5 signs you have a toxic boss – and how to deal with them

If you feel that your boss is the hardest part of the job, you are not alone. According to Google trend data, the search term how to deal with my boss, has received a 6,100% uplift in searches within the last month alone.  As the WFH movement is set to continue, trying to navigate a boss that displays toxic behaviour can be lonely and unsettling.  Here, HR director Danielle Blair at at the health and lifestyle brand GearHungry presents 5 signs you may have a toxic boss with guidance on how to navigate them.

Good work is my win, ‘bad’ work is your problem.

Landed a new client?  Built a winning proposal?  Being accountable and producing good work is a sure-fire way to boost an employee’s morale however, if a colleague or even worse boss, positions it as their own and steals the credit, it is harmful to an employee’s wellbeing.

Solution:  Lay the groundwork before you have even started the scope of work by acting in complete transparency.  Providing assets such as Google docs that everyone can view, an email stream that updates all parties on progress throughout and a complete overview of work once it is completed consistently relates the work back to you, making it difficult for anyone to legitimately claim it as their own.

An evolution in micromanagement

Micromanagement from a boss can inflict additional pressure on an employee, especially when working from home.  Constant calls, messages, and emails (especially with colleagues cc’d in) can see the receiver feel incompetent and undermined.  Understandably, this kind of behaviour can soon become toxic to the environment.

Solution:  Play it firm, and fair.  If you do not appreciate micromanagement, assert your expertise in the field to make it clear that you are more than capable of the task.  Outline the tasks that you often complete with input and give examples of when you have often met deadlines.

‘It’s easy’.

Whether it is the task in hand or referring to your role as a whole, a boss proclaiming that what you are doing is ‘easy’ is undermining.   Such comments also project a sense of needlessness to a job role and with a portrayal that it is unnecessary.  Without question, this can be considered as toxic.

Solution:  Acknowledge the comment and ignore the context by asking questions.  For instance –

  • Do you think?  Which parts are easy?
  • How so?
  • Why do you believe it is easy?

Digging a little deeper leads the person to think about their comments further as they attempt to elaborate.  This can have them question their comments and really think about the meaning behind their words.

Your door is always open.

As the UKs workforce continues to navigate lockdown and working from home, it can feel like the office has 24 access to you.  Constant out of office communication can lead a person to feel controlled by their workplace as they are never fully disconnected.  If a boss invades your personal limits by surfacing out of hours, this is displaying toxic behaviour.  

Solution:  Set boundaries.  An email out of office auto response does not have to be limited to annual leave.  Setting it at EOP outlining when you can respond manages expectations.  Voicemails can also be used in the same way as OOO auto responses.

Fear led management.

Ultimatums or management that is built upon a foundation of unapproachable behaviour is toxic.  If you feel that your tasks are unfairly critiqued, your job is always put in jeopardy or there are always consequences laid in front of you, the situation may be deemed toxic.

Solution:  Keep a diary of situations that you feel are toxic.  If you have evidence that aligns with each diary entry, such as email chains, file them also.  Arrange a chat with HR and discuss the situation.  Employees can forget that HR is an impartial voice supporting them that is there to provide solutions.

Feeling that your boss is exerting toxic behaviour does not have to be tolerated.  Remember, it does not have to carry on that there are tools available to you that safeguard your wellbeing in the workplace.

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