When it comes to job satisfaction, certainly a number of factors come into play: Do I like what I do? Do I enjoy the environment I work in? Do I get along with my coworkers?
One of the most important factors as it relates to job performance is whom you’re working for — your boss.
In every field, there are good bosses, and then there are people who have no right being a boss.
A toxic boss brings out the weaknesses in a team instead of harnessing its strengths. He or she can be demanding and push his or her employees harder than they need to be pushed.
How can you tell the difference between a hard-nosed no-nonsense leader and a “toxic boss?”
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“There’s a clear distinction,” says Lisa Copeland, a global workplace expert specializing in culture, engagement, leadership, and teamwork with The Culture Works. “A toxic boss will create a counterproductive environment that can make the difference between success and failure. A good boss, on the other hand, is like a ship’s captain, making sure that everyone is fulfilling their duty and working as a team, motivating them to go forward, and making sure that the ship stays on course.”
Without an effective leader, it’s easy for an entire team to find itself aimlessly adrift. Since we know there is a definite correlation between effective leadership and employee commitment and engagement, it’s vital that all organizations and their people — from account executives to the C Suite — be able to identify and handle toxic bosses.
What are some signs you’re working for a toxic boss, and what can you do about it?
1. You have to fight for access
“There is no reason that seeing your boss should be more difficult than having a private meeting with the Pope,” Copeland said. “Even in an office environment that fosters independence and self-sufficiency, leadership is required to make sure everything is running smoothly and going in the right direction. Without that, it’s very likely that inefficiencies will multiply and projects may not be successful.”
2. Your boss is not goal-oriented
“If you leave a staff meeting and still nobody has any idea of what the plan is or what they are supposed to be doing, your boss may need to start focusing on goals,” Copeland says. “If there is a very clear goal for what you’re supposed to be doing, and a timeline you need to stick to, you can cut out a lot of confusion and wasted time and effort, and increase productivity.”
3. The boss keeps all the credit, but gives away all the blame
“A big sign of a toxic boss is someone who is never wrong. Failure to admit mistakes and blaming subordinates is a sign of insecurity in a leader,” Copeland says. “Worst of all, this demoralizing tactic can be contagious. When you have employees who are more worried about covering for themselves than they are about being productive and having the whole team succeed, it’s never a good outcome.”
4. They play favorites
“A successful boss will take the time and effort to make sure that every member of the team is maximizing their own potential, while being given the credit for their contribution to the overall success of the company,” Copeland notes. “Playing favorites is unfair and contributes to an environment where jealousy and animosity leads people to bring each other down, instead of focusing on succeeding as a team.”
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5. Your boss reflects poorly on you
“Sometimes a toxic boss spreads his bad vibes farther than just to his own team. The bad reputation of a toxic boss can quickly spread to other departments and even clients. This is the kiss of death because it’s not just about your boss; your reputation could be on the line,” Copeland says. “It can be especially disconcerting when you’re trying to escape your current situation with a transfer. If other departments dislike your toxic boss and his bad practices, they may associate you with those same practices and throw your application directly into the shred pile.”
“Unfortunately, when you are dealing with a toxic boss, you have three choices,” according to Copeland. “You can approach your boss and try to work out your differences and see if there is any common ground that can be reached. Next, you can request a confidential meeting with your boss’s boss to try to correct the situation. Finally, if all else fails and you are completely miserable, you can leave the company and find another job.”
Nobody likes working for a toxic boss, but unfortunately, it happens. Having a toxic boss not only can make you dread going to work, it can also dim your outlook for tomorrow.
Once you know how to recognize the situation, then you can make a plan for how to handle it. Most of the time, there’s no reason to spend your weekly 40 hours with a toxic person, and there are almost always options even if that means finding another job.
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