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Do You Have a Toxic Boss?

Kerry Thompson
It can be difficult to work with a boss that is irritating, but a boss that is toxic can be completely debilitating. What are some of the signs that your boss may be toxic?

Everyone has struggled at some stage with a boss that they don’t connect with. There is a big difference however between "Oh my god, they're annoying" and "I'm not comfortable around this person".

It can be difficult to work with a boss that is irritating, but a boss that is toxic can be completely debilitating.

What are some of the signs that your boss may be toxic?

  1. They show aggressive, angry, or confrontational behaviour towards you, making you fearful of their reactions: Their reactions are often outwardly aggressive and confrontational making you fearful or apprehensive about how they may react in future, regardless of the situation.
  2. They ridicule you, put you down, or are disrespectful: We don't mean they call you a ”silly-billy” when you mess up, we mean they put you down, tell you off, as if they were your parent, or they set you up with questions they know you can't answer, especially in front of others.
  3. They use you as a front for their mistakes: They already have it planned, they know how they're going to use you to cover their mistakes and how it is your fault, instead of taking responsibility themselves.
  1. They take credit for your work and put themselves in the spotlight: When they aren't using you as a front for their mistakes, they are taking credit for your work. You've done all the research and leg work then at the last minute they step up and take the podium to receive the recognition. You often miss out on opportunities because they change the program last minute and benefit from your work.
  2. Your autonomy is restricted and you are unable to make decisions in line with your job role: They prevent you from working to your full potential and using an appropriate level of autonomy by systematically preventing you from making decisions in line with your level of responsibility or authority.
  3. You are deliberately excluded from meetings that will enable you to work effectively: Being involved in meetings that will help you perform your job effectively is too risky for your toxic boss. You might get noticed by someone senior and rewarded for your efforts.
  4. You are questioning your abilities and disproportionately focusing on your boss's needs instead of actual goals: You doubt your abilities without reason and spend time second-guessing your choices. You channel your effort into ensuring your boss is satisfied and their needs are met as opposed to the needs of your role.
  5. You fear the consequences of them being dissatisfied and you are nervous or stressed about going to work: Relating to #1 you are worried about their reaction if they aren't 100% satisfied with your work and you spend time worrying about what may happen or how they may react.

There are different ways you can deal with this sort of situation. If it works, the easiest is to ignore the effort your boss is going to, in order to make your life difficult, until the issue goes away, and by “go away”, that can be the person themselves. Either they move on, or their behaviour is spotted and dealt with.

If that doesn't work, politely and professionally addressing the issue and behaviour can be an effective way of nipping it in the bud. For example, your boss has just shouted (literally shouted) at you, either in front of colleagues or away from others. What would your response be? It could sound like this: "Thank you for showing me how not to treat team members, I will never do that to my team".

In some cases, it may be your sign to make that move you've been thinking of. It's time to up-sticks and go your own way.

Remember, always look after YOU!

Don't break yourself trying to please the unpleasable and don't go along with something that doesn’t align with your values, and definitely don't rise to their efforts.

If you are struggling with a toxic boss or another stress in the workplace, contact us and we can talk through things. There's no obligation, it's just a chat.

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