How to Overcome Toxic Management

Having a toxic manager is a true reality for some employees in the workplace. As much as enjoying the work you do has a large impact on your overall workplace satisfaction, interactions with peers, especially with your manager, are equally as critical. The impact of bullying, combative, or toxic behavior can be devastating to your mental health and career trajectory.

Why do bad managers seem so common in the workplace? The problem is these types of dysfunctional leaders are often very adept at projecting a successful image upwards in the organization, according to the Enterprises Project. They can be well-versed in political maneuvering, blaming others for mistakes, and manipulating emotions.


Here are 5 steps employees can overcome toxic management styles:

  1. Identify the leader’s motivation. Taking the time to try and understand what makes your boss tick can help give insight into their management style, prevent repeating triggers, and humanize them. As frequently as it is joked, in the general population, 1 in 100 people are psychopathic, as reported by Enterprises Project. The chances that your manager is a psychopath are pretty unlikely. Everyone is human. There must be one thing you two can agree upon.

  2. Set healthy boundaries. Working with someone who does not have boundaries does not mean that you can accept the fact that there are none in place. Set boundaries yourself, and communicate them in a way to create mutual understanding. Reference your employee handbook or other Human Resources materials to set personal boundaries in line with the company’s expectations. These can be related to working additional hours, communication tone, and more, per The Muse.

  3. Keep detailed records. If you, unfortunately, find yourself the victim of inappropriate or abusive behavior, keep detailed and accurate records, and report them to your Human Resources department. Your ability to make concrete, detailed references to your personal experiences will significantly support your case.

  4. Remember that they will not be your leader forever. For many toxic leaders, the desire for more power, prestige, and control means that they move positions frequently Hopefully, you will not need to deal with them for long. While you wait them out, focus on developing your skills and your network so you can find a new position if necessary.

  5. Make the decision to stay at or leave the company. Give yourself the time to make a realistic decision about whether you want to continue to be employed at the company or not. How is the situation impacting you emotionally and mentally? If you do decide to stay at your current employer, develop coping mechanisms to limit the effect of the toxic behavior on your well-being. It is always a good idea to reach out to someone in the HR department to gauge better resources or a way to work well with your manager.

A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that workers with managers who didn’t foster an open and trusting work environment (evaluated through a series of survey questions), were more likely to have multiple risk factors that would heighten cardiovascular disease risk over time, including being smokers, being obese, getting low amounts of physical activity, eating an unhealthy diet, being diabetic, having high cholesterol and having high blood pressure. So, for the sake of your professional and personal wellbeing, it’s really important to recognize when you’re dealing with a toxic manager. Remember to leverage the strategies above, and do everything in your power to avoid it, or ultimately, get out.

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