Spot a toxic boss! (And how to deal with it)

Most of us would have an abusive supervisor at some point in our professional life. And short of quitting at the very first instance of abuse, you still have to work with that toxic supervisor, 9 to 5.

But that doesn’t mean you let it get to you. Unfortunately, some bosses think they can act the way they do to subordinates because of their position in the company. And because some bosses have the ability to fire or make life even more difficult, many of us just put up with the abusive behaviour.

Wait – you don’t have to put up with a toxic boss for the sake of your career. Yes, dealing with one may be difficult but it doesn’t mean that it is completely impossible. All you require is some tact, smart moves, professionalism and yes, sometimes a case of watching your back.

Here are some familiar toxic boss behaviour and how you can deal with them.

#1 Your boss pushes you around
The big bully at work? He’s your toxic boss who drops a project on your table Friday evening expecting it to be done by Monday morning and hurls abuse at you in front of everyone during the meeting. Remember how you dealt with the big bully in school? That’s right – by being brave. Same principal applies here. First, understand that a bullying boss is someone who is pushing his weight (or title) around. To work with someone like that, you will need to stand up firm to send a message that you can’t be easily bullied. Whimper at the sight of your toxic boss, and you will be a target for the rest of your working career. Make sure your boss gets the message that you are not one who is easily pushed around and bullied, and chances are your toxic boss will leave you alone as he is unlikely to get the reaction he wants (you, a sobering mess).

#2 Your boss takes all the credit…but puts the blame on you for everything.
First things first – make sure you note everything down in black and white, whether it is e-mails, meeting notes, anything at all that can prove your involvement (or non-involvement) with the project. Also, be sure to own your achievements; don’t let your attention-grabbing boss sidestep you to be in the limelight. Make it known to other colleagues (and even your boss’ superior) of your contribution. Wrongfully accused for something that went wrong? If it is a matter of you losing your job, make sure to get your toxic boss to prove his or her allegation first before pointing the blame finger on you.

#3 Your boss badmouths you behind your back.
To avoid your boss even having the chance of badmouthing you, don’t give him or her any reason to in the first place. But if your toxic boss is the type to make up stories, then it is time to have a private meeting with the storyteller. Rumours – especially vindictive ones – can ruin any career progression so don’t let your toxic boss create a web of lies about you. Your boss may feel threatened by you hence the gossiping in the first place. If the rumours are damaging, you have every right to approach your boss and find out the truth behind him or her spreading the lies. Bring in an even more senior manager (or HR) if you can to act as a third party. After all, it is your boss’ words against yours and vice versa.

#4 Ooh, the silent treatment boss!
Ah, the sulky type whom may one day explore at everyone. The only way to deal with such a boss? Keep clear of his or her way. It may not be a personal attack (your boss could just be a brooder to begin with) so just concentrate on what you have to do, deliver your tasks and get on with the rest of your work. But if you are certain the silent treatment is directed only at you, then time to have a talk with the silent treatment boss. It may just require you explaining things for the treatment to end.

#5 Your boss invades your privacy
Caught your boss reading through your e-mails or worst, shifting through your phone messages? For one thing – company e-mails may not fall under the private and personal domain (find out from HR) so your boss may have every right to do so. Just make sure you don’t use the office e-mail to bitch about your boss to friends! But looking through your personal belongings is an offence, and you can bring it up to a higher management level about your boss’ snooping behaviour.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a toxic boss is to draw a line. If the behaviour is abusive or inappropriate (a lecherous boss – male or female – comes to mind), then it is time to ask yourself if the job is really worth the abuse. But first, talk to your boss who is causing you the grief. Make a list of instances and bring it up to your boss. Make sure you are professional and diplomatic when dealing with a toxic boss (chances are, your boss won’t be that way but that doesn’t mean you have to play the same game). Remain calm and composed whenever faced with a toxic boss.

And if it is really that bad, tell yourself this: No job is worth the abuse or harassment. Good bosses do exist, and yes, you will have the opportunity in your professional life to work with one.