How to Deal With a Toxic Boss

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A nightmare scenario for any employee, having a toxic boss is one of the hardest things to deal with in the workplace. It’s already difficult for experienced employees, but having to maneuver around a toxic boss as an intern or a new employee is even harder. Where do you even go to report on the situation? Can you even complain about it, or are you forced to put up with everything? 

Let’s discuss what a toxic boss looks like and how to handle one, while also making sure your future work opportunities are intact. 

How to Identify a Toxic Boss

Before you write off your boss as toxic, make sure that there aren’t any misunderstandings. Many new employees can start work with certain ideas about what the job and the boss will be like, and when things don’t go as smoothly as expected, it can feel strange even though it’s fairly normal. So it’s important that when you join a company, you read through your contract detailing the hours you will work, what tasks you will do, the expectations the employer has of you, etc. 

If you can’t decide whether your boss is difficult or not, which is completely understandable if this is your first or second job ever, here are some common red flags you should look out for.

  • Absence of empathy- Your boss doesn’t care about the lives of employees inside and outside of the office, and how it might affect workplace performance 
  • Poor communication- Your boss doesn’t respond to questions or ghosts you
  • Lack of delegation- They really too much on employees being self-reliant and they’re unavailable during issues 
  • Bad workplace behaviors- Your boss unnecessarily blames you when things go wrong, or gossips about other employees. 

How to Handle a Toxic Boss

So, after deliberation, you’ve decided that you have a bad boss. What now? Ultimately, there are two options. 

Stand Your Ground

If you do decide to stay, you need to take action. It can feel especially difficult to stand up to your boss and voice your opinion, but new interns and employees need to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Some bosses may not even be aware that their behavior is causing their employees to stress out, so try and be more understanding. It’s okay to bring up your feelings to your boss, in order to try to help them be more aware of your concerns. However, when you do confront your boss about something, make sure to let emotions take the backseat. To get rid of the nerves, try to plan what you will say ahead of time and make sure that whatever you say does not personally criticize your boss.

Just like making friends, it’s also important to build up a personal connection with your boss. You don’t have to become best friends, but even just finding a common hobby or a shared favorite food can help humanize yourself in the eyes of your boss. You can’t choose your bosses in the workforce (although everyone wishes they could), so by doing this, you’ll be able to learn more about your boss and find a mutual interest that can help them see you for more than just an intern, but as a person. 

Getting advice from your coworkers is also important. If you’re dealing with a poor boss, it’s very likely your coworkers are dealing with the same situations as you are, so go to them for advice. They have much more experience compared to an intern or a new employee, so they would know how exactly to handle certain situations. Ask a coworker you trust to speak out of the office and ask if they have any tips for managing the boss-relationship.

The most important advice that new employees can take from more experienced individuals in the workforce is that you should separate work issues from your emotional being. Although it would be nice if you can enjoy your job, sometimes it’s just a means to a paycheck, and that’s okay. Don’t let the negative actions of others affect your professional work. 

What does a good work-life balance look like? For most, it means leaving work tasks strictly at work. Even if your boss may complain or gossip, ignore it. Try to turn off work notifications as soon as you clock out. Your time should be your time, and you should spend that time de-stressing from work to make sure your emotional health is intact.

However, sometimes an annoying boss goes beyond just having poor manners. If you’re targeted by abusive or inappropriate behaviors, make sure to keep detailed, accurate records. If there comes a time when you want to file an official case or submit a complaint to Human Resources (HR), it will be crucial for you when making your case. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Leave

You’ve probably heard from your parents that you should stay at a job until you have a ton of experience, but that just isn’t the case in today’s job market. 65% of Gen-Z employees have left their job in the first year or less, meaning that if you do decide to leave your position, you aren’t alone. While it can be scary, your biggest power is the ability to quit.

Reporting a boss can be extremely difficult, moreso for new employees. Many times complaints reside within subjective feelings about your boss’s work style or leadership skills, so take a deep breath and make sure to think carefully before you take any irreversible actions. No matter what path you choose, your priority should always be your mental, physical, and emotional health. 

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