How to deal with toxic managers

The vote

The vote this week was how to deal with toxic managers or how to deal with toxic friends. With 71% of the vote this week’s blog is on:
How to deal with toxic managers.
I’ll say now that I have a lot to say on this subject so the blog is a long one. I would advise grabbing a cup of tea, a biscuit (or fruit) and then settle down to read.

Experience

We have all had those managers whose works ambition is to make our lives a living hell. They can make us dread going into work, shout at us for being 5 minutes late (even if it was the trains fault), send our reports back covered in red pen as that is not the way they wanted it and are generally just a pain in the butt! I have had several of these managers during my work career to date and I am pretty sure that I will have some more to come.

Quick side note

I will point out at this point that I am now technically my own boss again. In December I went back to being self-employed/freelance after I was made redundant. I tend to be very nice to myself, but this isn’t my point. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of the toxic kind as well unfortunately.

Back then

Back when I was dealing with these types of managers, I was a very different person to who I am today. The old me was quiet, didn’t speak up for herself, bottled situations up to boiling point and generally didn’t know how to deal with a toxic situation. Today I pick my battles wisely and have been known to stand up for the wrongs and say to people “no”.

Good managers vs bad managers

A very good manager I had once upon a time told me this.  Watch people in power. Watch how they interact with other members of staff, watch how they interact with suppliers, watch how they interact with clients and so on.  I asked why. They told me you can learn a lot from a manager or a person in power. You can learn how to do things and most importantly how not to do them. This particular manager has it spot on. Every person who I have worked with I have watched. Some techniques I will use but a lot of techniques I probably won’t. Now call me old fashioned but I am all about the people at the end of the day and that little word Respect!

Respect

A tiny 7 letter word but the power behind it can be immense. However, some managers in power tend to forget about it. My theory is simple. You respect me as an employee and I will respect you as a manager. Now if you start shouting at me, throwing reports on my desk and belittling me in front of my colleagues then that respect is lost. With respect you can build a team, a successful international company and have gold in the bank.

The boxing ring

As much as I would love to get a toxic manager into a boxing ring for a “chat” it obviously is not the correct way forward. It may also lead to me to having a chat with the “Police” and that is something I really don’t want to do. However, there are ways to look after yourself without the need of a boxing ring. The three most important ones being, talk to someone about it, have a stress outlet (gym, walk) and as 2 Spuds keeps saying have some “me time” away from the badness.

My experience

I have been in a few work situations where I have been turfed out for one reason or another. Let me be very clear here that this is all about bullying and me being on the receiving end of it. It is not to do with me being fired. The manager in question didn’t like that I stood up for being shouted at in the middle of the office.  Plain and simple.

Manager 1

Now this was after months of them shouting at me, them throwing paperwork down on my desk, them making me stay for hours at the end of the work day while they wined and dined clients in the pub across the road and so on. It was easier for them to let the “trouble maker” go rather than face up to the truth. I was called into the office one morning and was given a mutual resignation and that was that. End of employment. Now since this incident several people have said I could have taken them to tribunal. It was handled horrifically and caused me endless problems with gaining different employment. It is also about 10 years ago now and I have grown up from it.

If I met said manager today

I am sure it would make an interesting afternoon and I would love to know why they bullied me and what terror they are causing today. However, I am also a lot stronger. Both mentally and physically than I was so they do not scare me anymore. I have moved on from it so unless they are offering to apologise some ten years later then I am not interested.

My other managers

As I say I have had many managers being bad. I’ve had to liaise with a lawyer with regards to a bad manager. I have been paid to leave a company due to another bad manager too. Also, I once worked at a company where one of the manager told me that if I didn’t like the way they managed then I knew where the door was. Wow! This is what they thought management was. Let’s just say I sourced a new job and moved on rather quickly after that. 

It still happens today

The above still happens today and unfortunately seems to be happening more and more often. I think managers and people in power sometimes forget that we as employees are human beings and we have feelings, lives, rent to pay and so on. We are more often than not these days treated as a number and have the threat hanging over our head of you can be replaced within seconds.

Managers out of their depths

I have to admit I think a lot of people these days end up in management positions where they are out of their depth. They have no clue on how to manage a group of people while hitting company targets and objectives. That is my personal opinion.

The dinner table high fives!

I mean do these (bad) managers at the end of the day sit around the dinner table with their family and go “woohoo I had a great day today. I made Diane cry, I sacked Tony after 10 years of service and I am a brilliant person”. High five! Hm! May be not. Now I understand sometimes you have to be mean and harsh to get to the top of somewhere but are we not taking it a bit far these days?! The other thing to point out is it is not too late to change from a bad manager to a good one. It will take time and hard work but if you want it then you can do it.

Imagine people like children

This has taken me years to perfect but it works like a charm now. If there is one thing that you take from this blog it’s this:
Imagine people (managers) like children!
That sentence sounds a bit weird doesn’t it? Stay with me though as I try to explain. This all started about halfway through my counselling when I started to see the difference between people. The difference between people who were my friends and who were there to help me be a better person and those people who didn’t.  

