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That Toxic Boss: How to Recognize and Manage One

Anne Weeks After College, Etiquette, Other Leave a Comment

Anne Weeks
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via The Week

Whenever you get a new boss, there is that newness that makes everything seem energizing and like a breath of fresh air. However, remember there is always a honeymoon phase, and that new boss, who seems so cool, may emerge as your personal nightmare.

awful boss meme
Identifying Symptoms
  • Erratic Behavior

One minute the boss is friendly and the next minute not. The boss treats staff well in person, but then badmouths them in private. The boss keeps upper management believing everything is great, while treating staff as though they cannot do anything right. The mood swings can be daily or over a period of time, but unpredictability reigns.

  • Passive-Aggression

The boss plays mind games. You are being praised for your work by someone from the outside, but the boss doesn’t acknowledge it. The boss takes credit for work you have done. Compliments always have an “and, but.”

  • Using That Bus 

The boss blames others for his own mistakes, throwing them under the proverbial bus. Nothing bad sticks to him.

  • Loving Thyself 

Narcissism is an actual disorder. Everything in the world revolves around the boss. He will not take blame or responsibility for mistakes, he needs to be the center of attention at all times, he feels he is superior, and he needs to be the focus of all praise. If you are facing a narcissistic boss, it is best to change departments, if you can. To learn more, read here.

Ways To Manage
  • Work Diary

At the end of each day, jot down notes on all your interactions with your boss. Keep this diary as a record of interactions in case you are fired, or you quit. You will need documentation for any action you take if you want a response.

  • Deal With It

Your boss is unlikely to change. Be polite, ask for any directives in writing, and start looking quietly for a new job.

  • Update

Keep your resume updated and look for other opportunities. Resist the urge to complain about your boss, as negativity will be seen as a weakness. Never criticize your current boss while interviewing for a new job. Remember to never burn a bridge, as when you network, there is always the likelihood you will come across someone who admires that boss you couldn’t tolerate.

  • Work With HR

You can ask HR for help, but realize they work for the company. Approach HR to ask for guidance. Have everything documented, do not be negative, and avoid coming across as an employee who could hurt the company.

It is inevitable you will experience a toxic boss during your career. Learn from your experience and move on. Take the lessons with you to try to identify other bosses who may be toxic before taking your next job.


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Anne Weeks

Anne Macleod Weeks is a graduate of Lawrence and Villanova Universities. She has been an educational administrator and English teacher for 38 years, specializing in the area of college admission. Ms. Weeks has been a leader in the college admission and Advanced Placement arenas and has published on pertinent educational topics in a variety of national papers and journals. She currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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