Whether it’s the rigid overlord who micromanages your every move, or the insular boss who’s straight up unreachable, leaving you to fend for yourself, we’ve all had a toxic boss at some point. Worse yet, some of us may be working under one without even knowing. 

Here are 7 telling signs that you have a toxic boss, so you can make a change before it’s too late. 

1. Micromanaging your every move

Arguably one of the most common gripes employees have with their bosses are being micromanaged. I mean, we’re all adults here, nobody likes constantly being monitored or told what to do.

The truth is, a boss that does not trust his team to be able to perform independently often does this out of personal insecurity, which manifests in the form of control issues. Unfortunately, behaviour like this can prove to be especially counterproductive, by interfering with the workflow and impeding job performance.

2. Calling the office a “family environment”

Referring to employees as family may sound nice and homely in theory, but more often than not, it’s a sign that the workplace lacks boundaries.

In the same way we tend to be harsher and more informal with family members, a “family” dynamic at work is one where the boss sees employees as people whom he can be overly demanding or unprofessional with, without consequences.

3. Sets unrealistic expectations

Whether it’s a massive project with a disproportionately short lead time, or the expectation to partake in “OT culture”, putting work before all else, unrealistic expectations are something most of us have probably encountered at work by now.

Having a boss who is flippant about ensuring employees maintain a healthy work-life balance can be incredibly frustrating. More critically though, it’s a sign that they do not respect your time or wellbeing.

4. Gives unclear instructions

Just as with all relationships, communication is everything. At work, clarity in communication is crucial to ensuring the demands are understandable and unambiguous. Unclear instructions can be the difference between a successful collaboration and a disastrous outcome. 

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An inability to issue clear instructions, while inconvenient, are telling of a much larger issue: that your boss lacks communication skills, a trait that is critical in management.  

5. Rash and emotional in the workplace

We all know that when it comes to being professional in the workplace, one of the most important practices is to leave all emotions at the door. While it’s important for employees to practice this, it is even more important for bosses to be able to remain calm and level headed, as they are the ones leading the team.

Allowing one’s feelings to get in the way of work can be catastrophic if it gets out of hand, and at the very least, can cause feelings of uncertainty and fear among team members, emotions that threaten the stability of any team. 

6. Playing favourites

The idea of playing favourites is something that’ll take most of us back to our schooling days, when we were passed up for class monitor for the teacher’s pet. Sadly, this phenomenon is one that has followed us out of the classroom, and into the office. 

Bosses are expected to be impartial and unprejudiced, in order to maintain the most equitable work environment where everyone feels valued and inclined to contribute to the team. And honestly, this harmony is kind of hard to maintain when team members are made to feel jealous of one another.

7. Unreceptive to feedback and ideas

If you’re anything like most employees, you’ll agree that one of the keys to a harmonious work environment is openness – openness to ideas, feedback, and criticism, even if it’s tough to take.

A boss who does not make his employees feel valued and heard is one who does not know how to run a team. In the long run, this ends up hurting the company, as diverse and fresh ideas are overlooked. 

Dealing with a toxic boss & what you can do

Reading this article, you may have found yourself identifying with one or more of the toxic traits presented. Unfortunately, this is a reality for too many of us. The good thing, though, is that now you know what to look out for, so hopefully you’ll be able to avoid any bosses that fit the bill.

Turn to HR

As a rule of thumb, any behaviour that compromises a healthy work environment should be reported to HR. While this includes obvious workplace violations like blackmail, it extends to other less severe behaviour like the setting of unrealistic expectations as well. Though it may be easy to feel small and alone in the workplace, you should always be able to reach out to HR.

Keep receipts

Aside from escalating issues formally, it’s important to make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself – so that nobody, boss or other, can twist events or gaslight you. The best way to do this is to always keep a record of correspondence and to make sure any demands and agreements are written in black and white. This way, you leave nothing to be debated. 

If all else fails, consider switching jobs. It may be intimidating to leave what you know, but the job marketplace is one that is boundless and ever-growing – at the very least, the uncertainty of looking for a new job is a whole lot better than staying where you are not wanted and appreciated.

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Cover image adapted from: TheSmartLocal


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