How to Handle Working With a Toxic Boss


You spend more of your time at work than most anywhere else. In today's connected world, it's almost impossible to truly disconnect and create a barrier between the home and the office. With so much of your time and headspace taken up by your job, a good work environment is critical to your wellness. Unfortunately, that's not always the reality for many employees.

Most of us have been there. We've all likely had that co-worker who went behind everyone's back, the late night emails that need to be answered RIGHT NOW and perhaps even a culture of gossip amongst colleagues. However, when the biggest problem is a toxic boss, the impact on your life can go far beyond the office. It's first important to recognize if you have or you are a toxic boss. Here are a few things to look for:

They are terrible communicators: A toxic boss will often keep you in the dark. When they do communicate it's usually vague, confusing and inconsistent. You may even find that any direction you are getting is contradictory to what your coworkers told.

  • They take no responsibility: When something doesn't go right, a good leader takes responsibility. With a toxic boss, poor decisions are often made impulsively or based on an emotional outburst or even incompetence. When things go badly, they will often blame others for not understanding their vague communication or will defend their decision making to the detriment of the company.

  • They don't set plans: One key to a successful business is planning. Employees rely on their leader to set the course and to communicate their ideas for the company. Whether a toxic boss doesn't know how to create a strategic plan or doesn't know how to express it, doesn't' matter. Either way, team members are left having to tackle crisis management day-to-day vs. having a clear set of tasks and goals.

  • They play favorites: When an employee adopts a toxic bosses way of thinking or plays to their ego, you may start to notice them moving up in the company, deserved or not. A toxic boss wants to have their power reinforced, and they will tend to put more value on an employee that mimics their thinking vs. an employee who is getting the job done.

These are just a few examples, but if you recognized any of them, you might have a toxic boss. Now, how do you deal with it? Though the idea of marching into your boss' office and quitting may sound pretty good, not everyone has the financial luxury to do so. First, unless you truly feel the environment may change, it's probably time to get your resume out there. Focus on moving on and not feeling stuck where you are.

It's also important to remember that this isn't about you. Though your boss may be negative toward you, speak down to you or even embarrass you, the root cause has nothing to do with you. Remember, they may have things going on outside of work that you don't know. Don't take their issues personally. You have no control over how someone else behaves. All you can do is control how you handle it.

Try and use your time working with a toxic boss as a learning experience. After all, learning what not to do as a leader is just as valuable as learning what to do. When applying to new positions, make sure to take note of the company culture. If you see any of the red flags you've experienced in your current role, apply elsewhere. You don't want to end up back where you started.

Though working with a toxic boss can take a toll mentally and even physically, remember that it's only temporary. You'll eventually move on to greener pastures, and you may also learn some valuable lessons in the process.

Kristen Harold