Managers who intimidate and humiliate employees are all too common. One of the top reasons people give for leaving their jobs is a toxic boss, and some 60.3 million U.S. employees are affected by toxic bosses. So if you have a boss that puts you down, makes inappropriate comments, blames you for their mistakes, takes credit for your work, is aware of your emotional triggers and triggers them, know that you’re not alone. Also know that there are tactics you can use to handle a toxic boss—and save your job.
1. Focus on your job
First, it’s important to understand you have little or no power to change the behavior of your toxic boss. But you do have the power to change your perception of the situation and shift your focus from your boss to your job. According to Kevin Larson, an HR strategist at BeGraded, “Don’t try to gain approval from your toxic boss—this ‘mission’ is impossible. No matter how well you perform, it’s unlikely that the boss will appreciate your hard work. So, you should focus solely on the tasks of your role and do your best to meet your own expectations.”
2. Improve your body language
When communicating with a toxic boss, you should not only think about what you say but how you say it. Studies show that 55 percent of human communication is non-verbal. This means if you choose a body position that radiates confidence and tranquility, it will be more challenging for your boss to intimidate you.
To improve your body language, try the following: stay still (don’t tap your feet, fidget, or bite your lip); keep your hands calm and unoccupied (don’t hide your hands in your pockets); maintain eye contact (look straight at your boss and don’t break your gaze often or for very long); don’t slouch (keep your back straight to convey a strong, confident, calm presence); choose an open body posture (put your shoulders back and don’t cross your arms or legs); nod as you listen (nodding is the best way to communicate non-resistance without having to get involved); and breathe slowly and deeply (this will help you to stay calm).
3. Find “safe zones” in your office
Your toxic boss might be fearless and aggressive in front of you and other employees, but it’s highly likely that he or she feels insecure in front of supervisors, senior managers, and customers. So if you try to be around those people most of the time, your toxic boss will have little to no chances to exhibit his or her bad behavior toward you. So, make a list of people and places that can be your “safe zones” and try to sat within those safe zones whenever possible.
4. Team up with other “victims” and go to HR
It’s highly likely that you’re not the only person in the office who’s threatened and humiliated by your toxic boss. So try to encourage your coworkers to document dates, times, and unpleasant conversations they have with your boss. The more cases your “team” will document, the stronger the case you have when you go to human resources. If you provide undeniable evidence of your boss’s bad behavior, the chances are that senior management will intervene.
According to Kristine Hildebrandt, a legal writer for Subjecto and Studyker, “If you want to win your case, you should get prepared. You should journal each and every conflict situation, and write down the names of witnesses. And most importantly, you should store your journal, whether it’s a digital document or hard copy, in a secure place.”
Marques Coleman has over five years of writing and editing experience for multiple online platforms, including Write Scout and Top Essay Writing. Currently, he is getting his degree in human resources and is working as a blog writer for Classy Essay.
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