What To Do If A Boss Is Toxic

It is unlikely that you will be able to radically change the situation, but you can work on your attitude towards it.

The word “toxic” has been erased, so it’s not always clear what it means. In the “Wiktionary”one thingof its meanings – “creating an unhealthy environment around himself.” The Oxford Dictionary is a little more specific: toxicmeans “Extremely unpleasant, in particular someone who likes to control people and influence them in an unfair way.”

That is, if someone doesn’t like a leader, and his demands drive subordinates out of their comfort zone, this does not make him a pest. For example, if someone at work likes to sit on social networks and dodges any assignments, new tasks from the boss to such an employee will naturally be unpleasant.

But the manager has the right to demand that working time be spent on work responsibilities.

The chief can enter the position and let the employee go to the hospital, or to the kindergarten for the matinee, but is not obliged. Especially if the production process suffers from frequent absences.

Finally, sometimes the leader does nothing wrong, he just looks like your nasty uncle – and now you are already uncomfortable.

Dmitry Sobolev

Family and personal psychologist.

First you need to understand that the boss is not a matchmaker, not a brother, not a friend. This is a person with certain job descriptions that he has established himself or received from higher management.

The functions of a leader are to demand, achieve, manage. Kind or toxic, he is the boss anyway. And there is no need to expect indulgences from a result-oriented person. Its primary task is to create conditions for the growth and development of the organization, and not a safe haven for employees.

A toxic leader poisons the life of the entire team for real. Usually a boss of this type does something from this list (in a difficult case, everything).

Doesn’t hold back emotions

They say about such a “person of mood”. He can be good-natured, sweet and great. But if someone angered him, offended him, or he just got up on the wrong foot, then everyone will get it. In the negative phase, the leader can scold even for a job well done, shout, throw objects and behave inappropriately to the situation.

Naturally, employees never know what mood the boss is in today. Therefore, when he is on his way, the whole team freezes. If the leader is in good spirits, you can breathe freely. If not, everyone will spend energy mainly trying not to get under his arm.

Professes a cult of personality

First of all, his own. Only he knows how to do it. He cannot be wrong, his decisions are correct and optimal. Everyone else should clearly follow, not discuss, orders.

And in general, for such a person, hierarchy is usually very important. Before the superiors, he will fawn. But the lower the employee is on the career ladder, the worse the toxic manager will treat him.

Doesn’t give clear directions

Sometimes tasks come in vague formulations so as not to limit the imagination of employees. But with a toxic boss, things are often different. The lack of clear instructions allows him to interpret the result as he pleases, usually not in favor of the performer.

For example, the manager accuses the employee who brings the layout of stupidity: was it difficult to guess that he wanted something completely different? As a result, the subordinate plays the psychic over and over again. Time passes, there is no result, most of the work is done just in case. This is very exhausting.

Humiliates and ridicules

The boss has the authority to criticize the work, point out its shortcomings and demand that they be corrected. But this can be done in different ways. If the boss goes into insults and tries to hurt the employee, then this is not at all the case.

Intimidates and blackmails

A toxic boss demands to do what he needs to do, and responds to doubts or objections with threats. He promises that you will be fired, and a call is enough to ensure that you never get a job again. Or that tomorrow something valuable will be lost in the office, and it will be “hung” on you.

Even if you do not fully believe that he will succeed in fulfilling his promise, this still does not negate strong experiences that spoil life.


The relationship between people who stand at different levels of the hierarchical ladder in a certain system is, in general, a controversial issue. You can never be sure that the subordinate has sincere feelings, and is not forced to imitate them because of a vulnerable position.

But greasy jokes, touches and other sexually explicit claims look absolutely unambiguous. This is harassment , and it does not characterize the boss in the best way, even if their victim is not you.


The boss is biased towards a group of people united by some formal sign. It can literally be anyone: childfree , IT professionals, or people living north of the 59th parallel north latitude. Naturally, the situation is heating up.


If the employee succeeds, it is because anyone can cope with such a task, “even such a brainless monkey.” If nothing came of it, then, of course, the subordinate is to blame for everything.

Assigns other people’s achievements

The mistakes of the employees are their flaws, the victories of the employees are the merit of the manager.

What to do if your boss is toxic

Globally, you have only two options: leave or endure.

Evacuation is obviously the best way when it comes to something toxic. If we were talking about real poison, the solution would be a little simpler. The exclusion zone around Pripyat or the asbestos-covered ghost town of Wittenum in Australia is more of a attraction for tourists who love to tickle their nerves. And, frankly speaking, there are not many people who want to stay there all the time.

Sometimes, of course, there is a temptation to fight a toxic leader. They say that running away means losing, so you have to stay to the last. Sometimes it even succeeds. But is it worth it? In most cases, you risk spending a lot of energy, but nothing will change. But in the heat of battle, you yourself will receive new wounds, which will be even more difficult to recover from.

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Moving away from the source of the poison is wise.

Another thing is that quitting is not always easy. Maybe you adore your place of work so much that you are willing to put up with the difficulties. Or you don’t have an airbag , so a regular income is vital. Or you have a rare specialty, so it will be difficult to find a job. In this case, your task is to stock up on protection from “toxic fumes” for a while until you can quit or the situation will correct itself.

