Surviving the Toxic Boss

If you’re interested in working long hours using outdated technology while being micromanaged by a nut job, the job’s is yours

If only every interviewer would be as honest as this one! At least you’d walk into work expecting chaos.

Probably the most accurate advice from the Horrible Bosses movie was:
Nick Hendricks:“Quick story, my grandmother came to this country with twenty dollars in her pocket. She worked hard her whole life and never took shit from anyone. When she died, she had turned that twenty dollars into two thousand dollars. That sucks! You know why she didn’t succeed? Because she didn’t take shit from anyone. The key to success, and they will not teach you this in business school, is taking shit. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the last eight years and it’s all about to pay off”

If I’d known that before, then maybe I would have focused on developing my crap-taking abilities instead of working on the skills my job *REALLY* demanded. If I knew I had to excel in kiss-assery, I would’ve done my homework accordingly! But no, here I was preparing my selves for interviews after grad school, ready to be sucked into corporate slavery and the glory of the golden coin. Little did I know that my own personal horrible bosses stories were going to begin.

I joined a mid-sized firm with big hopes of getting a full-time offer and kicking off my Analytics career in full swing. I did what I thought I needed to do, and delivered one of the biggest client presentations they’d had in a while. And while I had teammates congratulating me, I felt my not-too-excited boss hover around looking at me disapprovingly. Sometimes, people just project their insecurities on others. And because I was someone who needed flexible work hours but always got my tasks done, I wasn’t matching up to her expectations of ass-kissing. She probably wanted someone who ran behind her constantly, seeking approvals for every task, and hanging on to her every word like they’re actual pearls of wisdom. I couldn’t do that. The vibe that I picked up was that she was controlling, judgy, anxious and micromanaging, which made me feel very suffocated working under her.

I still did what I could, heard out her expectations and tried to do the best to my ability. She still did not soften towards me and our equation soon became toxic where she would just last out and say whatever, whenever she pleased.

In the midst of all this, I found it very important to identify red-flags or toxic traits in managers, that could make our work life hell. Given the fact that we spend 40 hours of the week at work and many more commuting to and from and thinking about it that I think it’s important to know who you need to protect yourself from and when.

Here’s how to identify (and avoid becoming) a toxic leader.

1. Toxic managers are physically (and mentally) absent. 

Managers need to be present and attentive to the needs of their staff and understand the roles of their employees. Toxic managers are either absent physically (never in the office), mentally (“checked-out”), or both. As a result, absent managers fail to fully understand what their staff does on a daily basis and are unaware of the toxic dynamics developing under their watch. Most harmfully, without guidance or leadership, staff members are forced to make important managerial decisions themselves in order to keep an organization or project running.

2. They relinquish all responsibility of their poor decisions.

Whether a poor decision was made impulsively, because of an emotional outburst, or out of sheer incompetence, toxic managers take no responsibility. They, at best, make excuses for ourselves (“I didn’t send out that announcement, because I was on vacation last week”) or will justify and defend their poor decision any way we can to avoid admitting their mistake. toxic-workplaceIf worse comes to worst, they would just blame someone else for the fallout of a decision or point their finger at their staff — the very people that they are supposed to lead and support. Which makes sense! In my case, my manager would take no responsibility for training me for upcoming tasks. Instead, she would put me down and make me feel inefficient, thus hurting my self-esteem and giving me no opportunity to learn.

3. Inconsiderate, Manipulative and Shaming.

Bad bosses are frequently rude and inconsiderate, fond of shaming their employees. They use staff meetings as a forum to belittle or publicly humiliate them. Some of these behaviors are spawned by their own insecurities and fears; many bosses feel better Horrible-Bosses_z6lyagabout themselves when ridiculing others. This mixed with the fact that they might have bullying and manipulative tendencies makes them notorious for scheming and manipulating others, either for out own agenda or just for fun. They’ll never let you find out which one- It’s almost like a game to us, toying with people as though they are puppets.

4. They don’t communicate or get intimidating.

When toxic managers neglect or refuse to communicate with their staff, employees often “fill in the gaps” of missing information through speculation and gossip. A lack of information often causes a duplication of efforts, and may even cause important tasks to “slip through the cracks,” as team members do not understand what their peers are doing. Our manager would just not respond to any queries or confusion regarding tasks. We would keep pinging her but she’d pretend to be busy and would leave us to figure it out on our own. Not giving clear instructions is a prominent trait among bad bosses. They frequently guard information and treat it as power. In addition, they often contradict themselves or give conflicting instructions. Their direct reports spend an inordinate amount of time trying to decode or interpret what limited communication is offered.

5. They adopt “black and white” thinking.

Good managers possess the ability to make difficult “yes or no” decisions when needed, but toxic managers take “black and white” thinking to a new level. The “you’re either with us or against us” mentality discourages toxic-boss-yelling-at-employeesconstructive disagreement among staff members, and in extreme cases, the toxic manager can end up demonizing outspoken staff members who challenge the status quo. Effective managers are able to occupy a “gray” space and find nuance in decisions and perspectives. Toxic managers adopt a “my way or the highway” approach that suppresses innovation.

6. They show favoritism.

Toxic managers promote a culture of favoritism among their employees, often protecting or promoting those who reinforce their own power, or in the worst cases adopt “quid pro quo” arrangements with others. Not only are these arrangements unfair and unethical, but these types of undeserved promotions and ATTACKBOSSspecial treatment can also cause resentment among those not in the toxic manager’s orbit and kill staff morale. These “favorites” when promoted into positions they are unqualified for, often perpetuate a culture of poor management and leadership that further undermines the organization.

7. They live in denial.

Any individual who wants to become a better manager can put in work to alter his or her toxic habits. However, toxic managers refuse to acknowledge that any of these behaviors exist, or that they are detrimental to the organization. Above all else, toxic managers live in denial of their own shortcomings and their contributions to a toxic workplace environment. Great managers are quick to realize their missteps or mistakes and offer an apology. Bad bosses never realize their egregious behavior and certainly never atone or apologize for it. Under their thumb, employees were worried about losing their jobs. Office politics begin to dominate employee performance. This bullying often includes lying about people behind their backs and leading active campaigns to turn friends into workplace enemies.

It’s important to be able to stand up for yourself in these work situations. Have a calm one on one with your boss and put forward your concerns with them. And if they don’t hear you out, or refuse to acknowledge it, then know your worth and leave.
People don’t quit jobs because of poor work, they quit jobs because of bad bosses.

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