Toxic Bosses
Ep. 217
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This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on Toxic Work Environments. 

The term “toxic” is thrown around so often that it has all but lost its meaning. It’s hard to know what truly is toxic and what is something we just don’t like. 

In this series, I’ll dive into how to start discerning what is toxic, what you have control over and how to think about your career in a way that will serve you. 

Last episode dealt with Toxic Coworkers.

This episode deals with Toxic Bosses and other people who have a direct impact on your job. 

Next week, we’ll dive into jobs that have toxic hours, tasks, or conditions that are not ideal.

Show Transcript
Hey, welcome to Lessons From a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you spent getting to where you are, if ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to another episode. I'm so excited you are here. Before we jump in to today's episode on toxic bosses and continue our toxic work environment series, I wanted to let you know that I'm getting ready to launch my new program next month. In September I'm gonna open doors to something that I've never done before and I'm so excited because this program really is going to give you all of the tools and ongoing support and coaching that you need to create a career that you love, to quit doing all the things that aren't working, to quit hating your job every single day and to figure out what it is that you actually wanna do and create that. But since it's a new program, I'm only going to be launching it to a smaller group of people that have shown interest. I'm not gonna be putting it on social media or even the podcast until I'm ready to kind of do a public launch I guess later on in the year or maybe early next year. So if you want to be in the founding members launch, if you are interested in knowing more about the program, getting all the details about when it is, how much it is, what it includes, then go to and join the wait list so that you make sure that you get the information.

Alright and now let's jump into the episode. And it's so funny, I wanted to break this up cause I was like I'm gonna do shorter episodes. They're gonna be like quick hits. And then I recorded the last one, I just looked at it and it was 52 minutes. And I was like ugh, I just can't. Brevity is not my strong suit. Let's just say that I love rambling. And I appreciate you guys for rocking with me but I promise that one is really the bulk of it because I wanted to talk about the problem with the word toxic and how we define it. So if you haven't listened to part one, go back and listen to that because this won't make as much sense cuz I'm just gonna refer to a lot of things that I've already talked about so you don't have to listen to it twice. So definitely start with that episode, which is about coworkers, but really about how we define toxic work environments. And then come back to this episode, which is about toxic bosses or really people that you report to, the people that are in charge of your work and maybe have the ability to fire you. Because I think everyone thinks that they can't put up boundaries or do things that are in their own um benefit because they're always afraid to get fired. So I know that there's a little bit of a difference between talking about coworkers that you might think are toxic or that you don't like or you don't get along with and a boss that you don't like or get along with. So I wanted to address that here. Again, the whole idea of being somebody being a toxic boss, I just want you to question it first, right? Cause there's a whole range. There are bosses who are inappropriate, even abusive, that would definitely fall under the umbrella of toxic. And then there's just people that we don't like. Right? It goes back to the same thing that we talked about last episode and it's like I just don't get along with their personality. Maybe they're curmudgeony, they're just not nice. They don't give enough praise. They are very direct and very insensitive in the way they talk. Okay. Right. We have to know where we sort of land when we talk about like my I have a toxic boss because what you do with it is really gonna depend on how you answer that question. Right. So when we slow it down and, especially if you use the model, and we think about like what are the just the facts? What do I consider being toxic? What are the things that this person does that I've I'm putting under the umbrella of toxicity because oftentimes, when you slow it down and you look at the facts, it's just things I don't like. I just don't like the way that he talks to me or I don't like the way she runs I don't know our weekly meetings. It's belittling or something like that. And it starts it becomes easier to figure out how you wanna deal with it. The first question I want you to ask yourself when you are working for somebody that you don't like or that you may not agree with is: does it affect me doing my job? And if the answer is no, because it's just that I don't like their personality or I don't like the way they run the company even. I think that it could be more efficient. It could be run in a nicer way. There could be a better culture. There could be a lot of things that could just be better. Um I don't like their leadership style. Like I've heard there's a these are a lot of things that people will want coaching on. But if that's where you're at, then I really do want you to refer back to the last episode. Right? Because the same thing that I said about the coworkers is applicable here. You are not entitled to liking