Taking the sting out of a toxic boss 

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Good bosses inspire you to achieve your potential. Bad bosses can make your life a misery. Victoria McLean, CEO and founder of CityCV.co.uk talks to us about how to take the sting out of a toxic boss…

Working in and contributing to an inclusive, friendly environment is at the top of everyone’s career checklist. Getting the best out of people in a work environment takes understanding, encouragement and empathy. If you’re not feeling happy or fulfilled at work, it could be because you have a toxic boss. Ask yourself these five questions:

1. Do you dread going to work in the morning and regularly get the Sunday night blues?

2. Is your health suffering? Headaches and upset stomachs can be signs of a system under stress.

3. Does your boss put you down in front of other people and find fault with everything you do?

4. Do they always take credit for work that you’ve done?

5. In short, is your boss draining the life out of you?

What makes a boss toxic?

Bullying – or more subtle ways of diminishing you. Rubbishing your ideas, marginalising or excluding you.  Not supporting you. Not recognising your achievements. Appearing deaf to your needs while being self-serving and ambitious. Clipping your wings.

So what can you do about it?

When your boss tries to undermine, belittle or constantly overrule you, this is power play. It’s a way of establishing dominance and authority.

If you find yourself in a tense confrontational situation, don’t get defensive. Try to keep emotion out of it.  Also, don’t fight fire with fire. This is not a level playing field. Stick to factual exchanges. Hold your nerve.

When having a bad day lasts a whole lot longer than 24 hours…

Dealing with a difficult boss is energy-sapping and usually taints other aspects of your life – it can affect how you sleep, your relationships, your self-esteem, your self-worth and your confidence.

You are most certainly not alone. Most people have experienced a bad boss at some point. It can happen in organisations big and small.

A few months ago, even human rights charity Amnesty International made the headlines after a report said it had a “toxic culture of secrecy and mistrust”, with many staff claiming to have experienced or witnessed bullying. This included managers belittling staff in meetings and making demeaning and menacing comments.

* If you’re experiencing bullying behaviour, stand firm. Most bullies are cowards. Be polite, professional and pursue lines of communication. Get witnesses. Keep a log of any incidents where you feel humiliated, including emails. Go to HR.

* Some bosses are guilty of micromanaging you… it’s the opposite of empowerment when you’re under constant scrutiny and interrogated about how you work. Tackle this and win their trust by keeping them up to date with progress on projects and asking their advice on how to approach a task. Speak their language.

* Hanging out with the boss brings issues. The buddy boss is never a good idea because of the mixed messages, conflict of interest and blurred edges. Going to the pub, chatting about colleagues, joking around… alarm bells should start to ring. Stay comfortable with the relationship – and professional.

* Hate your boss but love the work? Tricky one. It isn’t just about doing your best and being a model employee. That won’t change the behaviour or expectations of your boss. If there’s underlying disconnect, communication issues and personality clashes, working harder, smarter and longer isn’t going to be a sustainable solution.

That said, a moment of empathy is worth trying if your boss’s behaviour has recently changed. Walk in their shoes. Perhaps there’s something underlying that’s causing them to act differently – they too could be under certain pressure at work, at home or even going through a health issue. Keeping your humanity (as well as your integrity) is really important.

Should I stay or should I go?

Sometimes it’s better just to step away, especially if the work environment is starting to affect your mental health as well as your performance.

According to Leigh Branham, author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, 89% of bosses believe employees quit because they want more money. Not true. Only 12% of employees actually leave an organisation for more money. The majority quote “lack of appreciation” as their reason for leaving. People don’t leave companies. They leave bosses.

And in these days of flexible, agile working, there could be another solution.

As mentioned in my May blog, this might be a great time to deflect the focus from being purely on your core job and mitigate a toxic boss by having a side hustle.

According to the BBC, 1 in 4 Brits have a side hustle – half of which were set up in the last two years. As I know, pursuing a passion outside of work cultivates creativity and happiness, which improves employee wellbeing and productivity. So maybe this is for you.

But if it’s all getting too much with your toxic boss, I can help you find a new role by polishing your CV, ramping up your LinkedIn and coaching you to get the job you deserve – in a company that deserves you.

Good luck!

By Victoria McLean, CEO and founder of CityCV.co.uk

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