Surviving Toxic Management: Strategies for Coping with Difficult Bosses

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In an ideal workplace, employees should feel like they align with the culture and management of the company. Unfortunately for many, this is not the reality. A survey conducted by Instantprint found that 69.8% of employees in the UK have worked in a toxic environment at any point in their careers.

Having issues with management can cause severe disruption in work and productivity to any individual. The constant fear and stress faced can ultimately lead to a downturn in work quality and motivation, plunging performance further. Eventually, these negative experiences may lead to long-term well-being issues – particularly in employee mental health.

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Difficult Managers and Supervisors

Sometimes a difficult situation in the workplace may not always be due to a toxic boss. However, as mentioned by Indeed, toxic bosses usually show signs in the workplace. Knowing these signs will help clarify the situation and identify if the manager or supervisor is truly toxic. The signs are:

  • Being discriminative
  • Overburdening with excessive work
  • Not having self-control
  • Lack of boundaries

If there are situations where these signs exist in a supervisor or manager, it may be time to act and work this through. Behaviours like the ones listed above may have lasting impacts on employees, such as:

  • Work Anxiety
  • Decrease in self-esteem
  • Rising employee turnover

There is no place for toxic bosses in a healthy and functioning workplace. Although it is the responsibility of the company to have policies and guidelines in place to make sure this does not happen, there are strategies that employees can use to navigate work with toxic bosses.

  • Remain Professional

The first thing that employees should remember is that professionality is key. Although having toxic behaviours is not professional, responding to them in a professional manner will protect employees from the blame being shifted to them.

Part of responding in a professional way is to assume positive intent and give feedback. According to Forbes, as poor behaviour is rooted in insecurity, engaging with this situation in a calm and controlled manner will open more productive conversations to resolve the issue.

  • Assess Their Behaviour

Try to have an objective mindset when analysing the behaviours of the toxic boss. It is also a good idea to self-reflect on employees’ behaviour to create a more nuanced understanding of the situation. Additionally, speaking to co-workers who also interact with the toxic boss to gain insight into how they treat others will also help to fully understand the situation.

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  • Assert Boundaries

Having clear boundaries in the workplace is a great way to establish professionalism and not let work issues affect your health and well-being. Although employees cannot control how their supervisors or managers behave in the workplace, they can choose how to respond to the situation. When a boss is being toxic, such as being discriminative, employees can respond in a polite and professional manner to question the discrimination. Again, professionalism is essential.

  • Collect Documentation

If the toxic behaviour happens constantly and overwhelmingly, it is a good idea to document everything while staying focused on your job. Following up with written communication to summarise a toxic boss’ expectations can also help an employee’s case against the toxic boss. Having a collection of data showing the toxic behaviour will help when having conversations with higher-ups regarding the situation. Ultimately, if the situation does not improve and it continues to take a toll on mental health, it may be time to consider other opportunities.


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