or loving your boss. That is not a prerequisite of doing the job that you were hired to do. Right. And I think sometimes we have this, again, mistaken belief that like everything at work should be like a family and we should love each other and everybody should get along and it should be. And that's what would make it more fun and yes, would it make it more fun? Of course, it would. Would it make it easier to work there? Sure, but it's not gonna happen a lot. Especially when you have that power dynamic between like a boss and a worker because even if you get along, there are times where that boss will have to make certain decisions that you don't agree with that might affect you in a certain way. And so that's gonna bring up thoughts and feelings that aren't the loveliest. Like it might bring up some anger or resentment or disappointment. And so that's gonna affect the relationship that you have, right? This isn't like a pure relationship. You work for somebody. You were hired to do a job and you may not get along. Totally fine. So what? Right. And I'm not trying to be flippant or condescending or rude. I ask myself that question all the time when I think there's a problem. Like my problem is like I hate this person. Okay, so what? So what if you hate them? You don't have to love everybody. Everyone doesn't have to be your friend. I'm gonna tell you like my personal experience. I actually, I didn't realize this back when I was working at, before when I was a lawyer, I had a boss who I think very much could be could fall under the umbrella of toxic. And I think a lot of people felt that way about him. And my experience was very different. Not I can see why people thought he was toxic. I just kept to myself. I tried to limit all of my interactions and it didn't affect my work at all. Okay. Did it annoy me? Sure. Sometimes it was like very power hungry, micromanaging stuff that was annoying. But I realized, again, one that we made it so much worse because all we did was complain about the way that he ran the place. And so every day we would spend so much mental energy complaining to other coworkers and then I would come home and I would complain to my husband and I would spend a lot of this time. And when I realized like okay, it's not gonna change. This is the way he is. And he's the one in charge and things aren't they were the same before I came. They'll be the same when I leave. So I have a choice. I didn't really consciously understand this at the time but I still did it, which was interesting looking back cuz I had so many people that were like trying to vie for his approval and trying to get close to him and trying to, I don't know, giving him so much more of their time and attention than they really needed to. And it affected so much of their psyche and like their experience. And they were so unhappy when he would do things that were annoying. And I was always just like well, why? Why are you like they a lot of people would go to happy hours. They would go out like drinking afterwards. And I get that that could be fun. But even at the time, I was like there is no way in hell that I want to get close to this person. Right. And oftentimes I did feel like okay, I'm putting myself outside of this group. There's like the inner clique and then there's me and there's some other people. But I would rather do that than get caught in whatever's happening in this office. I want you to understand that you have that choice. You have a choice in how you interact with people. You have a choice in the boundaries that you put up. You have a choice in how you will allow people to treat you or how you will treat other people. And if if this person, no matter how annoying or whatever how how much you dislike them, if they don't affect your work, then you get to decide that you will limit the relationship to what it needs to be in order to be able to do the work that you need to do. And you will manage your mind around the rest of it. You will stop spending all of the mental energy that it takes wishing and hoping and arguing with reality and wishing that this person was different. And then I hear a lot of people who wanna get coaching because they think that the way the place is run is not the best way. It's inefficient. It's people use the word like demoralizing or whatnot. And I want you to get really, really granular and specific about what the facts are and why it's a problem for you. Okay? So for instance, as an example, I'll hear people say like I've coached on clients on like the fact that like they make a decision and then they change their mind and it's so inefficient. We did all this work and then now we have to do this other job. And it's so frustrating and I can't stand it. And again, I'm not trying to be rude or condescending in any way, but my genuine question is so what? You're not running that business. It's not your business. It's their business or it's someone else's business. And if they wanna run it into the ground, they can. If they wanna run it as the most inefficient place on earth, that's their prerogative. That's not what you were hired for. So you're spending all of this mental energy and all of this emotion getting angry about the way things should be. Byron Katie always says you lose when you argue with reality but only a hundred percent of the time. Right? It's like it shouldn't be like this. It shouldn't do this. Da da da whatever on and on and on. Well, the question is like am I getting paid every two weeks? Is that direct deposit hitting my bank account? Great, we're good. Am I still able to do my job? Great. Like imagine if you thought of it this way, like okay, I