How to survive in a company with a toxic boss

Focus on goals

When you ride public transport and look around, you see different people with different facial expressions. They are kind, evil, detached. But you do not think much about why people are like that, although you move with them from point A to point B. So it is in the work collective.

Dmitry Sobolev

Don’t forget why you came to work. Not to be nice and comfortable with your boss. You came for a salary, experience, career growth. You do not have to perceive the boss himself as something important and valuable. This is a person who is a moderator here and now. Let him stay with him.

Be great

In fact, the results of the work are the only thing that really matters. And the more flawless they are, the easier it will be for you to take a hit. Naturally, a toxic boss will always find something to complain about. But if you understand that you did everything in the best possible way, then you will become less vulnerable than in the case when you understand that some of the criticism is fair.

Observe the chain of command

To minimize risks, it is worth limiting communication to an exclusively worker, in compliance with all job descriptions and boundaries . At least from your side.

Julia Kuznetsova

Psychologist of the Teledoktor24 service.

Watch yourself: do not you violate boundaries and subordination, thereby letting your boss understand that this is also possible with you. Limit your communication to working hours. You have the right not to answer his calls or messages outside of work.

You should not talk about your personal life in a work collective, otherwise you give the toxic boss additional information for blows, manipulation and blackmail. Do not gossip, do not inform your boss about your colleagues, do not get involved in dubious stories – in a word, take care of your and colleagues’ reputation so that there are no reasons to discuss or criticize something.

Draw boundaries softly

Not all toxic bosses are like that because they enjoy reveling in power and being bullied. Often they simply do not notice how they behave, because they are used to it being possible. At one time, they were shouted at, pushed around and manipulated. Therefore, sometimes it is enough to indicate that you are not ready to put up with such an attitude in order to alleviate the situation – however, only for yourself.

Julia Kuznetsova

When your boss gives you unsolicited advice, assessments, criticism, and becomes personal, he violates your personal boundaries. Therefore, it is necessary to indicate your position in any case. No emotion, no offense, no aggression. Do not allow yourself to be treated unworthily. Stop the boss.

For example, depending on the situation, you can say the following:

  • “My personal life is not related to work, so I do not intend to discuss it with you. I would be grateful for your understanding. “
  • “I would be very grateful to you if you would lower your tone and we will calmly discuss everything. The productivity of my work in the case of a polite and calm conversation will be much higher. “

If this does not cause a new explosion of abuse, then the technique can be used in the future. Sooner or later, the boss will stop getting personal, and you will react painfully to it.


Put on an imaginary costume that will protect you from poison. Realize that everything said by the boss has nothing to do with you, he attacks, because the aggressor. Explain to yourself why you are okay regardless of your boss’s assessment.

Simplify your task and try to look at the situation from the outside, as if it happened to a person you like – what would you say to him?

Try to ensure that what happens at work does not extend to the rest of your life. This is not easy, because the toxic atmosphere keeps you under constant stress and lowers your self-esteem . You will still explode emotionally from time to time.

Use “psychological aikido”

According to the psychotherapist Kirill Filippov, one of the most effective methods of protection against people who violate the borders and at the same time are still endowed with power is “psychological aikido “, or another close to him method of agreeing with the truth.

Kirill Filippov

Psychologist, psychotherapist.

The essence of the method is that you do not argue with a boundary violator. You, as is done in aikido, use its energy and direct it past you. For a long time, we even taught people with schizophrenia this method, since they are the most vulnerable. But it turned out that he works with others as well.

Let’s say you are criticized and accused of being a worthless employee. Calmly clarify what the interlocutor meant, what it means. You will usually get more specific answers to such questions.

If “you are a worthless employee” is a generalization built on one or more events, then the answer “you did not make the report that I asked for” is more likely to be true. And the essence of further actions is to agree, because this is a fact, and it is pointless to argue with facts.

Thus, you are, as it were, helping the attacker to discharge aggressive energy without receiving a blow from him. Otherwise, getting into an argument with abstract accusations will only lead to an intensification of the attack.

Contact the HR department for help

In some companies, HR specialists not only hire new employees, but also do everything to maintain a favorable climate in the team. If your organization is one of those, or you just tried everything and see the next step to be fired, try contacting the HR department.

You may be offered options, such as transferring to a unit where the situation is better. Or, if the leader’s behavior is blatant and poisons everyone’s life, they will think about how to solve the issue more radically.

Naturally, this works if boss toxicity is the exception, not the rule in the company.

Go away

This recommendation could not be avoided. All compromises and attempts to endure are temporary measures. If no changes are foreseen in the future, it is necessary to plan for leaving: to save up a safety cushion, complete my studies, or otherwise prepare the ground for your salvation.

The constant stress in which a toxic boss keeps subordinates is dangerous. It negatively affectsphysical and mentalhealth. So staying away from poisonous people is sometimes literally a matter of survival.

Have you encountered a toxic boss? Share stories in the comments and tell how you were saved.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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