It’s said that most employees don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. A direct supervisor can affect the way an employee sees a job and how much motivation they have.
When you’re dealing with an unnecessarily toxic boss, leaving the company might not be an option. The only decision left to you is to handle the destructive relationship yourself, and take care not to cause unnecessary drama within the workplace. But dealing with a toxic leader effectively is sometimes easier said than done.
To help employees facing this unfortunate circumstance, 13 members of Forbes Human Resources Council share several potential methods of dealing with the problem while keeping the drama to a bare minimum.
1. Seek Clarity
We can’t change people; however, we can change ourselves. What is important when you work in a toxic environment is to seek clarity and be clear in communication. Try to follow up clear instruction with an email and always work on your levels of emotional intelligence where the environment does not consume you. Be the change you want to see in an environment, which shows courage. – Tasniem Titus, Dentsply Sirona
2. Do Your Job And Drop Your Ego
Strategic thinking will help immensely. A toxic boss may say that data doesn’t matter, they just want you to follow what they say. Use logic, do your job and check your ego at the door. Recognize there are varied management styles and their style is not a reflection of you but them. Learning what doesn’t work is as important as knowing what does. What is “true” to the toxic boss is not fact. – Patricia Sharkey, IMI People
3. Assume Positive Intent And Provide Feedback
When you recognize that insecurity is at the core of poor behaviors, you can be empowered to shift perspective. Always assume positive intent and tap into your EQ (emotional intelligence) to have a conversation. Perhaps they don’t understand how their actions are impacting you? Raise the issue with clarity and without emotion. Remember you have direct control over how you react. Try to rise above to reach an understanding. – Chatelle Lynch, McAfeeForbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?
4. Try To Have A Candid Conversation
Toxic managers are never great to work for. But first, it is important to have a candid conversation with your manager. Approach with a request to have an open conversation and without accusing, explain how you feel and the actions that affected your performance and morale. The dialogue that ensues from that will help you determine if you want to continue the current work approach or not. – Srikant Chellappa, Engagedly
5. Start By Assessing Your Own Values
One effective tactic for handling a toxic leader is to assess your own personal values. We can’t control how others show up; however you are in control of how you show up, which is where your focus should be. Ask yourself the following question: “Are you in alignment with your personal values and what are you gaining overall?” Stay consciously aware of your purpose and mission for your life. – RaQuel Hopkins, DHI Telecom Group
6. Learn And Adapt
Unfortunately, toxic bosses do exist — working for them is inevitable. First, recognize and yes, even accept their communication style. The more you learn about their communication preferences the better you will be able to adapt and prepare for more effective conversations. Ask them directly how they would like for you to communicate to them, ultimately building trust between the two of you. – Tania Geradts, Flintco, LLC
7. Become A Trusted Partner
Toxic leaders often operate from feelings of fear and demonstrate poor communication skills. Help calm their fears by becoming a trusted partner. A strong trusted partner proactively communicates important information, maintains a focus on the outstanding tasks and consciously elects to not engage in gossip or drama. – Ben Weber, Vendor Resource Management
8. Focus On Helping, Not Judging
Look at how you can drive results, and lead others to also focus on what you can impact well. Shift your mindset to one of positivity — how you can help. To quote Cy Wakeman, “call others up to greatness,” and ask, “what would great look like?” If the whole team successfully shifts their mindset, the toxic manager won’t have an audience for their drama. – Jennifer Reimert, Workhuman
9. Don’t Take It Personally
To survive a workplace with a toxic boss, one tactic is to not take the manager’s comments personally. If you are putting 100% effort into your work, learn to acknowledge that the manager’s toxicity is their problem, not yours. If your goal is to move up, find ways to get ahead by showing other managers in the organization your value, and create a professional network outside of work. – Michele Markey, SkillPath
10. Control Your Reactions
The only thing you can control is yourself. One way to manage a toxic leader with low drama and noise is to control your reactions. You will not agree with everything they say or do, and honestly, you do not have to. It does not matter whether your response is to agree or disagree — if you react professionally, respectfully and positively, this will lower the drama and noise. – Adam Mellor, ONE Gas, Inc.
11. Set Boundaries
You cannot control what others do, but you can choose how you respond to others. Try keeping the relationship strictly professional, interacting only when necessary, and managing your expectations for each interaction. If the situation is severely toxic, and you cannot do your job or preserve your health, it might be time to look for a new opportunity. – Courtney Pace, FedEx Employees Credit Assoc.
12. Avoid Them As Much As Possible
This is counterintuitive, as we like to resolve our conflicts by changing the way in which we interact. If you can limit your interactions with them down to what is necessary, you may find you can tolerate them a little more. This will also force you to seek out other direction and focus only on the tasks that really matter. It can be amazing how much time this frees up for the jobs that matter! – Karla Reffold, BeecherMadden
13. Document, Document, Document
When working with a toxic boss, stay focused on doing an amazing job and document, document, document. Always follow up with written communication confirming expectations set by the toxic boss. Leverage data to support your decisions. If you find the stress in the toxic situation is increasing, it may be time to move on or bring it to the attention of those who will address it. – Charles Ashworth, Copper