Bad bosses really make the workplace unbearable. We have all come across them: moody, callous, incompetent, unpredictable, always shifting blame to others. A compulsive liar who suddenly becomes charming and reasonable when the management are around.
Toxic bosses prevent employees from doing their jobs and fulfilling their responsibilities. They flourish in a toxic environment, where they keep on making conflicting demands, inconsistent instructions and haphazard decisions. They sap all your energy and blame you for everything that goes wrong.
The mental stress caused by such bosses can be detrimental for your health. Many studies have even linked the risk of heart attacks to workplace problems. In spite of increased awareness, education programs and even legislation, such unacceptable behavior is on the rise. Here’s how to overcome a toxic boss.
Find someone you can trust – a mentor, co-worker or a professional – and it talk it through with them. It is a chance to pour out your frustrations and at the same time obtain feedback from them. They will act as a soundboard and confirm if you are indeed being bullied, or whether, perhaps, you are being a tad oversensitive. This is a good opportunity for you to examine your behavior. Are you performing to the required standards? Is it possible that your boss is exasperated due to your underperformance? Are you only being miserable?
Or is it a clear case of bullying?
Record some of the injustices over a period of time, such as a week, month or a quarter, and discuss the issue with your supervisor or your HR department. Make sure you have sound examples of the bullying.
Familiarize yourself with the policies and support structures within your organization which can help you. Sharpen your emotional intelligence – skills such as good communication, self awareness and an understanding of the various personality types – and this will widen the options available for you. You see, bullies are different, and they require different strategies.
Talk your way to a cure
This involves going to the toxic boss and specifying what he is doing wrong. Of course this requires weighing up the situation to see if such an action would be too risky or counterproductive. It sounds incredulous, but some toxic individuals are not aware that they are going out of order, usually because nobody has ever pointed it to them. This is why speaking with them can be very important, but it requires a lot of tact and wisdom.
When you decide to face him, rehearse what you will say, or obtain some coaching first. Prepare and write your points, and be calm during the discussion. Point out specific cases, the consequences, and what is expected in future engagements. You could ask, what can we do to improve things?”
Appeal to a higher power
If the situation does not improve, go to their superior. Make sure that you respect the set communication protocols. If the toxic boss is your direct supervisor, you may be required to advise them of your intention before taking the issue up the ladder.
Make sure you have recorded the specific details of the incidences so that you are absolutely correct. Stay cool, calm and collected during the discussion. Mention that you have tried to resolve the matter, and you have concerns that it could undermine the effectiveness of the whole organization.
Should you stay or leave? If your health and capacity to deliver are seriously affected, you may need to seriously consider your future. Don’t dismiss the pain and humiliation. If all else fails, it’s time to look for another job.