How to navigate toxic managers, in-person, in the workplace

As the world starts returning to what we considered 'normal' life, many people are looking forward to going back to their work routine. Meeting colleagues in the office for a coffee, chit-chatting in and around the workplace, having face-to-face meetings and one-on-ones with managers, bosses, teams. But there are also those who are feeling an even more heightened sense of anxiety heading back to the office and facing their bosses after lockdowns forced break. 

Metro caught up with SEVEN's Founder and CEO, Evelyn Cotter, around the issue of returning to work and having navigate toxic managers in-person after lockdown. 


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Putting up boundaries

Evelyn Cotter tells us: ‘Toxic leaders run on fear – your fear. Whatever you’re fearful of or not confident in, that’s the button they will push.

‘Anyone in this scenario needs to think carefully about the specifics that only they understand – the work environment, culture and dynamics of their particular organisation – which will determine how best to deal with this.’

While most people will remark that you should go to HR, as Evelyn says, not every company has a HR department, or you might fear what will happen if you complain about a senior member of staff. HR might rectify the problem in many cases, but there is no guarantee.

‘Something that some may be tempted to do, is to confront their manager. ‘This is a no-go with a toxic individual – they will likely use it to gaslight you,’ Evelyn realistically tells us, after having advised a client in a similar situation not too long ago.

Instead she suggests the old adage of showing rather than telling: ‘show them how to treat you and what you will or won’t take’.


Think tactically 

Evelyn says an informal mentor gives people space to reflect and ‘learn new ways to manage their manager, looking at how you assert yourself, how you communicate, what the pain points are in the working relationship and how you can understand your manager better.’

She adds that if you know who held the job previously, you could use LinkedIn to ‘tentatively ask some lead-in questions to see how they managed this person. You don’t need to disclose too much about your scenario to learn from them.’

If you can’t change your manager, you can look at how you manage their behaviour.

Evelyn says: ‘You’ve got to get objective and pro-active in how you deal with your boss, looking at ways they disempower you and designing strategies of coming back strong.’ While the responsibility of dealing with toxic managers shouldn’t fall onto their direct reports, the sad reality is it often does.

There is some truth to the saying that people leave bosses, not jobs.


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A few tips on how to communicate with a toxic boss

1. Record a meeting

'This could be a good tool ‘to find clues of where we can assert ourselves more and hold our space more fully’ and ‘can help keep agreements clear and trackable, preventing any gaslighting or goal posts from moving.’

2. Figure out if there's a difference in style

‘A difficult relationship can be more about a clash of styles than anything else. For instance if your manager has a direct style then they might get frustrated with what they perceive as long-winded answers. Try to match how they think and their priorities. Rehearse what you are going to say to them and do so confidently and succinctly.’

3. Say 'no'

If you’re asked to take on more than you can, do not be afraid of saying no. ‘You could reframe the ‘no’ into a phrase like “Thank you for thinking of me, but I am actually at capacity at the moment so I don’t think I could give this the attention it deserves.”’


Read the full article here.