An Antidote for Toxic Bosses

  • DANGER! Toxic hazardThe Find: If market turmoil and the credit crunch has turned your boss toxic, fight back and neutralize her corrosive influence using these tips from Harvard Business School.
  • The Source: The Conversation Starter blog from Harvard Business.
The Takeaway: This summer BNET chronicled the return of the crummy job and with economic forces squeezing bosses ever tighter, it's unlikely that workplaces around America have grown any more relaxed since then. But no matter which type of toxic boss you're facing -- screamers, stressed-out micromanagers, insecure nightmares -- Harvard's Annie McKee suggests there are positive steps you can take to neutralize the problem supervisor:
  1. Don't take it personally! Do not let toxic people touch your self esteem. Their screaming, demeaning, cynical poison is about them, not you. Consciously manage your boundaries so the toxins can't get in.
  2. Don't, whatever you do, compromise your values in the face of other people's toxic emotions. It's surprisingly easy to slip and do things we would otherwise never do -- so monitor your reactions carefully.
  3. Be mindful of the (natural) urges you have to fight back vindictively, to sabotage, to get revenge. If you do this, you become part of the problem.
  4. Fight the temptation to feel victimized by the tyrants around you. Victims feed the poison. Victims can not lead. Recognize and act on your personal power and resilience.
Do all these steps take a hefty dose of self-control? Yes. But they're certainly better than the alternatives: lashing out or crawling into bed and hiding under the covers all day. Plus, McKee reminds us, "emotions are contagious," so if you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

If you need a little more assistance bucking yourself up and managing mounting office stress, McKee's previous post "Four Steps to Beat Back the Pressure and Start Your Renewal" may be essential reading.

The Question: How are you handling the pressure of these difficult economic times?

(Image of toxic warning sign by eek the cat, CC 2.0)