How to Deal With a Toxic Boss (Part 2)

They’re the reason you dread Monday mornings and are the face on your imaginary voodoo doll. It’s unlikely you will be able to change them, but thanks to The Public Speaker, you can definitely improve your work life. Here's the second installment of how to handle a difficult boss.

Lisa B. Marshall,
March 22, 2012
Episode #148

He was big and loud. He was never satisfied with anyone’s work and criticized anyone and everyone in front of peers, in front of senior management, and even in front of prospects. I left my job because of him. But most of us don’t have that option, especially in today’s economy.  .

Today I’ll pick up where I left off last week, with part 2 of how to deal with a toxic boss. Last week, my suggestion was to resist the urge to fight back and instead respond with professionalism. This week we’ll cover 3 more ways to manage the monster.

Engineer Your Environment

Whether in the elevator or in a meeting, face time with Mr. or Mrs. Toxic can be daunting, if not ulcer-inducing. How can you be prepared?

The trick is to disarm the aggressiveness and stay positive. While a Pollyanna attitude may be annoying in other situations, it is an excellent antidote for the toxic boss. By responding with an excessively positive attitude, you will either disarm the toxicity over time, or maybe even knock him or her off-balance.

Update Mr. or Mrs. T with regular short emails, text messages, and regular status reports. This way, he or she won’t feel the need to ask you what is going on. Be as organized as possible so that meeting times are short. Be sure to plan and document all conversations. 

Often the best way to confront someone is to use his or her own words. For example, “Last week in our meeting you stated XYZ. Now you are suggesting ABC. Which is correct?” Follow up with an email. “As per our discussion today, we are implementing ABC, instead of XYZ. Please confirm.”

Be careful not to challenge the toxic boss in public. Also, don’t bad-mouth to your co-workers or at industry meeting. It will come back to bite you.

Plan an Escape Route

Instead of arguing or showing your displeasure, slowly and carefully track and document the real financial costs associated with your boss’ bad behavior. Did your group lose an account to a competitor? Did the genius new hire choose a different company after a meeting with the boss? Did your star employee leave? Keep detailed records on your computer or notebook—at home.

Write down specifics, such as, “March 15 @ 3pm.  Prospect XYZ company called today to tell us they went with competition. George P. stated, ‘Quite frankly, Mr. T Boss’ behavior in our meeting made us uncomfortable. We thought the other company might be a better fit for us.’”

Notice, my example includes a date, time, and exact quotes documenting what happened. Keep emotional language out of it. Don’t write something vague like, “I lost the deal. The jerk screwed me again.”

Once you’ve accumulated enough evidence, schedule a meeting with the senior team and let them know that getting rid of Mr. or Mrs. Toxic  might be a good option for preserving your department’s bottom line. Choose the people with whom you share this information wisely. If one of the senior team is a fan of Mr. Toxic, you may wind up on the receiving end of his ire.

Of course, in the end, money talks. So if you present your case objectively, without emotion, and prove that getting rid of the bad apple would improve the bottom line, they will likely listen.

Assess the Damage

Know when it’s time to move on. The common cold, while a nuisance, is a part of everyday life and sometimes even preventable with common sense choices like washing your hands. But measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox are airborne, too, and yet far more dangerous to you than the common cold. Asking you to work under the conditions your toxic boss creates is abusive. Decide your deal breakers. Then, if you need to, leave with your dignity and integrity in place.

If you do choose to move on, be careful when you answer the question, “Why did you leave?” at your job interviews. It’s best not to dig up the dirty details. Instead, sidestep the issue altogether and simply say, “I didn’t see opportunity for advancement” or “I am ready for a bigger challenge.”

If you work for a toxic boss, be careful and don’t let your guard down. Document everything and avoid emotional responses. It’s not fair  shouldn’t be true that money trumps behavior, but often it does. Which really stinks. Thankfully, by following my 4 tips, you can do something to improve your work situation. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, passionate about communication, your success is my business.

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