Do you think that you may be in a toxic work environment and you’re not sure about it?
The worst part about this is that instead of working on it, sometimes you’re left wondering if the problem is you.
Are you wondering whether your workplace does have issues with its management or not?
Let’s look at some signs, starting with the things your boss should never say to you.
Table Of Contents
Things Your Boss Should Never Say to You
Generally, there are plenty of toxic workplace red flags that you can spot over time.
One of the easiest and quickest would be words.
So, what are some phrases that are dead giveaways that your boss has questionable methods?
Do What I Tell You / No Questions
A boss that disregards the need to explain why they’re giving a certain command is—for lack of a better phrasing—a mean boss.
Instead of using—or rather abusing—their authority, a good boss will tell you the details of why a certain task is important.
If there’s no time to do so, they would at least tell you they will explain it later.
However, if a boss consistently imposes tasks and opinions on you, they’re definitely not a good leader.
Don’t Waste My Time / I Do Not Have Time
If your boss ever makes you feel like you’re wasting their time, this means you’re clearly not valued in your position.
A good leader makes time to answer your questions or mentor you.
Otherwise, they’re not being fair to you.
It Is Your Problem
This is connected to the previous point.
Part of being a good leader is to provide ample mentorship to your subordinates.
This is why your boss should contribute to solving a problem should any arise, as long as you’re learning from the solutions they give you.
Note that there’s a difference between empowering you to take ownership and abandoning you.
If they don’t directly contribute to the solution, they should provide you with the resources to tackle the issue on your own.
Didn’t You Just Take Another Vacation?
There should be boundaries for your life outside of work.
That’s why your boss shouldn’t make you feel guilty for taking time off, especially if you have vacation days to spare.
Yes, a supportive employee typically picks their time-off requests to accommodate business needs.
However, that doesn’t mean you should prioritize work over your quality time, as there should be a work-life balance dynamic.
I Do Not Care What You Think
Instead of micromanaging you and imposing their ideas of how to do things, a good leader discusses how to best execute a task.
If your boss makes you feel like they don’t care about the input you might have, they might be the office jerk.
You Are Lucky to Have This Job / You Need to Spend More Time at Work
You shouldn’t feel indebted to your employer(s) by any means.
If you play by the book, you have a job description and you get paid for performing those tasks.
If your management thinks you’re not doing your job extensively, there are ways to deal with that.
They either have to give you a comprehensive guide on how to tackle all tasks, or they should inform you that you don’t have the caliber they’re seeking.
However, responding by making you feel indebted or guilty is a clear sign of a toxic work environment.
You Have Big Shoes to Fill
A good leader knows how to motivate you without being intimidating or pressuring.
If you’re handling a new position or task, you shouldn’t be feeling like you’re competing with your predecessor.
Telling you that you have to live up to someone else can have a negative toll on your morale, and it’s not behavior that you should tolerate.
Failure Is Not an Option
This phrase also applies pressure. Most of the time, it’s meant to be motivating and not intimidating, but often has adverse effects.
Instead of applying this kind of pressure, a good boss will encourage you to be creative.
They should provide resources and ideas.
Moreover, they should give you enough time to revise your work with them before turning it in.
This makes the final output something that everyone is happy with.
I Probably Should Not Tell You This But…
If your boss shouldn’t be telling you something, it’s a clear sign that they’re not professional if they do end up telling you.
Whether it’s office gossip or classified information, if you shouldn’t be hearing it from your boss, then that’s that.
While this may not always be harmful to you, it’s still a sign that your boss might be a toxic one.
What Should a Boss Never Do?
Beyond words, there are some actions that are a clear sign of a toxic boss.
These may take longer to spot and recognize, but you should be able to do that if need be.
Let’s look at what your boss should never do.
Criticize Without Explaining
A boss can do all sorts of condescending behavior, however, criticizing you without an explanation has got to be the worst.
If your employee is not happy with something, whether it’s a recurring behavior or below-par output, they should communicate this clearly.
Not only that, but they should also give you guidance on how to improve whatever they criticize.
Your time and contribution at work are just as important as your leader’s.
This is why they shouldn’t ignore you.
Whether you’re reaching out for mentorship, adding something, or making a request, your boss should attend to it.
If they don’t have the time to, a good boss will communicate that you should discuss the matter later.
Make Sexual Advances
Sexual advances are a huge red flag.
They can be direct by giving you an inappropriate “compliment” or making uncomfortable comments about your body.
They can also be indirect, by insinuating inappropriate ideas or making unprofessional jokes with sexual undertones.
Refuse to Do Any Work
It’s understandable that being in a managing position entails that you do less work and more supervision.
However, this doesn’t mean that your boss shouldn’t do any sort of work.
If they’re going to be completely excluded from the execution, the least a good boss can do is provide guidance and resources on how to execute a task.
Shut the Office Door
Keeping the door open is a symbol of having a welcoming attitude.
It’s understandable to want some privacy, but if your boss always has their office’s door closed, this makes you think twice before approaching.
