Stay safe from your toxic leaders: Think about these suggestions to make the most of a bad circumstance and come out on top.
When I explain my line of work, the most common response is, “My boss needs your help; they are a complete psycho.”
However, research suggests that is not the case, with only about 1% of the population showing signs of psychopathy. Assuming your data center’s Network Systems Manager isn’t a psychopath is a very remote possibility. But if you work for someone who is abusive, hostile, or toxic, the results can be disastrous for you.
In that case, what options do you have? If you’re struggling to deal with a toxic boss, consider the following advice.
How to deal with a bad boss top tips
Identify the problems
One of the first things you can do if you’re dealing with bad management is to pinpoint the specific actions of your boss that are getting on your nerves. The workplace can be a source of stress and anger, but it can be difficult to identify the root of these feelings. Moreover, a bad boss will typically exhibit the same negative patterns of behavior over time, which can have a significant and lasting impact on your career. They may be overly inquisitive, demand instant responses, or be unrelenting in their negative feedback. The first step in resolving issues with your boss is to pinpoint what exactly sets you off.
Don’t let it affect your work
Try not to let having a bad boss affect how well you do your job. After all, doing so will likely make matters worse and damage your professional reputation. Avoid taking your frustrations out on your boss in any way that could lead to a decline in your performance. Maintain a high level of performance for yourself even if your boss doesn’t appreciate it. You’ll be able to show yourself what you’re made of.
Having clear boundaries in place is crucial for the maintenance of any relationship, whether it be personal or professional. That’s why it’s crucial to think about your own limits and the sorts of things you will and won’t accept. If, for instance, your boss doesn’t honor your established work hours, you may decide to stop responding to work-related messages on the weekend. Make it clear to your boss that you can’t take on any more work if you’ve been working overtime on a regular basis and are feeling overwhelmed.
Help them succeed
Keeping on the good side of a potentially poisonous boss can make your life much simpler. It’s important to contribute to the success of your company and your boss. Leaders can help their employees succeed in their jobs by setting an example of high performance themselves. But you can take this a step further by figuring out even more ways to facilitate their work. For instance, if you have the time, you could offer to take on tasks that are outside of your job description.
Act as the Leader
Making your own leadership decisions can help you cope with an inept superior.
If you are knowledgeable in your field, there is no reason to delay in developing and pursuing a strategy you are confident will lead to success for your business. Those who act in this way gain instant respect and popularity among their contemporaries. The higher ups will take note of your initiative, even if it isn’t immediately rewarded by your immediate supervisor. You shouldn’t do anything to displease your superior, so keep them informed.
Use Tips from Couples’ Therapy
Applying principles from couple’s therapy can help you work through a conflict.
Say it back to him and then ask, “Is that what you meant?” (a tried-and-true technique borrowed from marriage counseling). If he confirms your summary, you can press him for additional details. Reiterating someone else’s words back to them allows them to feel heard and validated while also providing them with an opportunity to elaborate on their original point of view.
Don’t get drawn in
Harmful people are masters at involving you in their drama. Ignore the ploy.
Maintain an emotional buffer zone. Communicate in a way that is clear, polite, and honest. Staying at arm’s length emotionally means you’re not letting the other person’s toxic energy seep into your own, so you can keep working without letting their destructive behavior get in the way of your productivity.
They might get annoyed at first, but if you keep things “strictly professional,” they won’t have much room to push your buttons. Make an effort to view them as nothing more than a nuisance, like a slow printer or bad coffee from the vending machine.
Keep detailed records
If you are the victim of harassment or assault, it is important that you keep thorough and honest records.
One day you may be asked to back up a complaint, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. No matter the situation, your case will be strengthened by your ability to draw specific, detailed examples from your own life.
Complaints aren’t advanced by generalizations, anecdotes, hearsay, or the views of third parties. You can strengthen your case by providing evidence of a consistent pattern of harmful behavior. You won’t get very far without keeping meticulous records.
Don’t derail your career
Having your career derailed is something you should never do on purpose or allow to happen to you. If you want to avoid becoming a target of a toxic leader, you need to do your job well and avoid giving them any ammunition.
In my experience, the employee always winds up on the losing end of these situations and becomes a pariah at the workplace.
It’s possible that you’ll have to keep your mouth shut. It could also require you to perform or repeat actions that you initially deemed unnecessary. The key is to keep quiet, avoid conflict, and give things time to resolve themselves. Some have countered my argument by arguing that employees have a right to complain about unfair treatment from their supervisors. That’s exactly right, and I always tell people to make their voices heard when they have a good argument. However, it is difficult to make a case for speaking out against things like subjective work standards or a manager’s leadership “style,” and when people do, the consequences for the dysfunctional manager are often minor or nonexistent.