worked on this for five weeks. You don't wanna do it? You wanna scratch it? Perfect. What's the next thing? Right? I think like we have this idea that like either I'm gonna work hard enough and I'm gonna get to some endpoint and it's like you're not. The next day there's just gonna be more tasks. And the next day there's more tasks. And even if they ask you to do 15 things that are inefficient, that's what they're paying you to do. So why are we making it a problem? It's only frustrating because you're thinking thoughts like it shouldn't be like this. This could be so much faster. They don't know what they're doing. They're so dumb. This is annoying. Instead of like this is what they asked me to do. Alright, looks like we're doing this today. Looks like we're changing projects today. Sounds good. It truly could be that simple is all I'm saying. And I will give you an aside as now a business owner and I’m married to another business owner and it's fascinating to see it from this perspective cuz we both used to be employees and I had the same thoughts. I used to always think about how dumb they were and why do they do it this way? And like it would just be so much better if they did it that way. And why are they so annoying? And if they, whatever. And now as a business owner, I realize that it's just a bunch of flawed humans trying to figure out how to run a business. Right. And I'll give you two different perspectives. For me, I just realize like I have one part-time employee so it's not as though I'm employing a ton of people but I always joke with Hannah and I'm very like obviously I know how to manage my mind and I'm very aware of my shortcomings. So I talk about this a lot but like clearly I'm the bottleneck, right? I have a lot of organizational issues. I'm the thing she's waiting for all the time to do her own job. I have to get like podcasts recorded and stuff and I can be a hot mess. I know that. Right. I'm not doing it on purpose. I'm not trying to annoy her. I'm not like trying to hold up on things. Like sometimes I don't get to it. And oftentimes I think about it cuz I realize like she sees only a snapshot of what I have to get done because it's the things that she's working on with me, it's projects that I've talked to her about. And behind the scenes, I'm thinking about and doing 15 other things. And so it seems as though I'm just not getting to what I said I was gonna get to her but it's because I am taking care of 14 other fires that I have to put out before I get to that. I'm not putting this on Hannah but I'm just saying like she's not saying this but I can see that like as an assistant to someone, that could start getting really annoying if my thoughts were why can't she just get this to me on time? Why didn't she said she was gonna get it done by today but she didn't. Why is she so like slow at this? She's making this so inefficient. Like all those are valid thoughts. It's just gonna make her experience working on this podcast very difficult, as opposed to realizing she's not responsible for the podcast. If things don't get done, it's on me. She just has to do the tasks that I ask her to do when she can do them. And her experience is gonna be very different if she expects me to be perfect at certain things or to, I don't know, create some kind of well-oiled machine, which I assure you, this will not be for a very long time. It is what it is. I'm paying her to do certain tasks. And I give her the tools when I can. And she may have to ask me five times for something and that doesn't have to be a problem if she doesn't make it one for herself. If her thought is like well, I gotta ask Goli again cuz she still hasn't done this thing and I need this before I create the sales page or something then she just emails me again. But if her thought is oh my God, she still hasn't uploaded it. I don't wanna ask her again. This is so annoying. What am I supposed to do now? I can't do my job. Like you can start seeing how the experience becomes different. The example I'll give with my husband as well is he runs obviously a much bigger operation and he is actually like very concerned about, you know, helping his employees in any way he can and needing their needs. And it's really fascinating to watch him like deal with certain employees who may be upset because things don't get done in a certain way because they're looking at their own role and what they need to get their role done. But they don't see what's happening across the entire business. So while that employee is upset, there's something that is stopping that employee from getting the thing they need because it's held up in another part of like let's say the business or there's another fire that needs to be put out or there's another problem that needs to be dealt with that's more important than what this employee thinks they need. And it's really fascinating to watch where it's like I was we were having this conversation. I was like yeah, I can see that that employee was probably thinking like they don't ever listen to me. I've told them a bunch of times I have this problem and nobody's fixing it but they don't see the 10 other things that need to get into place before that problem can ever get fixed or like why it can't get fixed because there's just a lot of other things that are gonna take precedent. And at the end of the day, money is finite. Time is finite. There's only certain things that we can do and we're gonna prioritize this project over that or there's certain customers that they don't know about that need things prioritized. So we're gonna take you off from this project and put you on another project. There's