Managing A Toxic Boss + Knowing When And How To Leave

April 25, 2012  |  

A supervisor has complete control over your most basic human needs.  Your ability to put food on the table and a roof over your head. These are powerful motivating factors that allow a difficult supervisor to control people out of fear of losing these basic needs. We may not be able to always correct their behavior, but we should never have to live in fear and let our difficult boss control our lives. –Tristan Loo

If you’re reading this then I know you understand what it’s like to have a toxic boss and work in an equally uninspiring work environment!  It usually starts with the Monday morning groans on Sunday night when you begin to think about what awaits you at the start of the week.  Ugghh, not another daaaay you say!

If this is you, then read on.  It’s important to know how to manage a toxic boss but also knowing when and how to exit a situation that has become untenable for both your sanity and professional reputation.

Identifying And Understanding A Toxic Boss

In the beginning we start by giving them several passes but as the pattern of incompetence and bad behavior rears its head, only then do you realize the beast you’re dealing with is actually your boss who has the ability to make your life hell because you need to put food on the  table.  Slowly you begin to question their competence, lose respect and perhaps even feel unmotivated.  Even if you like your job, the emotional BS that you have to put up with is just too much.

Most of the time this has to do with a need for control and respect while masking a deep level of incompetence they are deathly afraid of being discovered by their employees.  Once discovered, then the passive-aggressive and vindictive games begin because they’ve been exposed.  This voracious need for control also has to do with their inability to maintain any semblance of the control in their personal lives.  Thus the only place they can maintain control is in the workplace.  But as with their personal lives, things fall apart, eventually.

They lie and deceive their employees because their fragile egos are rarely able to handle the truth.  Because of this refusal to hear the truth, this is almost always coupled with the fact that they aren’t great communicators which results in confusion for their employees.  The information highway in the organization is typically a one way street where employees aren’t encouraged to speak up about the white elephants in the room because the only traffic that matters is the manager barking from the top down.

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  • Nanny Goat

    Have one now. This article is excellent. Most toxic bosses need months,years of psychotherapy–their work lives & environment becomes a replay of childhood pathos that they keep re-creating over and over and over again. Pathetic, but my empathy is mostly for those who have to deal with twisted souls who refuse to get the help they need, creating chaos and discord everywhere they go!

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  • My last boss was the worst! Omg I happened to have gotten pregnant and I worked with another girl who was also pregnant that would make a big deal about it. Well I changed my hrs at work cause my husband told me I didn’t have to work so hard. After that all hell broke loose somebody said I was faking cause I didn’t show my co-workers my ultra sounds (none of there business) and I wasn’t whinning about being sick. So she stopped letting me have meal breaks, using the restroom, and even tried to make me lift heavy objects. Well she ending up firing me over a bogus cust complaint. But I fixed that situation and call hr and her boss on her and got offered my job back which I didn’t take. Last I heard she was still running off employees left and right.

  • Liddlelady

    Really good artcle. I had two toxic bosses, a female supervisor and a male Manager above me and the two of them ganged up it was awful. They even spoke bad against me to my collegues. (I was the only black girl in the department) I woke up every morning wishing that i had died in my sleep so that I didn’t have to attend work. I used to pray for strength. When I complained to HR about being bullied I was made out to be a trouble causer. The result of that situation made me very ill and stressed. I think peace of mind is so important. If you have the ability to, get out of a bad job situation. We are constantly telling women and men to get out of bad relationships. Managers shouldn’t be allowed to do this to people but they get away with it daily.

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  • Faith

    I just left a toxic boss and now I’m ready to be my own boss!!! It’s unfortunate that people in these positions of power end up abusing their subs.

  • 72% of workplace bullying comes from management/bosses.  And it takes nearly a year to recover from the effects of leaving a bad situation.  I say, question if your emotional health is worth dealing with a toxic boss.  When an authority figure is toxic, it’s an automatic top down reaction.  Have your plans ready! I’m 100% sure that most employees are already disengaging.  

    It’s foolish business to be a toxic boss: you mess up productivity, morale, retention, and even medical leave/health care costs.  Why don’t people speak more about the “bad business” and “money losing” practices of being toxic.

    Pray On Jobs – A Global Prayer Against Hostile Workplaces

  • Avon42day

    I had to give 36 hours notice….i tried for 3 years to make it work and prayed everyday for a change . Finally enough was a enough and i emailed my resignation …it was like a weight off my soul !

  • Avon42day

    I had to give 36 hours notice….i tried for 3 years to make it work and prayed everyday for a change . Finally enough was a enough and i emailed my resignation …it was like a weight off my soul !

    •  I have been there, but toughed it out and gave 2 weeks notice.  But I have definitely had thoughts of walking off and never looking back, just didn’t want to burn bridges.

  • L-Boogie

    Had a toxic boss.  So glad I do not work for him anymore