Horrible bosses

Many of us have the saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses. The issue of horrible bosses and toxic work environments continues to gain momentum globally as the number of people who speak out about it continues to grow.

What we each define as a toxic will undoubtedly vary, but there are some common traits that we can look out for.

  1. They don’t credit you for your work and/or they minimise your contribution to the team.
  2. They accuse you of non-delivery but can never produce evidence of such.
  3. They threaten your job security and limit your access to resources that aid your development.
  4. They side-line and/or isolate you, ensuring that you feel excluded from the rest of the team.
  5. They ignore your requests for support/guidance.
  6. They make passive aggressive statements such as, “Oh, so glad you fit us into your schedule” when you’re five minutes late or, in response to excluding you, say, “Oh, sorry, I forgot about you”.
  7. They bombard you with mundane tasks that do not form part of your core job responsibilities, taking your time and focus away from the work that you should be doing.
  8. They don’t give you any performance-related advice and have no plan for your career development.

So what do you do when you discover you have a horrible boss?

  1. Request a meeting and share your observations and why they are concerning to you.
  2. Reinforce your commitment to performance excellence and contributing to a healthy work environment.
  3. Provide evidence to show that you have consistently delivered work of a high quality and share how additional support from your boss would assist you to elevate your performance further.
  4. Share the gaps that you have identified and how you believe these may be bridged through mutual collaboration.
  5. Ask your boss to share their thoughts on what you’ve shared and the way forward.
  6. After the meeting, send your boss an email recapping what was discussed and agreed/disagreed upon. Keep a paper trail always.
  7. If the discussion went pear-shaped because your boss was defensive or aggressive, reach out to HR and follow the same process as above.
  8. Monitor your boss’s behaviour towards you and keep a record of all interactions, dates, behavioural changes, etc.
  9. If the poor behaviour continues, reach out to HR again and ensure you exhaust all the internal processes before you consider external recourse, such as CCMA.
  10. Share your experiences with people you trust because you will need all the support you can get. Dealing with a toxic line manager is unbelievably strenuous mentally and physically. It is important to have a support system that holds you up when the going gets tough.

Also, remember that line managers will, in most cases, have the support of the organisation when they’re in conflict with an employee. This is why it’s critical to know and understand company policies and your rights as an employee.


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