a million other factors. And so I I just say this to give you maybe some perspective. I think that oftentimes, it's very easy when you're in your own role. And I tell you this because I did the same thing when I was an employee. And now I think back like when I was working on my own cases, I would get annoyed when I didn't have certain resources or certain things weren't set up for me in a certain way or I couldn't do my job easily because there was some obstacles but I didn't really ever think about like well the managers and the bosses and the people that we're dealing are dealing with 60 cases and, you know, 30 employees and a hundred, I mean 30 lawyers and a hundred employees and whoever else and managing all of these dockets and doing all of these things and sometimes and there's a finite budget. And so yeah, obviously I'm not gonna get exactly what I need all the time. And I used to get really annoyed about that. Like well, if you don't give me the budget to get this expert or to do this, then I can't do my job. And I would get annoyed at the establishment and I would get annoyed at the the decision makers and I would have all these like thoughts and all of this drama and everything about it. And now when I think back, I'm like I don't know what it was like to make that decision. I don't know what I would've done in those positions. I have no idea what would the limitations were. I don't know what it means to be that manager. And so I just say that as a consideration that oftentimes we think like the things that we think are just the truth, right? Like this is just the most inefficient way. They're doing this because they're dumb. They're doing this because they don't know what else to do. It would be so much better if they did this other thing. Like I know a lot of people are having a lot of drama right now about being asked to go back into work. And obviously, this is also fueled by a lot of like cultural conversations. There are so many pieces like think pieces about, you know, how stupid it is to have to go back into the office and they shouldn't have to. And maybe that's true in certain situations and maybe it's not in others. Like there's always nuance. Nothing is black and white. And so maybe in certain industries or in certain companies, maybe being in an office a couple days a week is needed for the synergy, for the team meetings. I don't know. But I think oftentimes when we just become so indignant and we become like I know the truth and it should be like this and it's not. And so I'm gonna spend all of my energy being upset about something that's just not the way it is. Even if, let's say that example of like having to go into work, let's say it is a completely arbitrary decision and you don't actually have to be in the office. What is the point of bending your getting all bent outta shape and being upset over it if that's the requirement? It's the job. Do you want it or not? You can always choose now to look for another job that's remote. You are not gonna change being upset. And here's the thing is I think a lot of people like think well, they're gonna get away with it or whatnot. I'm like they're gonna decide what they're gonna do for their business, regardless of how you feel. So it's, you know, the old adage of it's like drinking poison and expecting another person to die. That's all you're doing with this kind level of frustration. And this is why so many people get burned out is because we just spend day after day full of rage and anger and frustration and resentment towards things that aren't gonna change. And so that's why I asked the question: so what? Okay, they want you to go into work. So what? Do you not want to? Okay, what else can you do? You wanna get another job? No, you wanna go? Okay, how can we stay and actually like it? How can we just decide well, this is what the job calls for now. I have to go in, do I wanna do it? How can I change my thoughts now to actually control how I experience this work environment? And so the first question really is like does it affect me doing my job? And if it's not, then how do I wanna think and feel about it? And again, part two of that question, which I asked on the last episode too, is like is this just my own need to be liked, approved of, praised? I think this happens a lot, especially with like manager or boss employee situations. So many of us are so used to being like the teacher's pet, being the top in our class, doing so well in all these, you know, situations. And then we get into the working world and you're just met with personalities that are gonna be different than maybe the teachers you had. And you might meet a boss that's a curmudgeon or you might meet somebody that just doesn't give praise easily or you might be someone that is really unhappy. I don't know who never feels like people do a good job. Maybe it is someone that's overly critical. Okay. What if this becomes the part where you get to manage your own mind, where you get to decide like I don't need this person to tell me that I did a good job. I know I do a good job. I don't need this person to like me. I like me. My friends like me. This is not my like family. I don't need to become best friends with them. I don't need this person to praise me and give me the validation. I can give myself validation. This is where I learn that. Instead of spending all of my energy being angry that they're this type of person. What would your experience look like at work if you weren't constantly hustling for their validation? Now, a lot of you are gonna wanna tell me like well, that is what um, you know, that affects my reviews or it affects my bonus or