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Dealing with a Toxic Manager (Your Toxic Boss Survival Guide)

Are you in a tough situation, and you’re dealing with a toxic manager? I know what you’re going through… been there, done that. 

Surviving a toxic boss can take real effort, and I’ve outlined 5 ways you can deal with a toxic manager. Before you jump into the tips, just remind yourself you’re not crazy and that everything will work out in the end! 


1. Understand Trust Dynamics

The first thing you need to do when dealing with a toxic manager is understand how trust works. Trust is built up slowly over a long period of times. If you’ve seen that trust has been rushed with a specific manager, it’s important you know what to do. 

With any manager, you want to build trust slowly by doing the little things right. Trust is definitely reciprocal. Sometimes, toxic managers will require their teams to trust them, but don’t reciprocate that trust. If this sounds like your manager, you need to read the next tip because it’s time for you to set boundaries. 

2. Set Boundaries

The next step in dealing with a toxic manager—setting boundaries. When you start to feel uncomfortable with your manager, it’s smart to reestablish those professional standards we all assume exist in our organizations. 

There are two types of boundaries you can set with your boss—formal and informal. 

Setting formal boundaries with your toxic boss will allow you to create measurable and manageable boundaries that you can verbally establish. Formal boundaries are agreed terms that you set with your boundaries. For example, if you’re not working on a weekend, you’re able to politely decline your boss’ request to put in 20 hours in a weekend. Typically these boundaries are most effective because you’re clearly communicating your position and enforcing it. 

The second type of boundary is informal. Informal boundaries are more unspoken and are enforced by you. These are used in situations that are slightly uncomfortable but don’t require formal action. An example of this would your boss trying to sit by you at lunch and you moving to a different table. You’re physically removing yourself from the situation without formal boundary setting. 

3. Keep Detailed Records

When dealing with a toxic manager, it’s only a matter of time before they officially cross the line (if they haven’t already). To prevent a messier situation, be sure to capture all records possible to demonstrate your case. 

At some point, it may be worth your while to file a report with HR and/or your company’s ethic committee. What we see in a lot of harassment cases is that people file claims, but those claims are directed to one decision maker who can sometimes be the harasser. 

If you have documentation, you have a stronger case to present to the ethics committee, and the harasser will most likely be removed from the investigation. 

4. Do Your Job

While all of this is happening, be sure to execute your role. You don’t want to be a target of a toxic manager because that will make your day to day worse.

Keep a low profile, and continue to pad your resume with great work. That will lead you to the last step. 

5. Make an Exit Plan

The final step in dealing with a toxic manager is making an exit plan. What’s your plan to leave? Whether it’s leaving your company or changing which team you’re on, you want to begin making moves to distance yourself from your toxic manager.

Your end game is to be happy. So make sure you can make moves in the direction of happiness, which often times is away from your toxic manager. 

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