How to Deal with a Toxic Boss

· February 26, 2017

Karl Marx once said that workers are more in need of respect than they are of food. Fortunately, this is no longer as true as the philosopher once claimed…in most of the world, anyway. However, the toxic boss continues to be a ubiquitous figure in our society. 

What do we mean when we say “toxic boss?” We’re referring to those people in power who believe they have the right to control your life, who consider themselves to be beyond good and bad, and who use all kinds of resources, sometimes illicit, to maintain control over their employees.

When we talk about toxic bosses, we’re referring to unjust leaders who make you hate the profession that you used to love. But even though they might make you lose sleep, they also have their weak points, and today we’re going to tell you what they are.

“Calling yourself a leader and not being one is the height of misery.”

-Simón Bolívar-

Types of toxic bosses

The first thing we’ll do is establish all the different kinds of toxic bosses that you could encounter. Even just being able to identify them will help you repel their negative influence. To do so, we’ll draw upon the work of the writer Vijay Nair, who wrote a book called The Boss Is Not Your Friend.

types of bosses

Vijay Nair infused his writing with a powerful sense of humor, without losing rigor in his work. He successfully dissected the most deplorable leaders of corporate India. This is why we’re turning to his work, because without a little laughter, it’s more difficult to digest these situations.


The social climber

According to Nair, there are five main kinds of toxic bosses. The most interesting and common one is the social climber. This type of boss is easy to identify, because they tend to take ownership of other people’s good ideas. But it doesn’t stop there; on top of their incompetence, they tend to blame their employees for their own mistakes and inefficiencies.

The insecure boss

Another type of toxic boss is the insecure boss. This type of leader seeks out a group of allies who will follow them wherever they go. They use their followers to watch what happens around them because they’re afraid of their employees turning against them at any moment.

The workaholic and the slacker

Here we have two types of toxic bosses that are found on opposite ends of the same spectrum. On one side you have the workaholic, who has no life outside of work and wants your life to be the same. On the other side is the slacker, who will always expect you to do their work on top of your own.

The arrogant boss

Finally, the fifth type of toxic boss is the arrogant boss, a very common type. You’ll never hear people who fit this profile apologize for anything, because they’re incapable of making mistakes. They also never seem to listen to anyone but themselves.

“If you don’t have a boss, you have many more opportunities to be happy than if you do.”

-Eduardo Punset-

puppet strings

How to deal with a toxic boss

We’ve taken the first step and provided useful information that will help you identify a toxic boss. It’s important to have this information to know how to deal with them. But what can you do to avoid them affecting you directly and personally? Follow these tips:

  • Never get involved personally. And don’t react to their abuse, criticism, or injustice emotionally. If you remain calm, avoid confrontation, and maintain a stoic attitude, they might find another target for their anger.
  • Go to them if the situation persists. That is, instead of confronting them, turn to them. Try to understand them and figure out exactly what it is they want. If you know what they expect of you, it will be much easier for you to fulfill their demands.
  • Don’t think that you can change a toxic boss. In general, they’re troublesome people both at work and in their personal lives. As such, you can’t make them change their attitude, so you can only navigate the stormy waters as they are.
  • Remember that your boss is not your friend. As such, when they don’t act how you’d like, that shouldn’t be a reason for you to not be professional. Do your job as best as you can, and act like an educated and capable person.

3 extra hints for dealing with toxic bosses

Also, remember that:

  • It’s good to have everything documented in writing. Take stock of e-mails and documents that might be useful to you one day if the conflict escalates.
  • In your personal life, enjoy yourself and forget about work. It’s hard, but it’s necessary. Outside of the office, abandon your work problems. If you don’t, you’ll only make your life a living hell.
people on the beach

  • If none of this has proven effective, as a last resort, resign from the position. If somebody is making your life impossible and is on your mind 24/7, for your own mental and physical health you should leave that job, because the situation will only get worse.*

These tips from Vijay Nair can be very useful for doing your job without your toxic boss affecting you too much. If you ever find yourself in one of these situations or around one of these people, don’t hesitate to make use of them.

*Editor’s note: We know that the job market isn’t in the best state to leave your job at a moment’s notice. If you can’t do so for economic reasons, we recommend that you start looking for another job while you’re still working. This is a much more effective solution than complaining every day, since you’ll be actively trying to get out of the situation and hanging onto a thread of hope.

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