it affects the money I get or I'm gonna get fired. And I just want you to truly ask yourself: is that true? Because our brain loves to catastrophize. And so I work with a lot of people who love to tell me that like who love to think like I'm gonna get fired. When we dig in, it's very like they know it's not true. They just wanna be liked. They wanna get the praise. They wanna do well. They wanna always be the star student. We wanna be the team player. It's very hard for us when you've been programmed for so long to see your worth in that like being the top, being the team player, whatnot. It's very difficult to have to be okay with somebody maybe not even liking you. But it's like am I still getting paid every two weeks? Am I gonna still keep my job? Can I be okay with this? And that leads us to the other part of the question is that like does, when I ask like does it affect me doing my job being working for this boss? If the answer is yes, if it's toxic boss and working for them is affecting the trajectory of your career, it's affecting you doing your day-to-day work, it is affecting you in a certain way, what I want you to ask is what can I do now? Not why is it like this? Why is life so unfair? Why do I have to have this manager? Right. I love the saying that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself. And when you're constantly asking yourself questions that are just gonna lead to crappy answers like why is life so unfair? I don't know, it just is. Why am I so unlucky? I don't know, I guess now you're gonna send your brain on a hunt to figure out all the reasons why you're unlucky instead of using that brain power. It's like what do I want to do now? What can I do now? Understanding that you have choices always. What I want you to do if you're in this situation right now is I want you to write down every single possible thing you could do. You don't have to act on 'em. Just write it down to show your brain I'm not stuck here. I don't have to stay here. Right? Can I change departments? Can I try to transfer to, I don't know, a different team? Can I quit this job and get another job? Can I change industries? Can I get a job down at Starbucks? Can I drive for Uber? I mean, there's a million things I could possibly do. Now, I might choose to stay. I might say like you know what, I could get another job but I can't get another job that's gonna pay me as much as this job is right now. Or I need this job to use as a stepping stone to the next thing that I wanna do or I need this job to network with the people that I wanna network in order to get to the position that I wanna get into. Okay, fine. Totally fine. Then we can start figuring out like how do I manage my own mind around working with someone that's gonna get in the way of my work, right? Then I'd start deciding like okay, my short term goal is to be here for six months to learn the skills that I need to do. And I can figure out like how do I, like I was just saying, in my experience with my boss, I really got to a place where I was like how do I minimize my interactions? How do I just put my head down and do my work and bide my time cuz I knew I was gonna leave. Right? The more you end up focusing on that, the more you can make it doable like actually in order to stay. You can not add on to the misery that you are in by complaining about it all the time, by having thoughts that aren't gonna be helpful, that by constantly replaying everything that's terrible. Like you can make it like this is the job that I have. I have to stay here for this long. What can I do in order to minimize the interactions that I have with this person, to not take what they're saying personally, to learn how to set boundaries maybe? Do I need to go to HR? Am I willing to advocate for myself? Now you're actually using your brain to like problem solve in ways that are gonna serve you and to figure out what is it that I want to do from here instead of what ends up happening for so many of us is that we just sit in this victim mentality of like there's nothing I can do. I'm just gonna sit and complain and I'm gonna feel sorry for myself. And I'm gonna make it worse and worse and worse and it's gonna become a bigger issue. So what I want you to do is I want you to think about: does it affect my job? Is it my own need to be liked and approved of? And if it does affect my job, what can I do from here? Do I wanna leave? If it is actually toxic, what are the what is the plan I need to put in place to get out of here? Can I do it in six months? Can I do it in three months? Can I do it in one month? How do I get serious about not being in a place that's gonna be harmful to my career, to my mental health, to me in any other way? The feeling that you have when you are in control and you're actually like taking action from a place of like having a plan versus having this like helplessness like learned helplessness that I'm stuck here and there's nothing else I can do is everything. So I want to get you into that place as fast as possible. So you need to really understand, is it actually toxic? Is it actually affecting my work? And if it is, what can I do from here? Alright, my friends go out and make changes either to your mind or to your actual job. And I will see you next week for the last part in this series.

Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, share it with someone else. I promise you know somebody who also hates their job and wants to quit, so why not share the love? And if you want to come follow along for more, come join me on Instagram at LessonsFromAQuitter and make sure you say hi. I'll see you next week for another episode.