Unfortunately, it’s all too common to work for a manager who’s hard to please, demanding for all the wrong reasons and tough to talk to about day-to-day tasks.
If your boss exhibits any of the characteristics below, chances are they’re toxic, according to career expert Amanda Augustine of TopResume.
They have poor communication skills
A toxic boss rarely communicates effectively. “Deadlines, priorities and goals constantly change, but you only uncover this news when a colleague casually mentions it in passing, instead of through your manager,” Augustine says. Or when “your boss seems annoyed that you didn’t meet an expectation that you weren’t aware existed.”
“You’d think great communication skills would be a prerequisite for becoming a manager,” adds Augustine, “but unfortunately this is not always the case.”
The solution: “If you find your manager to be less than forthcoming, it’s up to you to take the first steps,” says Augustine. “Ask many questions until you have a clear idea of what’s going on and what’s expected of you.”
It’s possible that information is getting lost in translation between texts, emails and Slack messages, she says, so “a face-to-face conversation may be all you need to get the clarity you crave.”
They tend to micromanage
Bad bosses tend to be control freaks “who insist on being involved with every aspect of your work.” This could mean someone who is still “coming to grips with their transition from an individual contributor role to management, and [who] is having trouble letting go and trusting others to do the job.”
“Whatever the reason, working for a micromanager can be a suffocating experience,” she says.
The solution: “Share the notes from every meeting. Send updates on a daily basis. Be super responsive when they ask a question,” says Augustine. “When you overshare and keep your manager in the loop, they’re more likely to trust you’ve got everything under control and back off.”
“Ask for their feedback from the get-go, and come to an agreement on your approach so they feel more confident letting you take the lead.”
They set unrealistic expectations
Good managers challenge you with high expectations, but toxic managers can sabotage you with unrealistic goals. In the case of the former, though “it may not be comfortable, these challenges will help you grow professionally and develop your skills,” she says. “However, there’s a difference between a stretch goal and an impossible one.”
The solution: “If you’ve been saddled with what seems to be an unrealistic expectation, resist the urge to say ‘no’ right off the bat,” says Augustine. “When you immediately shut down, you send the signal to your boss that you’re inflexible, unwilling to try and lack problem-solving skills.”
“Instead, explain to your boss what you will need in order to meet this new demand,” she says. “Provide options instead of excuses.”
They’re simply incompetent
Toxic managers may be too inexperienced to do a good job. “It could be a lack of knowledge … about the company’s industry or the latest trends in your field,” says Augustine. “When you get the feeling your boss isn’t as good at their job as they originally advertised, it can feel impossible to work for them.”
The solution: “Document your work and your contributions, continue to build strong relationships with those inside and outside your department, and with a little luck,” she says, “your boss will make a big enough mistake to grab the attention of his or her peers.”
Lastly, if your boss tries to “take all the credit for your work, yet accept none of the blame when things don’t go according to plan,” they may be a toxic manager, says Augustine. “They rarely, if ever, express appreciation for your contribution and are offended when you try to offer a different opinion.”
The solution: “When possible, look for common ground,” she says. “You can often make a better connection with someone, boss or otherwise, when you find you have a shared passion.”
Worst-case scenario, Augustine says to find a new gig. “If you’re not getting credit for your work, if you feel your concerns are not being heard and this job isn’t an integral step to achieving your career goals,” she says, “your best option may be to seek new opportunities.”