Is your boss toxic? (video transcript)

Have you found yourself working for a really toxic boss? Is it eroding your self-esteem and starting to take a toll on your physical or mental health? 

It’s a really tough situation to be in, so I’m going to share some advice applicable to any situation that will help you protect yourself when dealing with a toxic boss. 

I want you to think about the following approaches in terms of concentric circles. First is things you can do yourself. Next is things you can do with your teammates, and then reaching out beyond there to your social supports and other people in your business network. 

Is your boss toxic, or are you overreacting?

The first thing you need to do is to consider whether or not you are overreacting.

This may not be what you feel like doing in this moment, and perhaps you feel you are fully justified in thinking you have the worst boss ever. However, it is worth considering whether there are other ways to interpret your boss’s actions.

This will help you get a sense of whether you are blowing things out of proportion. 

Is it something that truly hurts? Consider whether you are taking some negative criticism as a sign that your boss hates you simply because you were already feeling down or insecure. 

To ascertain this, try sharing your boss’s comments with somebody you trust. For example, if your boss sent an email that you think is really horrible, share it with somebody and get their take on it first. 

The next thing you can do is to take your boss’s probably very subjective, nasty, judgemental criticisms of you and try and shrink them down so that they have less of an effect on your self-esteem by making them more objective and less subjective. 

For example, if your boss has said to you, “Your work is so sloppy and you’re always missing the details”, making you think you aren’t up to the task, try thinking objectively about what they’re reacting to. 

If there were two typos in a document, it’s much better to reframe your thinking to, “I left two typos in a document” rather than “I’m sloppy.” 

Try to contain your boss’s criticisms or the ways that they’re toxic so that they won’t have as big an effect on you. 

How can you work with your team?

If your boss is toxic in the sense that they set the team up for failure or they create infighting among the team, then try and get a conversation going with your teammates to figure out how to cope with the situation.

If the boss is assigning the same work to multiple people or is really scatterbrained, see how you can rally your teammates (or at least the ones that are on side) to try and have that make less of an impact. 

It’s important to remember that your team isn’t only useful for getting that productivity support; it can also be very helpful to get social support from them. For example, if you’re feeling stressed out by your boss, you can suggest going for a walk or a quick coffee with your teammates to calm down and discuss things with them.

What about your wider network?

The other really important thing when you have a toxic boss is to also have interactions and support coming from outside of the team. Try reaching out to other people in the organization who you have strong relationships with, such as previous managers, a mentor or somebody who works in a different department, in order to get a breath of fresh air from your team. 

Talk about what you’re working on, have somebody who’s also excited. Those sorts of things can be important. As you strengthen the connection with them, you also reduce the likelihood that your toxic boss could end your career in this company. 

It gives you some new connections and paths out, which can also be really useful. 

In addition, remember to reach out to people in your friendship groups or community, and try going places where you can get away from thinking about work all together. Do things that give you joy. 

For me, it’s usually in a dance studio where I can’t worry about anything when I’m trying to tap dance, other than not falling on my butt. So building that is really, really important. 

Develop your resilience

Finally, establish what helps with your resilience. This might involve playing a soccer game or going for a run to blow off some steam, or it might be a solo activity like painting or cleaning which allows you time in your head

Resilience is super important. 

So if you have a toxic boss, I want you to think about it in terms of “What do I need to do myself? “What can I do with my teammates?” And then “How can I expand to build my network out into the organization, but also out into my community, so I have more supports?” 

All of those things will really help you get through a situation with a toxic boss and hopefully, it’s not a situation that lasts for too long. 

More on this

Liane’s Catalog of Toxic Bosses

How to handle a toxic boss

Toxic Team Dynamics