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Defending Yourself Against A Harmful Boss

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Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, we cannot be good friends with everyone during the scope of our careers. Sometimes our personalities clash with one another, sometimes we may not have the chance to fully form a relationship with our colleagues due to time constraints, and sometimes, just sometimes, we have to work alongside people, or for people, who seem to have a toxic communicative style.

This toxicity is not always limited to how they communicate however, and this is most felt when being managed by a boss who is harmful to say the least. Of course, a boss needn’t insult you every day or harass you in order to be defined in this manner, in fact poor management, targeting, or neglect can be just as difficult to deal with. This can leave you feeling much less satisfied with your work, and having your career stability in the hands of a relatively unstable or untrustworthy person can feel very anxiety-inducing. That being said, defending yourself against a harmful boss is more than achievable if you give yourself the time to gather your thoughts and consider your best action going forward.

In this post, we hope to make this stressful process easier for you, so it can be resolved more carefully and without intense conflict. Please, consider:

Plan An Exit Strategy

Planning an exit strategy is a worthwhile first practice to consider. This is because a toxic boss is a toxic boss no matter how hard you try to impress them, and doing so is a fools game in the first place. This is a battle that you’re unlikely to fully ‘win’ by just keeping your head down, even if that is a vital component of careful action here.

Calling in favors from old networked associates, applying for new jobs, updating your resume and LinkedIn profile and just seeing what may be out there for you can be a valuable use of your time. After all, a harmful boss, no matter if it’s the owner of the business, an acting executive or a manager hired by these people signifies that they have made an error in judgement, and that the corporate culture of the company is lacking. Additionally, toxic management is bad management, and bad management leaves companies weaker in the long run. It’s not uncommon for this to be the first sign of a failing business. Therefore, you may be jumping the ship early.

Let Your Work Do The Talking

Toxic bosses have almost nothing to complain about if you focus on results and allow your work to do the talking, because they cannot argue with that. Any ammunition they may have against you will be as a personal attack, which you can then appeal through HR. If you’re continually being passed up for opportunities, you have your results to show as proof of your eligibility to a higher up. Not only that, but delving into the work helps you stay focused and it gives you the upper hand when the time is right to complain and make your case,

Learn The Triggers & Minimize Contact

Learning what sets your boss off and minimizing your contact with them can be important. For instance, if they find that coming to them with a problem is almost always seen as a wrong approach, you may go to another manager, or confer with your colleagues. Do your best not to stop for them in a private setting if they call you, instead ensuring you’re around people when speaking. This can lessen their dramatic outbursts.

Do Not Feel Obligated To Get On His/Her Good Side

Remember, the way they are treating you is not normal nor is it acceptable. It should not be accepted and it should certainly not be used as evidence that you are failing as an employee. Don’t bend over backwards to apologize. Don’t try and win their favor. Toxicity is nothing to celebrate or promote, and you shouldn’t wish to emulate someone who shows those traits.

Additionally, there’s no reason as to why you should take abuse. In some industries, this has been the norm for some time. For instance, learning to cook at a professional level can open you up to certain bosses that may yell or shout, as head chefs are notorious for this. But in 2020, is this really something you should swallow and accept? If you’re not studying under a master who is willing to teach you, why should you take the challenge? This mindset can help cut off the cycle of working abuse immediately, and that’s the thing that every bully fears.

Speak To Other Employees

Odds are that if you’re having this experience, others are having it alongside you. It can be worth talking to some in your office, those that you trust at least, about this problem. It may be that you can collect evidence together, or come together to complain about the manager to a higher-up with sincerity and organized thoughts, or it may allow you to defend one another such as ensuring that you look out for your work and interfere if the toxicity is aimed at one person.

Just knowing someone else is with you can be a great thought to have. Do not feel as though other people are aliens. If you’re being targeted, others are too, because it’s unlikely that a toxic boss feels satisfied unleashing their ego on just one person. Be careful with this of course. CC’ing everyone into an email asking if anyone else is fed up is simply not a good idea for quite obvious reasons. That being said, when you speak to other employees, you may have given yourself the freedom to approximate the best solution.

Collect Evidence

It’s important to collect evidence on the mistreatment your boss gives you. Personal insults in an email, for instance, is a good piece of evidence to have, and you can save this to a USB stick or personal cloud storage folder if needed. You may be tempted to record them using a webcam or mobile phone, but just remember that filming someone without their permission in a private space is simply not acceptable in law and will likely prevent your case from being heard. That being said, recording their dialogue is often more than possible provided you do not show them on camera, and this may prove to your higher-ups or HR that an issue is taking place. Be sure to read up on the law in your state or country before beginning this, as the last thing you need is to perjure yourself here.


Litigation can also be extremely effective, particularly if neglect or bad practices have caused you to become injured at work. This may be the straw that breaks the camels back, because it’s one thing to have your emotions affected at work, but it’s quite another to become physically injured due to uncaring or incompetent practice. Hasbrook & Hasbrook are a law firm more than comfortable bringing personal injury cases to the courtroom, helping you build the strongest case possible to gain the compensation you deserve.

Litigation may also be utilized in terms of unfair dismissal provided you have evidence to back up wrongdoing, or if you can prove this has caused your stress and need for time off work, you may also be entitled to an extra allowance.

With this advice, you’re sure to properly defend yourself against a harmful boss.

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