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  • Writer's pictureSusanne May

Help! How do I deal with a toxic boss?

5 surprising strategies which will make your day!

"Employees leave managers, not companies."

We could not agree more with LinkedIn polls to this phenomenon! According to Gallup's research, one in two employees have left a job to get away from a manager to improve their lives and careers. Gallup’s research helps us to understand that the behavior of every leader matters, but it does not help us deal with it day-to-day.

Let’s have a look. What is it exactly those managers do that makes us feel disrespected, demeaned, or demotivated? In my last week’s poll, Larissa Reinprecht answered the question: “Deflecting responsibility, creating a culture of blame, inconsistent messaging, and behaviors, not keeping promises, and simply being unavailable to support their people.”

For my book research, I interviewed Karin Hurt, co-author of the fascinating book Courageous Cultures. How to build teams of micro-innovators, problem solvers & customer advocates. Karin confirms Larissa’s experience, “toxic leadership behaviors are certainly the biggest crushers that sabotage a healthy culture. The three most toxic behaviors we hear being tolerated are shaming, blaming, and intimidation.”

What can you do to detox from these behaviors and contribute to a healthy culture? Here are 5 simple strategies which will make your day:

#1 Slow down. When a toxic boss behaves aggressive and pushy towards you, do not react immediately. Slow down and find ways to limit the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exposure to this person. This will “train” your boss to seek less interaction with you.

#2 Be kind. Hard to believe that this works but it does. One of my peers at Entrepreneurs' Organization shared with us how he ends a conversation with extremely challenging clients – closing with the phrase “sehr, sehr gern!” (absolutely, no problem”).

#3 Stop seeking validation. Excellent work does not change your manager’s attitude. Instead, produce great work to learn new skills, gain new experiences, and interact with new people to expand your network. This helps you to stay in a learner’s mindset and reduces psychological dependency.

#4 Understand context. Try to understand what is going on in your boss’s world. Many executives work in high pressure environments and are not aware that they unconsciously “delegate” their stress to their people. Recognizing that their stress is not yours, helps you to draw a healthy boundary.

#5 Make yourself part of the equation. You are only a victim when you let others to treat you like one. The great Maya Angelou said, “A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.” Feeling like a victim, gives other people a lot of power and influence over your life and well-being. When you cannot change the environment, change your attitude.


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