Functional Movement Disorder

I have two options with my functional movement disorder. One is to let people get to me, stress me out, give me lip or argue with me. Now if people do that I tend to start trembling then shaking and depending on the severity of the situation I can start shaking from head to toe. I am aware that it could happen anywhere and at any point during a stressful situation. Therefore, I tend to go with option 2 now. That option allows me to be in more control of a situation, so I do not start shaking. This option is what I use today. I take a different road and try to not let people get to me. Now sometimes this is easier said than done but that is life.  

Control

Imagine selfish people like children who have trouble sharing toys. Let me try and make this clearer. Take a manager who has summoned you to their office to have a “chat”. You go in and take a seat while they sit behind a big desk. They may ask how you are today (often not) then the flood gates open. They are shouting at you, using bad language, gesturing, insulting you or getting up to stand beside you so they can make sure you definitely hear their point. Now if this is to happen, they have lost two fundamental points. Control and respect! (as a side note, you deserve both of them in control and respect).  

Let me break it down

Now as soon as they have raised their voice, they have lost control of the situation. If they use bad language, they have lost even more control. And finally (and this is the big one) if they come around to your side of the desk, they have lost control completely and are invading your personal space. It isn’t nice to be insulted by another person but in today’s society, it happens and unfortunately it happens more often than not. If this is to happen in a situation then that reflects more on them as a person than you. Remember that!

Imagine people like children explained

Now that I have painted the picture lets look at this a different way. As I have said it is the way I look at people in these situations today. Imagine them as a child who has just had their favourite toy taken from them for whatever reason it may be. What does the child do? They may start crying, they may tug at the toy to claim it back, they may start shouting, they may start stamping their feet and flailing their arms, it could end in an almighty tantrum. Now what has the child achieved at the tantrum stage? Their toy? Usually not. Now imagine a manager doing that. The shouting, the bad language, the gesturing, the insulting and the moving around the desk is a tantrum. It’s nothing more.  A tantrum! Plain and simply, they are having a tantrum!

Laugh it off!

I have had to deal with situations like this on more than one occasion. I laugh it off now. As soon as you start doing the above to me, I feel you have lost control. I will either tell you to calm down and talk to me like an adult or I will quietly walk away. I fight the fights which I know I have something to say in and for those fights where I don’t, I walk away. 

Walking away from a fight

Walking a way from a fight may be the right or the wrong thing to do, only you can decide that as a person. This also goes for walking away from a bad job to a better one. I go with the principle that if I feel passionate enough to do something, I will think about it for a few days then act on that. If I am not going to gain anything from the fight and you have shown me, your true colours then I will walk away. Why waste my valuable time and resources being sucked up in a situation where I can see the person has no idea on what they are doing. I like to live by the motto that they will get their comeuppance someday. I may not be around to see it, but it helps make me feel better. 

Around in circles

If you are going around and around with a fight and neither of you can see the end, then you can do a few things. One is to seek help either with someone in human resources or a well-chosen friend (someone mutual to both sides). The other is to walk away completely, re-group and then come back again and see if there can be some resolution. We unfortunately live these days where we have the “it wasn’t my fault”, “why do I have to do it”, “blame someone else” and so on culture.

That rare gem

I’m not saying that every manager is bad, occasionally there is that rare gem. That gem who gives you the time of day, the respect that you deserve and service with a smile. It is unfortunately a bit of a rarity these days, but it does exist. If you come across it hold on to it with all the power you have, these are the good guys. 

Talk to someone

I urge anyone who has read this and is now thinking, ” that is me” to talk to someone. Talk to a colleague, friend or family member. Also, check your employee handbook as there should be rules in there about bullying. There may even be a secure/private phone number to talk to someone who can advise you. I would also try your human resources department. At the end of the day they are there to help you. 2 Spuds is also around to talk about it too.

Outlets

It is important to stay safe in these circumstances. Talking to someone is key but so is eating well, exercising to let the bad stresses out, sleeping well so you are prepared for the next round of bother and so on. Look after yourself. If you need to have a day off to re-group then do it. When all this was happening to me I was stressed, worried, anxious and didn’t have the proper outlets to help me. Once the resources were in place I got on a lot better. I also over the couple of years I worked with the counsellor learnt to stand up for myself. This is hard to do but is a valuable resource once you have learnt it. In the meantime try and use deep breathing and the count to 10 approach if you need it. 2 Spuds is more than happy to chat to you one-to-one about how to stand up for yourself.

Take care

I know going through toxic managers is tough and can make your life a misery. Try and take on board some of things I have said above. Most importantly look after yourself and take care.

-Helen

Ps. 2 Spuds is having some “me time” down in Southern Scotland this weekend so there will be no blog. Back to normal next Wednesday though.

Leave a Reply