A toxic boss won’t just affect your professional career, they also negatively impact your personal life.

We have all be subject to different styles of leadership, and admittedly some are better than others. There are those who thrive with the carrot and others who thrive under the stick, it really depends on personal preference.

A good manager will figure out how you work and find a way to bring out the best in you. But then, there are those managers who just make you want to hand in your notice after every conversation. Unfortunately, good bosses seem to be few and far between and most of us are stuck with poor leadership.

A 2018 poll found that up to 76% of respondents have had, or currently have a toxic boss, while only 19% described their bosses as ‘mentors’.

With so many people under toxic leadership, it seems important to understand the signs and characteristics so that you can find ways around the issue before it’s too late.

Signs of a toxic boss

1. Playing favorites between co-workers, especially with those similar to them

People tend to gravitate towards those most like them, but playing favorites is a classic sign of an unprofessional boss.

2. Making their career advancement a priority over anyone else’s

A toxic boss is always looking out for number one, even when you ask for help.

3. They expect too much from others, perhaps even more than the job role requires

Over-expecting and over-asking from subordinates creates far too much pressure and can cause a lot of stress, but a toxic boss will make it difficult to say no.

4. Taking credit for the work of others

And, if your boss was successful in getting you to go above and beyond, they will almost always take credit for it.

5. Incapable of admitting fault, even blaming others for their own mistakes

‘I was wrong’ is a phrase that simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. A toxic manager is never, ever wrong.

6. Never giving constructive feedback, but always criticizing

We all need a little push in the right direction sometimes, but if your push feels more like a shove, it’s not conducive to your work or your professional advancement.

7. They don’t listen to their team

Of course, management has the final say on things, but a good boss is able to take constructive criticism or even a new idea.

8. They over-promise and under deliver

They think they can do everything, and definitely make out as though they can, but they can’t, and they leave you to deal with the fallout.

9. Your work-life balance doesn’t matter (while theirs is of utmost importance)

If something needs to be done, they’re not the ones pulling overtime to finish it. You are, and you’re doing it this weekend.

10. They micromanage the team

Micromanaging can be exhausting, and leaves you with no autonomy, and breaks down trust within a team.

11. They can’t be trusted because they’ve lied in the past

Whether they’ve lied to you, or you’ve witnessed them lying to someone else, an untrustworthy boss is a bad boss. No exceptions.

12. No communication, or what communication there is can be extremely difficult

People communicate in different ways, and it can take some getting used to. But if your boss doesn’t update you in time, or if they don’t keep you in the loop of a project, it’s classic toxic management.

13. They call you on your day off

It’s one thing to ask you to work overtime, it’s another to infringe on your scheduled time off.

14. Unpredictable

If you don’t know how your boss is going to feel or act from one day to the next, it can be incredibly stressful and stands in the way of productive work

15. You can feel the work environment change when they walk into the room

One of the most obvious signs that your boss is toxic is that when they walk into a room, the entire atmosphere changes and everybody begins to feel on edge.

How to deal with your toxic boss

It’s difficult to know what to do when faced with a bad boss. Their authority and position can be intimidating, making it difficult to really know where you can turn. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as going over their heads and reporting them to a superior, because they may be top of the food chain.

Attempt a conversation

Now, this might not always be possible as some bosses are incapable of admitting fault. I’m also not suggesting that you go in and tell them you think they’re a toxic boss because they will not like that one bit.

If you think your boss is somewhat unaware of their behavior, an honest conversation might help the situation. Refer to actual behaviors they have which leave you feeling negative, and use examples of this so that they can better understand. If your boss is willing, it might help to improve the situation.

Develop a support network

If your boss is unwilling to work on their poor behavior, the first thing you should do is build a support network. Talk to colleagues, both within and external to your department, and rally around each other when things are difficult.

Let your out-of-work friends know what’s going on and lean on them when you’re stressed or anxious. It won’t fix the core of the issue, but it will do wonders for protecting your mental health.

Seek out the HR department

HR departments are a godsend, and they will work quickly and effectively to swoop in on a toxic situation and find a solution. This will also give you a record of what’s going on, just to cover your back in case you are terminated. Be prepared with a record of examples of specific behaviors, and do your best not to let your emotions get the better of you.

If your company doesn’t have an HR department, confide in a colleague you trust, or someone at a higher level than your boss. They will be able to serve as an ally if things go south and can offer you some words of wisdom, or even some insight into what you can do.

Start looking for other opportunities

If nothing is working and your boss is making you miserable, it might be time to start looking elsewhere. Put a plan in place to start looking at other opportunities and set reasonable, achievable deadlines.

If you really need out, don’t be afraid to assess your financial situation and quit if it’s feasible. No job is worth sacrificing your mental health, especially with the amount of time we spend working and that many of us are now working from home.

If your boss has a toxic management style, it can be a tricky situation to navigate. Not only do they have an inflated sense of authority, but they also have the power to abuse the power they do have. Just remember that you’re not alone, there are plenty of people with horrible bosses.

Learning to manage upwards and work in a hostile environment will teach you valuable lessons on what it means to be a good boss so that you are one of the few bosses that can be called a ‘mentor’ in the future.


  1. https://www.businessinsider.com
  2. https://www.monster.com

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