How to Deal With a Toxic Boss (Part 1)

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. 

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read
Episode #147

When you go to the zoo, it’s pretty easy to tell which monkey is the leader of the pack. It’s the one strutting around with its fur all fluffed up. If this monkey feels threatened, it goes in for the kill. Literally. Threatened monkeys kill the young of their competitors!

While you likely work with humans and your young stand a good chance of remaining intact, these fluffed-up alphas are out there, and maybe you work for one. They’re the reason you dread Monday mornings and are the face on your imaginary voodoo doll.


Toxic bosses are often insecure, volatile, screaming, micromanagers, who are difficult, if not impossible, to work for. This toxic spill spreads negativity, anxiety, and stress throughout the workplace.

Why do these toxic bosses get to keep their jobs year after year, despite bad behavior? The answer: the toxic boss loophole. Someone higher up in the tree likes this monkey because this monkey, though toxic, makes money. Make no mistake. This money-making monkey is likely to stay.  Particularly in this bad economy, it seems as if I am receiving more and more emails asking for ways to deal with this sort of bad behavior.

What’s the antidote for this poison? Firstly, understand that you aren’t going to change them and you shouldn’t take it personally. Save your emotional energy for things you can change.

In this two part series I’ll cover how you can survive a toxic boss. We’ll start with perhaps the best but most difficult way to survive: respond with professionalism

Respond With Professionalism

Were you two days late on your latest project? Humbly accept responsibility. Of course, your boss shouldn’t be yelling or calling you names; you shouldn’t have to be subjected to that. But being a toxic boss, he or she probably will. So you should resist the urge to fight back. Thankfully, you don’t have to take it lying down, either. The key is to remain professional at all times.

For example, you could respond by saying, “Calling me a moron doesn’t solve the problem. How about we deal with this by reviewing what went wrong and how those issues can be addressed,” or “Screaming isn’t a solution to this issue. Can we sit and calmly talk about what is upsetting you and how we can address it?” Drawing the line and reacting calmly and professionally will defuse the steaming geyser and return the atmosphere back to a calmer state.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.