by CareerActually contributor, Peter Luscombe

Studies have shown that if your boss is manipulating or intimidating then that causes stress. Many people are at a loss for strategies and feel disempowered in such situations. There are steps you can take.

A recent article  in ‘The Conversation’  by Vicki Webster and Paula Brough from Griffith University highlights toxic behaviours of managers and ways to cope with them.

What immediately struck me on reading Webster and Brough’s article was the list of toxic, counter-productive behaviours a boss may show and that any two of them are enough to create significant stress for others.

The most common toxic behaviours exhibited by managers include:

  • Constantly seeks and needs praise
  • Has to win at all costs
  • Lapses into time consuming, self-praising anecdotes
  • Charms, cultivates and manipulates
  • Plays favourites
  • Takes credit for others’ work
  • Lies
  • Bullies and abuses others
  • Incessantly criticises others publicly
  • Has mood swings and temper tantrums
  • Treats all workplace interactions as a fault-finding exercise
  • Takes all decision making authority away
  • Micro manages everything you do
  • Promises to take action but later reneges
  • Ignores requests

What especially made sense to me was – What Not To Do, including confronting the leader, avoiding, ignoring or bypassing the leader, whistle blowing, ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration or taking too much sick leave (short-term relief only).

Fortunately, Webster and Brough offer the following coping strategies if you are experiencing toxic leadership, and feel you are not in a position to report it, or leave the organisation:

  • Seeking social support from colleagues, mentor, friends and family
  • Seeking professional support, i.e. Employee Assistance Program, counsellor, psychologist, general practitioner
  • Seeking advice from Human Resources
  • Undertaking health and well-being activities, i.e. diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises
  • Restructuring your thoughts about the incidents in question to maintain a sense of calm and manage your state of mind.

Importantly the article also highlights the importance of proactive career management as being especially useful in moving out of these situations.  CareerActually founder and author of The Essential Career Guide  Carole Brown advises:

To be nimble, happy and successful in your career you need to know who you are, what motivates you and what you have to offer and then connect these things strategically to the labour market. Update your resume and on-line profiles, brush up your interview skills and keep connected to your networks. Develop a career plan based on your skills, achievements and aspirations and be prepared to make the move before its too late. Poisonous work cultures are not worth the personal and professional cost usually attached to them…

If you find yourself working for a toxic boss, this advice is well worth heeding.