How to deal with toxic bosses

I just delivered a program for FL SHRM on How to Humanistically Handle Bad Bullying Bosses. It should be available through my company Humanist learning Systems soon.

I teach how to use behavioral techniques to get unwanted behavior to stop.

 The short version of how to deal with toxic bosses is this: 

  1. Be explicitly about what the behavior is that is problematic.  Do they eat too loudly during lunch? Are they punching people? Withholding information? Calling people names?
  2. Think of your boss compassionately. Most people don’t behave well when stressed out – help manage things so that they are less stressed.
  3. CYA by documenting EVERYTHING. Do this to help clear up communication problems (and toxic bosses – have communication issues). And keep doing that. This will help make sure that a) you behave at your best and b) will encourage them to act good too.

When you do this – if they are well meaning – they will respond to your attempt to reset the relationship with good intentions.  The good news is that most people fall into this category.

If they are really toxic and not in control of their behavior – they will start to behave worse as they lose control over the dynamic.  Most toxic employees and bosses – are toxic because they are bullies. When bullies are no longer able to use aggression to intimidate people into doing what they want – they do the one thing that has always worked for them – which is to get more aggressive. Just keep documenting and being professional.

The bad news is – if your boss is truly toxic – you won’t be able to change them.  Your only realistic goals is to either get them fired or to find another job.  But you won’t know if they fall into this category until you at least try to reset the relationship.

Finally – dignity – it’s key.  Treat them with dignity – even if they don’t treat others with dignity. Here’s why.  No one can take your dignity away from you.  No one. If someone fails to treat you with dignity – that is a reflection on them, not on you. The more dignity you give – the more dignified you are.  It’s an unlimited resource.  If someone else is set on being undignified – don’t’ join them. You can politely and professionally – encourage them to choose a more dignified and professional course of actions – but if they are toxic – they are going to behave toxic-ly. All you can do is maintain your professionalism and your dignity. Feeling compassion for them will help you not be bothered and not take what they are doing personally.

If you want to learn how to deal with bullies and other toxic people in the workplace - consider taking one of my online courses - or hiring me to do a group training -

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