Imagine never getting credit for your hard work. You give great input, share some fascinating and innovative ideas, yet your bosses get the recognition and praise. In fact, your name is never even mentioned. You'll have no job satisfaction because your efforts aren't recognized.
Effect #2: Causes anxiousness and fear.
When you arrive at work, you take your time going inside. This isn't where you want to be. You're worried about what mistakes you've made that can be thrown at you, even though what was expected was never explained properly. You're constantly looking over your shoulders at work, and any time you hear your name called, your heart beats a little faster.
Bad bosses cause a lot of anxiousness and fear. Thoughts of work and your bosses are always at the forefront of your mind, affecting your mental health.
Effect #3: Sleep deprivation.
This goes hand in hand with anxiety but having a toxic boss, and a bad workplace environment can cause sleep deprivation. You'd think once you leave work, all that negativity stays there. But in truth, it follows you home.
You want to get a good amount of rest to keep your mind fresh and relaxed for the next day, except the thoughts of things that have happened reply in your mind. Or, you're too worried about what's to come to sleep.
Effect #4: Lowers productivity.
When you have toxic management in the workplace, you'll find you cannot concentrate well on your work. They're constantly undermining your every move, ignoring all your good effort, and there is never any opportunity for you to develop your skills or learn new ones.
Effect #5: It makes you feel lonely and isolated.
When a dreadful boss is harsh and abrasive towards employees, they tend to shy away from others out of embarrassment. It doesn't build good morale in the workplace because that negativity creeps out and spreads.
You're always put down and insulted, so you begin to question your worth. These thoughts can make you feel lonely and isolated.
How To Deal With An Abusive Leader
You don't need to become Barbara Kellerman and study the art of management to know right from wrong. If your boss's behavior feels toxic, it likely is.
Step 1. Avoid fanning the flames and making it worse.
Don't put a bullseye on your back if this person is out looking for a target by being unruly or overly aggressive.
Step 2. Try to keep some distance.
Most people wouldn't be sticking around unless they have to, so focus on the work and lay low. Try to keep face-to-face contact to a minimum and opt for emails instead.
Step 3. Talk to them privately.
Talk to them privately about how their leadership style is affecting you. Try to present some examples. Avoid this talk being an attack on them as it may aggravate them.
Step 4. Get HR involved or another leader.
If things have gotten out of hand and talking to them hasn't improved things, it may be time to get HR involved or another leader.
Step 5. Consider leaving.
Your mental health and wellbeing should always be prioritized. No job is worth being abused.
Relatable Quotes You Can Keep In Mind When Your Boss Is Driving You Nuts
As much as we don't want our toxic boss to fill our minds with thoughts of them, it sometimes can't be helped. So, if they are driving you nuts and things start to feel overwhelming, remember to breathe deeply, step away, and think of these quotes.
"I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life. They have shown me exactly who I do not want to be." — Al. E Gater
Thank your lucky stars you are not them. Focus on the lessons they have taught you instead. What would you have done differently if you were in their shoes? How could that conversation have been handled better?
"Be kind. Even on your bad days." — Brighton Early
Understand that some people let their emotions run their attitudes. There could be things happening in their personal lives that are affecting their moods and behavior. While it's not an excuse, it may help explain why they are the way they are.
"You can't control other people's behavior, but you can control your responses to it." ― Roberta Cava
You should show kindness, respect, and courtesy even to those you don't believe deserve it. There is no point adding fuel to the fire if your toxic boss is on a rampage.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." — Charles Darwin
Sometimes the answer is to adapt to the new norm. In certain situations, it's better to bite your tongue and accept the changes and decisions being made around you.
"Show respect even to people that don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours." — Dave Willis
Acts of kindness can be contagious, just like a smile. Continue treating everyone as you'd like to be treated. Who knows, your positive attitude and compassion may rub off on that toxic boss of yours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Your awful boss and workplace may be leaving you to feel insecure and full of questions. Check out our answered frequently asked questions:
Should you quit your job because you have a bad boss?
It depends if you've tried all you can to change the situation. If you've had the talk to upper management and attempted to get HR involved, and still, your bad boss is affecting your ability to do your job well, consider it may be time to move on. At the end of the day, you need to question whether the position is worth all the stress you're feeling.
Unfortunately, some people may be working for the person at the top of the food chain where they are it. In these cases, still, try the talking approach.
What do you do when your boss doesn't manage you?
Take the initiative and ask for a meeting where you can get your questions answered. If you are requesting particular training, make it clear to your leader why and how it will benefit them as well. This will help support your request.
How do you tell your boss they are the problem?
Before you go pointing blame, make sure you have all the facts and aren't being biased. This is especially so if you are not the person directly affected by their bad behavior.
Ask for a private meeting and address the issues. Make sure to have examples of their behaviors or the inappropriate things they've said. It might be even beneficial to keep a diary or even have a witness sit in on the meeting.
What bosses should never ask employees to do?
There are many things bosses shouldn't ask employees to do. These could be things they aren't legally allowed to or simply immoral if they did. Anything that puts an employee in harm's way or something outside their scope of knowledge for a start is a big no-no.
Example: asking you to cancel holidays, falsifying documentation, work unpaid, preventing you from taking your meal breaks.
Do bad bosses ruin good employees?
Unfortunately, yes, they can. Toxic attitudes, especially from a higher-up, can affect an employee's mental wellbeing, loyalty to a company, and quality of work. When employees are unhappy, it can be a great loss to a business because of a high turnover of staff.
More Work-Related Articles That Might Help You In The Future
If you're dealing with a toxic boss, getting back out there and exploring the job market may be your solution.
- Brushing up on your skills to answer phone interview questions is a must. Knowing what kind of questions might come your way can help you have some great answers prepared.
- Be one step ahead! Interview questions for managers can be a little different. Practice your professionalism and pay attention to your body language.
- When you land that perfect job, it's time to look at the best 2 weeks notice letter templates.
If you've been dealing with an awful boss, try to remain calm and stay focused on your reactions. Continue doing the best your toxic workplace allows, and remember you have the right to address a bad boss of their toxic behavior.
If you find the stress just continues to increase, it's time to move on or bring it to the attention of those who have the power to address it.