5 Ways to Deal with a Toxic Boss



Even under the difficult conditions of the pandemic, there were excellent, empathetic leaders. Unfortunately, there are lots of bosses who weren’t great—quite the opposite. They were obstinate, insulting, micromanaging, or a combination of all three.

If your boss has you thinking about quitting, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup Poll shows that the No. 1 reason people leave a job is because of their boss. But before you decide that you’ve had too much, there are ways to manage and even improve the situation.

Get a fresh perspective.

While you might believe your boss is handling situations poorly—yelling at you in front of the client, changing direction on a project without telling you, or belittling you in front of colleagues—you might want to get a third party’s perspective, such as a coach or a mentor. Describe to them a typical stressful situation, recounting what your boss said and how you reacted. Ask what you could have done differently and whether the situation is as dire as you think it is.

You could also reality-test your perspective with your peers who work with you and your boss. Are they seeing and feeling the same things you are? If so, you can begin to mitigate the problem.

Stay calm.

Changing your own behavior could make the situation less stressful. If your boss gets easily upset, don’t mirror that behavior. If your boss is condescending, don’t become defensive or blame others.

Take steps in advance to keep future situations from getting so intense. For instance, if you know your boss gets upset when he sees the quarterly sales numbers at the last minute, make sure your share numbers earlier.

Be candid.

During a one-on-one meeting with your boss, admit that there are times when you don’t work together well.

Identify the triggers, then focus on what you’re going to do to rectify the situation. For example, if your boss doesn’t like to get things last-minute, work to deliver well in advance.

Consider talking to HR.

If you’re unable to patch things up with your boss, it might be time to talk with the human resources department. Tell your HR manager what has been going on and what you have been doing to try to reconcile with your boss and ask for advice on how to work together constructively.

Ask for a new manager or look for a new job.

If nothing is working to make the situation better, you have two options: Ask HR if you can change your reporting relationship or consider looking for a new position. Working with a toxic boss is not good for your health or your career.


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