Guide to Giving
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES FOR THE COMMON GOOD
NEWS  |  Careers

Toxic Boss at Work? Here Are Some Tips for Coping


Monday, 23rd March 2015 at 10:23 am
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist
New research has found even one or two toxic behaviours by a manager can significantly harm the mental health of employees. Paula Brough, Professor and Director, Social and Organisational Psychology Research Unit at Griffith University and Vicki Webster, a PhD Candidate at Griffith University, share their top tips for coping with a toxic manager in this article originally published in The Conversation.

Monday, 23rd March 2015
at 10:23 am
Xavier Smerdon, Journalist


1 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
Toxic Boss at Work? Here Are Some Tips for Coping
Monday, 23rd March 2015 at 10:23 am

New research has found even one or two toxic behaviours by a manager can significantly harm the mental health of employees. Paula Brough, Professor and Director, Social and Organisational Psychology Research Unit at Griffith University and Vicki Webster, a PhD Candidate at Griffith University, share their top tips for coping with a toxic manager in this article originally published in The Conversation.

In Australia, workplace health and safety legislation effectively holds employers responsible for ensuring the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of employees.

Mental stress claims lodged by affected employees against their employer increased by 25% from 2001 to 2011. Although the proportion of stress claims specifically relating to “poor relationships with superiors” was not reported, a Medibank Private commissioned study reported that in 2007 the total cost of work related stress to the Australian economy was A$14.8 billion; the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism was A$10.11 billion.

A recent study into the impact of systemic toxic behaviours exhibited by managers found that even one or two toxic behaviours, such as manipulating and intimidating, was enough to cause significant harm to employees’ mental and physical health.

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 renegs

  • Ignores requests

Impact on wellbeing

Negative consequences for wellbeing reported by participants in the study included:

Psychological

Anxiety, depression, burnout, cynicism, helplessness, social isolation, loss of confidence, feeling undervalued.

Emotional

Anger, disappointment, distress, fear, frustration, mistrust, resentment, humiliation.

Physical

Insomnia, hair loss, weight loss/gain, headaches, stomach upsets, viruses and colds.

One way to deal with toxic managers is to escalate the risk and report it to senior management. However, a common theme in the study was frustration felt by participants when no action was taken after reporting the leaders’ toxic behaviours. Sometimes organisations are reluctant to take action against the offender, perhaps because they hold important relationships, bring in significant revenue, or for fear they will become litigious if challenged. Organisations that choose to ignore toxic leadership behaviours are likely to incur increased stress claims and litigation costs.

How can employee wellbeing be preserved? First, it is necessary to understand whether the offending leader is well intentioned, but unaware of their dysfunctional behaviours. If so, one strategy is to outline the specific behaviours that are causing distress to the leader in question, to let them know the impact of their behaviour through performance management processes. However, if it is felt there is deliberate intent on their part to get their own way at the expense of those around them, other options should be considered, such as commencing disciplinary action.

Individual coping strategies

If you are experiencing toxic leadership, and feel you are not in a position to report it, or leave the organisation, coping strategies reported in the study as helpful were:

  • 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.

What not to do

Coping strategies that were reported as having negative consequences or prolonging stress and fear of their leader were:

  • Confronting the leader

  • Avoiding, ignoring or bypassing the leader

  • Whistle blowing

  • Ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration

  • Focusing on work

  • Taking sick leave (short-term relief only).

Individuals regularly on the receiving end of toxic behaviours commonly start questioning themselves, doubting their capabilities and feeling locked into their current situation/role/organisation.

To protect against such frustration, ensure you have an up-to-date career plan, clearly outlining your strengths, achievements, personal values, work preferences, development opportunities, and employability. Keep your resume and online profile up to date and ensure you are well networked in your occupation and industry – all part of a contingency plan to exit the toxic workplace situation should it become untenable.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

Guide to Giving

FEATURED SUPPLIERS


Brennan IT helps not-for-profit (NFP) organisations drive gr...

Brennan IT

NGO Recruitment is Australia’s not-for-profit sector recru...

NGO Recruitment

Yes we’re lawyers, but we do a lot more....

Moores

Helping the helpers fund their mission…...

FrontStream Pty Ltd (FrontStream AsiaPacific)

More Suppliers

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Disability Employment Advocates Welcomed into the Hall of Fame

Wendy Williams

Friday, 8th September 2017 at 4:41 pm

Disability Employment Sector Must Harness Platform Innovation

Wendy Williams

Friday, 8th September 2017 at 4:00 pm

Employment Organisation Reaches Out to Asylum Seekers Caught in the Crackdown

Wendy Williams

Monday, 4th September 2017 at 8:52 am

Levelling the Playing Field

Wendy Williams

Monday, 4th September 2017 at 8:40 am

POPULAR

Moves to Stop Volunteering at Overseas Orphanages

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 13th September 2017 at 1:54 pm

Future Uncertain for Disability Organisations Following Funding Cuts

Wendy Williams

Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 8:29 am

Majority of NFPs Are Not Believed to be Well-Run, According to New Survey

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 12th September 2017 at 4:14 pm

More Australians Are Giving Time Not Money

Wendy Williams

Monday, 11th September 2017 at 5:07 pm

One Comment

  • sydneysider sydneysider says:

    Forget contacting Human Resources. It is a waste of time and will probably damage you. Their focus is the company and limiting damage. You are not important and the quickest fix is to get rid of you.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Guide to Giving
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!