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10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss

10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss

Do you have a bad manager? Someone who makes your life miserable all week by criticizing your every move?

My Boss Is Not a Bully, He's/She's Toxic!

Another variation of the tyrant or bully boss is the toxic boss, a term that has been around for a number of years. For those saddled with toxic bosses, there is actually a Web site and even a book about them, The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians and How We Can Survive Them (Oxford) by Jean Lipman-Blumen. Toxic bosses are everywhere, according to Lipman-Blumen. Many are accomplished and extremely successful. Some are working for or running well-known companies. Others are geniuses who created breakthrough technology. On your first meeting, they can be well-poised and ingratiating, and can seem like they'd make great bosses, but that changes quickly once you start working for them. What you thought would be a dream job turns into a nightmare.

"Toxic leadership seems to be an equal-opportunity career path," she observes. Even though we're supposedly smarter and more psychologically tuned in than we were a few decades ago, "we continue to tolerate - even prefer and sometimes seek out - toxic leaders who degrade our lives and diminish our happiness."

Toxic leaders are everywhere, and they're not going away. "We see them in every arena: business, politics, religion, education, athletics," says Lipman-Blumen. Technology industries are rife with toxic managers, especially brilliant, warped geeks responsible for creating breakthrough technology.

Identifying Toxic Bosses

Unfortunately, toxic bosses are hard to spot before you're hired. The reason is that many have Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities, says Lipman-Blumen. But if a sixth sense tells you that all is not kosher with this person, or that he is too good to be true or is unconsciously gnashing his teeth, do some homework and speak to employees or former employees. Unfortunately, few of us are going to act on our instincts.

What can you expect from toxic bosses once you're unlucky enough to be working for them? Lipman-Blumen lists common destructive behaviours:

  • Leaving employees worse off than they found them by undermining, demeaning and terrorizing them.
  • Consciously feeding their employees illusions that enhance the leader's power and impair the employee's capacity to act independently.
  • Playing to the basest fears and needs of the employees.
  • Stifling constructive criticism and teaching supporters - sometimes by threats and authoritarianism - to comply with, rather than question, the leader's judgment and actions.
  • Failing to nurture other leaders, including their own successors.
  • Maliciously setting constituents against one another.
  • Identifying scapegoats and inciting others to castigate them.
  • Ignoring or promoting incompetence, cronyism and corruption.

Next: Can Anything Be Done?

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