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What To Do When You Inherit A New Boss Who Is Toxic

leave toxic jobs tips for managers Dec 29, 2021

Studies show that 80% of people are not happy with their current job -- and the #1 reason is due to their boss being toxic for them. What I've found working in the industry of Human Resources is that most of the time, this is not the boss that hires them, but the boss who inherited them. 

Although there are other influences, the reason is simple: People like those who are similar to them. People will promote, give the best opportunities to, and cut the most slack for people who remind them of themselves. It's not something they are aware of, and often an entirely automatic response of human beings. The boss that hired you thought you were right for the job AND felt a connection to you because you were similar to him/her. The boss that inherits you often will not be like you, so he/she has the mindset of using you as a resource to complete what needs to be done because it's harder to relate to someone unlike themselves. 

It all depends on the boss and the person, whether they have the skills properly lead, and more importantly whether they truly care for the person whether they are similar to them or not. 

If You're The Boss: How To Have A Great Employee-Boss Relationship

The key to a sublime boss-employee relationship is how much the boss or leader CARES for that person. What does caring look like?

It could look like this:

  1. When an employee comes to you, drop everything and give 100% of your presence to them. That means no typing out emails while listening, no talking on the phone or texting your friends. You have to really CARE for them; this is not something you can fake. If you don't truly care, they can feel it. Caring is a feeling. 
  2. When you make a meeting with an employee, don't keep rescheduling it. Reschedule once if you must, but constant rescheduling gives the impression that the employee is low on your totem pole of priorities. 
  3. Ask them about their life outside of work -- what are their interests? How are their kids? What are their greatest challenges right now? 

The key to caring really is to just be PRESENT with them -- that means to pay them 100% attention like no one is more important in the world right now than them. When they are speaking, I like to say "care all over them", which means, open yourself and be present to what they are truly saying, without judgment. You can't influence people when you are judging them.

If You're The Employee: How To Handle A Toxic Boss

If you're stuck with an inherited boss that just doesn't jive with who you are, I feel you. It is a difficult place to be, and sometimes takes years to get out.  You may feel your soul being sucked every day from your body, here's what helped me in my journey:

  1. Empathize first. You may be feeling misunderstood, but the secret to life is often to give what you want first. Seek to understand before asking to be understood. 
  2. Show some uncommon commonalities with your boss to take advantage of that natural propensity of humans to like those who are similar to them -- but make it authentic though. If your boss is into the power of crystals, this is not a common thing. If you also love to carry rose quartz around to increase your compassion levels, mention this to him/her and relate. You might find you like him/her better too.
  3. Search for the "traumatic event." Try to find the exact moment in time where the relationship went sour. In the book "The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave" the author asserts that a "traumatic event" is often what begins the eventual downturn of employee performance. When was the exact time you started to feel oddly negative about your relationship with your boss?
  4. Seek to gain the most knowledge you can out of your current position, and figure out what your next career steps are. Let's be honest, if you have inherited a toxic boss, the likelihood of them being "awake" enough to have the emotional skills to build lasting rapport with people they do not relate to is low. Most likely, your boss will be unconnected to you and see you as a means to get what he/she needs done. And ain't nobody got time for dat. Make a list of what you love and don't love about your role, then take another sheet of paper and write the job description of your dream job. See where they both meet and what may be missing.
  5. When all else fails, plan your escape. Once you have a clear picture of what you want in a job and a boss, take that piece of paper and write a deadline on it. This is the time you are giving yourself to find a new job with a new boss you will love. 
  6. Give even more in your current job. One of the best things I learned in my journey of leaving toxic jobs is that I always leave it better than when I started. This works 2 ways: 1) In doing a great job consistently, you get noticed by other people in your company and therefore opening the opportunity for them to offer you an even better job. You are gaining the reputation of always providing the best value, and that's a great reputation to have. 2) In doing a great job consistently, you are building yourself up and improving yourself to the person you need to be to land that dream job. 

A new toxic boss doesn't have to be the end all of your work life, rather they were put there to push you into the job where you were meant to be. 

When you look back on your worst career experiences, was it the result of a boss you inherited? What was their management style with you and how did it work out? What would you do differently?

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