If you’ve got some working experience, you are probably aware of or have had experiences with bad, toxic managers. They have a huge potential to make a fun job downright reasonable as managers have a whole lot of control over your working life. They determine if you get a promotion, they can hire and fire you, determine your pay; their working style and whether you vibe on a personal level can make or break the level of enjoyment and growth you get on your job.
There is no such thing as a perfect boss, and many bosses make mistakes. Some of the things that you are about to read, when done on a small scale, may not have huge negative consequences, but when done consistently and on a larger scale, can make your working life a misery.
But do you know when the boss you are working for is toxic? Let’s take a look at these 8 signs.
#1 Allow you to get abused by clients or external parties
Many client facing roles (think customer service, anything that requires serving a client or constantly tending to their requests) tend to have high amounts of abuse. And many times, the organisation or the line manager does absolutely nothing to protect the staff who are exposed to the abuse.
There will be disagreements, sometimes people let their tempers flare etc. What would a good boss do in this instance?
They take time to listen to your feelings, they hear you out. They take your side and protect you from abuse – this could range from stepping in to mediate or diffuse the situation or even outright telling the client off.
A toxic boss does none of the above. They will let you suffer the abuse on your own, dismiss your or don’t even speak about it, patronise you, and the absolute worst to me – not protect you and agree with the client. Awful bosses are more concerned about their own image and pleasing the clients than ever caring about how you feel.
#2 Not holding incompetent team-mates and freeloaders accountable
But instead passes the buck to the more competent members in the team to help out and pick up the slack. Why should I be picking up the slack of someone when that is their basic responsibility? Plus not getting paid for it or appreciated either.
There is a big difference in pulling your weight and contributing to the team vs constantly doing someone else’s work. If left to continue, this will just become a toxic habit for all involved – the lazy person will just not do any work knowing that someone will always do it for him, the toxic manager has even further little incentive to hold him/her responsible as there is someone else to do the work, and the more responsible team-mate would be resentful of the extra work they need to take on.
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#3 They care more about pleasing others and looking good
Some managers are more concerned about pleasing their own bosses, pleasing their clients, pleasing everyone else except their own team. They do things at the expense of their teams, because well, their team’s well-being is not critical. It’s all about how they look like to others.
Managers like that are toxic because the decisions they make will always be about them and other people. It will never be about putting the team front and centre.
#4 Piling work onto you despite knowing that you don’t have the bandwidth
Good managers understand and are aware of what constitutes important work and what doesn’t. Toxic managers are unable to discern and just simply do not care which pieces of work are priority. Everything is a priority to them, everything has a short deadline, everything is urgent.
True story – a company I worked for, had clients that did every single thing last minute that ALL of the projects they passed to us were urgent. In my industry, urgent is anything that has a less than 2 week turnaround. So my colleagues and I would be scrambling EVERY SINGLE TIME a project came in.
Imagine the stress? How is that sustainable in the long run? What impact will that eventually have on the wellbeing of employees.
Struggling with your career? Aren’t sure if you are in the right job? Nervous about the upcoming interview? Or perhaps you have a really toxic work culture/boss/management and you are not sure how to deal? Come drop your question in 100 words over here, and I will write back with some solutions 🙂
#5 Passive-aggression and ineffective communicating styles
Now, most if not all of us have room for improvement in terms of our communication styles. If we could all be clearer and made less assumptions about each other, there wouldn’t be so much misunderstanding and conflict everywhere. Managers though, have to always strive to communicate as well as they can, to keep things running smoothly.
Here are some ways that managers can bring about toxic communication:
- Expecting you to read their minds and do whatever it is they were thinking of
- Getting passive-aggressive or overly aggressive when you do not produce what they wanted
- Writing super long pissy emails after you’ve made an innocent mistake (because nobody told you what to do)
I’m sure there are more examples you can think of. Bad managers are poor communicators and do not seem to realise it. They assume, are not clear (at all) and handle miscommunication in a rather unprofessional manner (blaming it on you, not assuming responsibility etc).
Over time, this can make it very challenging for you in executing your tasks.
#6 Don’t handle conflicts well
Some of the worst managers I’ve met are the types that knew about huge conflicts going on in their teams but had little to no desire in stepping in to quell things. They just close an eye, ignore the situation and assume things “will pass”. So they leave it to their employees to handle it themselves.
It reeks of “if it’s not my problem, I’m not going to bother”. Whilst employees are all adults (usually) and are able to handle their own personal matters or conflicts with their colleague, it becomes a big deal if the conflict is starting to creep into their work. Bad relations between two members of a team can also spillover into the responsibilities of other team members, affecting everyone’s morale.
#7 They are the source of conflict
I once had a boss who would get all giddy talking about championing women in the workplace, but turned out to be one of the biggest bullies. Her victims? The women in the office. The irony.
She would threaten to terminate your employment over a couple of dollars in taxi claims. She’d speak aggressively to you and turn around and said she didn’t do it – the epitome of gaslighting. She turned a once-peaceful and fun-loving office environment into one which had most of us walking on eggshells. People started quitting one by one.
Toxic managers have absolutely no self-awareness and no interest in understanding the impact of their actions on others.
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#8 They are abusive
I’ve heard of people whose managers would verbally abuse them and call them derogatory things to their faces, managers who will scream and yell at them should anything go wrong or managers who would hurl objects – paper, staplers, books – at people or at the walls when anybody angered them.
I hope that you aren’t working for anybody like that right now, cause if you are, my advice would be to get out. As soon as you can. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment for the job that you do. Most of us don’t hold positions that have so much risk involved that a slight error requires this sort of reaction.
Overtime, abusive behaviour can really eat into your self-esteem and make you feel like it was your fault to begin with, when it wasn’t. It can also affect how you perceive what is a “normal” manager or a workplace.
So there you are. Are you currently experiencing these things with a boss? Or are there other signs? Share your thoughts below!