How to Survive a Toxic Boss

I’ve been pretty lucky thus far in my career to work for some pretty amazing people.  Most of my experiences with managers and bosses have been positive, many of them remained mentors long after I was no longer their employee.  But not all bosses are fantastic.  Some are odd.  Some are in the wrong profession.  And some are just absolute assholes.  They’re the kind of boss that doesn’t understand what leadership is about, have no clue how to foster a healthy and cohesive working environment, are unpredictable and unstable, and use bullying and fear tactics to keep control over their staff.  If you happen to be one of the many people that have to face working for a terrible boss, I have good news; you don’t have to let your bad boss invade your whole life.  I know this, because I am a Toxic Boss Survivor.  Here are some of my own personal survival tips for dealing with a toxic boss.


  • Be professional. Your boss may not be able to maintain his or her professionalism, but that doesn’t mean that you have to come down to their level.  Step up your game when it comes to how you conduct yourself.  A tiny added bonus to this; If you conduct yourself professionally, it will only highlight how unprofessional your toxic boss is acting by comparison.
  • Don’t pile on. Yes, while it’s super tempting to pile on your toxic boss and complain  with coworkers, gossiping or making fun of your boss could actually hurt you in the end.  Your boss is still your boss, and gossiping and speaking negatively about him or her not only pegs you as a gossip, but it could get you fired.
  • Keep it off social media.  We’ve all heard about the employee who has lost their job because they’ve taken to Facebook or Twitter (or their blog, maybe? Ha) to rant about what an incompetent asshole their boss is.  While that may be true, it generally tends to be a career-limiting move.  Resist it.
  • Focus on your job. Don’t let the toxicity that is your boss’s management skills seep into the work that you’re doing.  Keep doing a kick ass job and try not to let the fact that your boss is bad at his or her job reflect on your job performance.
  • Stand up for yourself. It may sound terrifying to stand up to your toxic boss if he or she is bullying you, but it’s important that you do. Be polite and professional, but be assertive.  It sends a clear message to your toxic boss that you’re strong, confident and won’t be intimidated by his or her tactics.
  • Write it down. When you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic boss, it’s a good idea to document instances.  As well of keeping track of what was said by both you and your toxic boss, you’ll want to document the time, date and if there were any other people present (coworkers, clients, vendors) to your boss’s blowups.  It may feel like a dirty thing to do, but if you want to speak to your HR department about the bullying or if you find yourself dealing with a case of wrongful dismissal, it’s a good idea to have a record. Make sure you also keep your documentation secure (email it to your home address or keep a personal thumb drive handy).
  • Know when to walk away. It’s unlikely that your toxic boss is going to change, so it’s a good idea to start thinking about an exit strategy. Working with a toxic boss, where the working environment is unstable, unpredictable and downright miserable can wear you down.  Toxic bosses can have a huge impact on other aspects of your life.  Sometimes you may not even realize how big of an impact it’s having on your life until you’re free of your toxic boss. Consider your options.  Is it possible to transfer to another office, department or job within your current organization? Or maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job elsewhere.  Know when it’s time to move on.

Have you ever had to deal with a toxic boss? What are your survival tips?