That’s why the best and most encouraging policy is to keep the door open—both physically and metaphorically.
Abuse Their Leadership Role / Pin the Blame on Someone Else / Take Credit for Your Work
Although this one is a given, it’s not always easy to spot.
If your boss consistently throws the blame on others but takes credit for their work, that’s a clear sign of abusing leadership.
Moreover, if they give themselves the privilege of flexibility but follow strict schedules for you, that’s another sign.
Yell / Threaten Anyone
Good management entails strong anger management skills.
Not only anger but any emotions as well.
So, if your boss has a habit of yelling or threatening people, whether directly or by insinuations, they’re definitely not professional.
Publicly Shame an Employee
Not only is it not constructive by any means but publicly shaming an employee only fosters an environment of fear and unappreciation.
A good leader praises publicly to motivate and criticizes privately to help employees grow and improve.
Spy on Your Social Media
Pointing out what team members do on their personal social media accounts is a surefire way to quickly kill trust.
This is especially true if your boss is on private social media accounts.
This means that they’re mishandling the trust that employees gave them by adding them there in the first place.
This can be blatant lies about future plans, including vacations, time off, promotions, or bonuses.
It can also be about withholding information that employees should be up-to-date with.
Of course, confidential strategic information is not in question, but a boss should be transparent with other information that pertains to employees.
Moreover, it can be in the form of implying that they know how to execute a task when they don’t or that they already have when that’s not true.
Do Anything Illegal or Unethical
It goes without saying that if your boss does anything illegal at work, it’s grounds for reporting them to HR.
Unethical activities or actions, however, can be a little trickier.
If your boss regularly lies to management, blackmails employees, or “bribes” clients by giving them information or anything similar, you should build a case to report them.
Demand Something Impossible
Sometimes, your boss may ask you to do something that doesn’t seem quite feasible.
It’s natural that they want to exceed expectations and be innovative.
However, if they’re in the habit of demanding impossible tasks, that’s unnecessary pressure and a sign that they don’t know what they should be expecting.
This could be because they’re not up-to-date on the details of work or because they’re not familiar with their employee’s limitations.
In either case, it’s not a good sign if they do so regularly.
Is It Okay to Talk Back to Your Boss?
You may be feeling fed up with your boss, but it’s never a good idea to talk back to a toxic boss.
An argument or tension is bad for your image and even more importantly, your well-being.
It’s also not a good strategy in the face of a toxic boss, who is bound to turn the tables and put you at fault.
So, what should you do?
What to Do If Your Boss Routinely Says or Does These Things?
If your boss routinely says or does things they shouldn’t, this will invariably lead to dissatisfaction.
So, what can you do to avoid things that make you build resentment towards the boss?
- Have a Conversation: You can begin by delicately pointing out the habits that your boss has that could put strain on your relationship with them. However, if they’re genuinely a toxic person, this can backfire. So, make sure you choose your words, timing, and method.
- Bring It Up to HR: If there’s no hope of having a conversation, bring it up to HR to see if there have been other reports about similar issues.
- Write It All Down: Document your boss’ behavior in order to build a case against them. Leave no detail out, including dates, places, and even exact hours.
- Report Them: File an official report against them in order to have upper management deal with their shortcomings in their leadership role.
- Look for Another Job: If all else fails, it could be time to look for another job. Sometimes, the environment at work is not worth any benefit that you might be getting from your position.
What Should You Not Talk About With Your Boss?
Just like there are some behaviors that a boss shouldn’t display, there are some things that you should also never say or do as an employee.
Some examples include:
What You Did the Night Before / The Details of Your Personal Life
What happens in your personal life is none of your boss’ concerns, and you shouldn’t force them into these details.
Negative Things About Past Employers or Current Coworkers
Gossiping or talking negatively about your previous employers builds the expectation that you would do the same about your current employer.
The same goes for talking about current coworkers.
By all means, it’s not constructive, it serves no purpose, and only builds a bad image for you.
Personal Finance Issues
While it’s okay to talk about needing a raise to meet your financial needs, it’s never a good idea to name the financial issues you have.
The best case is that it’s another personal topic that your boss shouldn’t know about, but in the worst case, you’re more or less begging them for money.
Political or Religious Issues
Offices and parties are alike: You should steer clear of politics and religion. To each his own, and you should respect the professional boundaries of the office.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Common Habits of Toxic Leaders?
The most common thing that toxic leaders do is use dysfunctional behaviors to coerce, threaten, deceive, and unfairly punish others around them.
They use their authority over their subordinates, with the end goal being to get all the credit and none of the blame.
Can You Outsmart a Toxic Boss?
You can take a docile way of trying to maneuver your way around their toxic behaviors.
However, if that doesn’t work, you can follow the process of documenting and reporting to HR.
In short, a good boss is one that tries to deliver support, and mentorship, and helps their employees to reach their full potential.
It’s okay if they slip once or twice and display some negative attitudes or behaviors.
However, it shouldn’t be the norm.
If you’ve dealt with or are dealing with a toxic boss, share your experience so that others can learn and judge their situation better.