The employee always seems to lose in these situations and becomes an outcast at the company. Sometimes people are denied opportunities to advance in their careers or further their education. Think about this in the long run. You have to decide whether to stay or leave, as I mentioned in point No. 1 above, and if you do, you might have to put up with some sketchy circumstances.
Work around their weaknesses
Supporting a bad boss’s rise to power may seem counterintuitive, but there’s nothing to be gained by making him look bad, going to war, or facilitating his (or her) failure. If he’s as bad as you say, he can probably handle it on his own. If anything, exposing his incompetence will make things worse for you.
One strategy is to encourage the boss to play to his strengths. One alternative is to be proactive in avoiding his shortcomings. Don’t complain about your disorganized boss; instead, offer to help him get things in order. Know that your boss is running late for meetings? Offer to start it off for him. If he frequently changes his mind or is just plain forgetful, it is important to keep track of your interactions with him so you can refer back to them if he ever contradicts himself. You should keep working on a project even if you haven’t heard back from your boss yet if you know he’s slow to respond. When considering “what’s next,” it’s helpful to think about how you can make yourself indispensable to your boss. ’
You can set yourself up for future success by doing what you can to ensure the success of your boss. Assisting others to achieve greater success than they would have on their own is an investment with no downside, even if you don’t see any results right away.
Give your boss a chance to respond
An early in my career, I left a promising position with a global consulting firm due to a toxic work environment and a horrible boss. I was asked to meet with the HR lead — a senior partner at the company — to discuss my impending departure. I explained how unappreciated I felt, how my expectations weren’t met, and how little responsibility anyone else seemed to have. He was shocked and disturbed by my decision and asked if there was anything he could do to convince me otherwise. Unfortunately, by the time I found out that I had been marked for promotion to hi-po status, it was already too late to change my career path. I’d already made other arrangements, anticipating a more favorable working environment and superior management.
This experience taught me to not be afraid to voice my opinion and instead to actively seek out opportunities to do so. The truth is that I had been too timid to voice my concerns to my manager or to try to find an alternative route to avoid dealing with her directly. Although I was in my mid-twenties at the time, and therefore young and inexperienced, I now realize that I had an obligation to myself and my boss at the time to raise my concerns, suggest potential solutions, and have a conversation about how we could have made the situation better. Nothing would have changed, but at least I would have known I gave her a fair shot.
No matter how tempting it is to “suffer in silence,” vent to coworkers, or do what I did and simply quit my job, you should give your boss a chance to address your concerns. Don’t assume they can’t take criticism or don’t care that you’re miserable. Treating people with dignity and a sincere desire to improve efficiency can pave the way for much more fruitful interactions and productive collaborations. Without this key, the door won’t open again.
Do your research before jumping ship
The obvious solution to the problem of dealing with a toxic supervisor is to never encounter one in the first place. Whether you’re considering a promotion within your current company or a switch to a new one, it’s always a good idea to research the company’s leadership, culture, and the types of management styles that are accepted before making any sweeping decisions. If you’re considering a move within your company, it’s important to put in the groundwork now to learn as much as possible about the culture and people who will shape your future team. Do they instill fear about what will happen if people don’t work hard, or do they inspire and support others to work hard in the face of adversity?
If you’re considering a job change, it’s important to do your homework to ensure you’re not going from one bad company to another. In our haste to find a new job after being in an unpleasant one, we may overlook red flags that indicate the new position will be even more stressful. You should grab a cup of coffee with a contact at the new company to learn more about the environment, employee engagement, morale, and management style. Putting in the time and effort up front could end up saving you years of stress.
Fortunately, many toxic leaders are attracted to the power, prestige, and control that come with new positions, so you may not have to put up with them for too long. You can improve your employability by building your skills and network while you wait them out.
Before I let you go, know that you are not alone in your confusion over why companies keep toxic people in positions of power. The problem is that these dysfunctional leaders are usually very good at portraying themselves as successful to those higher up in the company. They may be experts at swaying public opinion, avoiding responsibility for their own actions, and shifting the blame to others.
If the hiring manager is inexperienced, a charismatic candidate can easily fool them during the interview process. When an employee has passed the probationary period and is fully integrated into the company, it is often too late to easily address their poor behavior. I truly hope you’ll never have to deal with a manager like this, but if you do, I hope these suggestions help.