4 Secrets to Working for a Toxic Manager

Office environments can be pretty rough. It isn't always a slice of heaven when you're navigating rude colleagues, stubborn subordinates, and, most challenging of all, toxic bosses.

If you specifically find yourself working under a toxic manager, I can imagine the frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety that you must feel every day. After all, no one wants to be humiliated, ignored, or dejected for doing their job!

If there is no alternative but to go to a higher authority, make sure you bring receipts.

Unfortunately, this is a reality for way too many of us. I have been there, too. Early on in my career, I had this one manager who completely sucked the joy out of my work life. Not only would that person cut down my ideas and work delivered, but they would also bad-mouth me behind my back. I felt bullied and cornered. It was scary, and I didn't know whom to turn to for help.

But over the years, I did develop some secret strategies to help me navigate these types. Here are four ground rules I've developed over time to efficiently deal with such people:

Have Direct Control over Your Work

It is highly unlikely for a bully to change their behavior, so the first thing to do is to change yours. Instead of focusing on the person being toxic to you, focus on your job role's details and tasks.

The thing is, such people get off on disrupting your peace rather than analyzing your performance. If you are engaged in doing the job and don't make eye contact with them for the better part of the day, they generally won't enter your emotional space and sense your fear and anxiety.

What they would see instead is a person doing their job and minding their business.

Communicate Objectively but Politely

I dreaded talking to my toxic manager, but I soon realized it made matters worse. They thought I was lazy and avoiding work when I was, in fact, avoiding them. So I decided to communicate with them via email. I kept my conversations to the point and fluff-free.

I copied in all the right people in my team and sometimes even my manager's boss to ensure information got passed on accurately. And whenever I met my manager face-to-face, I always greeted them with a smile and kept our chats short.

Finishing your work on time is also important. Setting such verbal limits is good for your mental well-being, and it won't give your manager a chance to point fingers unnecessarily.

Have a Sit-Down with the Toxic Manager

If your manager is difficult with you, give them the benefit of the doubt. It could be that you both got off on the wrong foot because of a misunderstanding. Therefore, have a sit-down discussion with them to clear the air.

As a manager, they are supposed to listen to your grievances and take constructive feedback. A simple 15-minute chat can give you a better sense of the situation and throw light on how to work efficiently with them. A toxic manager would most certainly be taken aback. And since the ball is in their court, they could either get defensive or apologize and resolve the issue.

When I put my concerns in front of my toxic manager, they brushed them off and continued being mean at work. Therefore, don't worry if this sit-down doesn't bring any change in their behavior. You know you tried solving it amicably. It's not you who needs to behave maturely, it's them.

Document All Behaviors

If there is no alternative but to go to a higher authority, make sure you bring receipts.

It is vital to have all the necessary evidence in hand if you decide to take your case to human resources or want to save yourself from getting pinpointed. For example, keep all emails exchanged in a separate folder, and document the dates and times of the verbal chats you’ve had with your manager.

While emails can be cc'd, you could include another team member in the physical or virtual meeting who can act as a mediator or a spectator. Also, encourage other employees who are targets of the manager's poor treatment to do the same. When more people get involved in recording the evidence, the stronger the proof you can give to human resources about the manager's problematic behaviors.

Toxic managers love to control and feed off of the power they have to manipulate others. Unfortunately, they also have a shorter shelf life when it comes to long-term success. So don't forget there will always be someone at work who behaves negatively. Try not to lose your behavioral balance at work.


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