Is Your Boss Toxic? 5 Ways to Tell

toxic boss

A toxic boss can do real damage to the heart and spirit of a company and to the individuals who work there. But, there’s a huge difference between a truly toxic boss and one who’s merely challenging.

You can work with a difficult boss. But, it’s nearly impossible to be successful when you’re working for someone who is actively undermining you. If your boss is bad enough, it may even be best to seek other employment opportunities. However, that’s not something that always feels possible.

No matter what, it will help you to know more about what you’re dealing with. So, let’s take a closer look at what separates toxic bosses from merely difficult ones:

1. Passion versus temper

A good boss feels passionate about their job and the work that the company is doing as a whole. It’s perfectly normal to witness some real emotions from leaders over the course of your career.

A difficult boss may even get angry, raising their voice when staying calm might help to resolve conflicts more quickly. A toxic boss, on the other hand, loses their temper regularly and without much of a reason at all. If you feel like you’ve become something of a punching bag at work, you might be dealing with a toxic boss.

2. Competence

Good bosses are competent — plain and simple. It’s not a good sign if you’re routinely questioning whether or not your boss is capable of doing their job.

Incompetent leaders can do real damage to a company, and to the individuals who work there, especially if they aren’t aware of their problem. (Or, if they are unwilling to work to correct it.)

If your boss seems to be in violation of the campsite rule, leaving employees and the company worse than they found it, you may be dealing with a toxic boss. However, if they simply miss the mark on occasion, your boss may just be growing into the position.

3. Inconsistency

It always helps to know what’s expected of you at work. Many different kinds of bosses can be overly demanding, or even micromanaging, and that can be very unpleasant. However, it’s not necessarily an indicator of toxicity.

However, when direction and instructions are wildly inconsistent, it could be a sign that you’ve got a real problem on your hands. If your boss changes the rules of the game often, or allows certain people to do things that others can’t for no good reason, it can be crazy-making. One day, you’re micromanaged and the next you’re expected to be a mind reader who functions without any guidance at all.

Inconsistency, especially when it’s unexplained, is a sign you’re dealing with a toxic boss.

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4. Control

Toxic bosses control the people that work for them in ways that difficult bosses don’t. If your boss uses fear or intimidation as a way to get you to comply, it’s pretty huge red flag.

Some bosses have narcissistic traits and they use their power to control or even abuse others. If you’re in this situation, you may find that your job satisfaction begins to plummet as a result of the experience. You may even feel somewhat miserable at work. Unfortunately, you might begin to carry those feelings over to your personal life, too.

5. Your professional performance

A good boss brings out the best in their employees. They act as a leader, not just a manager, inspiring and motivating others toward improvement and excellence. A difficult boss can have a similar impact. Sure, they have high standards and are tough to impress, but that can ultimately help you reach new heights that you didn’t even know were possible.

On the other hand, a toxic boss can negatively impact your professional performance. You might be left feeling distracted or less motivated because of your interactions with a toxic boss. You could notice you’re less productive, or even less creative, as a result of the toll it’s taking on you.

If you start to notice that you’re having issues with your own performance at work as a result of working with your boss, it could be a sign that you’re working for someone who’s truly toxic.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think you might work for a toxic boss? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.