Having a toxic person in our inner circle – among family, friends, or partners – is a serious threat to our psychological health. However, it is no less serious in cases where the “toxic” person turns out to be our boss: at a minimum, you will not be able to realize your potential as a professional, and at a maximum, you may develop new complexes, fears, and even traumas. How can you tell if you’re working with such a person? And what should you do in such a case?
In this case, a boss may:
- invade your personal space, use your belongings without permission,
- ignore your opinions on matters that concern you,
- directly or indirectly insult you and your loved ones,
- discuss personal issues and topics unrelated to the main context of communication with you,
- give unsolicited evaluations and advice,
- use your personal information.
How to react: It is important to know what is normal for you and what is not. Understand how to express yourself appropriately in context with your boss when there is conflict and misunderstanding. To do this, use “I-messages” and phrases like: “I (don’t) like…”, “For me, (un)acceptable is…”, “I would (not) like…”, “I request…”.
Such a boss may obstruct their subordinates from completing tasks, conceal information to reduce effectiveness, constantly criticize to increase stress levels, interfere with work, and even manipulate or openly ridicule employees.
How to react: It is important, first, to be able to recognize bullying and, second, to understand that such behavior is not acceptable. If possible, discuss the situation with the boss using professional language: present arguments, reasons, explain what conditions would allow you to display your potential best and which, conversely, would reduce your efficiency.
You can contact the HR department to clarify the company’s policy on bad treatment and bullying. If you are already considering changing jobs, as a last resort for justice, you can try reporting the bullying to higher management.
In such a situation, it can be difficult for a manager to control their emotions, often causing discomfort to those around them. Anger, frustration, fear, and stress can all affect the manager’s behavior and communication with subordinates. For example, they may:
- Overemphasize problems and “make a mountain out of a molehill”
- See everything in black and white and focus more on problems than solutions
- Suspect deception and try to catch out those around them
- Be more irritable, annoyed, offended, and dissatisfied.
How to deal with it You can try to focus on the positive aspects of your work and convey them to your manager, highlighting different aspects of the situation. It can be difficult not to be affected by their emotions – the manager holds a higher position and can express their emotions intensely – but it is worth trying. After communicating with them, be sure to check your own state and relieve tension through a walk or breathing exercises. Some communication can be shifted to written form.
The manager only considers their own point of view. Yes, they may ask for input from the specialists in the team, but they do not listen to it. In the worst case, they simply criticize the subordinates’ perspective and do not allow them to speak, constantly interrupting them. Due to such managers, the sense of psychological safety disappears in the team, and the activity, initiative, and creativity of employees decrease.
How to react to this
It is recommended to “run away” from such a manager: there will be few opportunities to realize oneself, feel necessary and useful at work. They will only be suitable for employees who have difficulties expressing their opinion and reluctance to expand their responsibilities, as well as a strong desire for executive work.
With such a person, there will be no shortage of feedback, but it is unlikely to be useful. After a conversation with the manager, the subordinate is left with a feeling of uselessness and inability to cope with their work – a decrease in employee engagement and motivation is guaranteed. The criticism itself may be based on an emotional impression or assumptions about the situation, rather than any arguments.
How to react to this
It is important to be prepared for criticism and try to shift it from your personality to the situation.
What can be done:
- talk about specific behavior that you can correct,
- gather arguments and facts that will help defend your position,
- distinguish among the critical remarks those that can be useful and those that can be ignored.
As mentioned earlier, part of the communication can be moved to written form – thereby stimulating the manager to be more rational and structured.