Toxic Boss

In my recent articles and videos, I have discussed the impact of a supervisor on your career and happiness.  Many of you have asked me to share my experiences of working for a toxic manager.

Approximately ten years ago, I was working in an organization where I loved my job, with over an hour commute each way.  I never minded the commute as I used it to unwind and process different projects I was working on.  I felt energized by the work I was doing as a career counselor.  This never felt like work.  I always woke up excited in the morning and looked forward to the day’s variety of clients I would meet with and to the colleagues I would work with.  I’d help people realize their potential in their careers and opportunities in their lives.

I had been in this job for over 13 years when our CEO decided to leave for another organization.  After her departure, we had many different temporary supervisors and CEOs, all whom valued my work.  As they were getting closer to hiring a new CEO, there was some talk that the probable new CEO did not value the experience of higher-paid workers. 

I did my best to make an excellent first impression and tried to do what was asked of me.  During the first few months, I started to feel that the new CEO did not value my position or the person I was.  One of the first signs was my being removed from a committee of the leaders of this organization.  The second thing I noticed was that he never made direct eye contact or connection with me and always seemed to be passing me by as if I did not exist.

After the first year with the new CEO, I felt isolated and alone, with no one to support me in the organization.  My name had been mentioned in many meetings, disparaging me and my work, but no one would stand up for me due to their fear of what the CEO would do to them.  These events occurred after I was recognized as one of the state’s top counselors, receiving the district award within the organization and being one of the top four finalists within the state.

I felt like every step I took was being monitored by a lower-level supervisor, who would check in to see where I was.  It became so bad that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without telling someone where I would be and how long I would be because the lower-level supervisor would check in on me.  I even asked someone within the CEO’s inner circle if I had a chance within the organization to stay in that place that I loved and enjoyed.  This person who had the CEO’s ear met with him and asked why I was being mistreated.  It came down to his not liking me.  He would not say why and my advocate told me that I had no chance in this organization and that I might want to look elsewhere.  I had given so much to this organization, and I loved every minute of working there until he showed up, but that changed my dream job into my nightmare job.  I had a supervisor whom I could not trust, along with many other people who had been good friends and co-colleagues whom I could not trust due to their fear of being mistreated as well.

For the first time during my career, this manager caused me to doubt myself, question who I was as a human being, get me to think about what is essential in my life and career, and to seek help from a fellow coach who could help lead me back to success.

I want to talk about how you can energize supervisors/managers who are new to your organization.  One thing I would suggest is to sit back for perhaps three weeks or four weeks and to watch how they interact, what they say, and what might be the best way to engage them along the way when necessary.  The other suggestion I would offer is that you need to make sure that you understand that no matter where you are, you are just a number and you are replaceable.  No matter your function in the organization, anyone can be let go and replaced, whether the CEO, manager, worker, or secretary.  You are all replaceable.  The third part I want to share is that you need to be confident in who you are and not let anyone change that perception, no matter who they are in the organization.  Don’t let a new supervisor or manager make you start to doubt yourself.  It would be best if you built up your confidence and found ways to reinforce it so that you can withstand new management and make choices about whether you want to stay or leave to find something in a better environment.

You all could run into a manager who is difficult to deal with.  How you let that manager treat you will make all the difference in how you stand up to them.  Believe in yourself and who you are and what you offer.  When you start to question that, you may want to ask if you are in the right place under the right manager to thrive and succeed.

In the end, this experience with a toxic CEO helped open my eyes regarding who I was and what I wanted to do.  It was a blessing that allowed me to carve out my niche of helping midlife professionals build confidence and gain clarity to make the impact they want in life.  Many of us have those stories of these horrible managers, but in the end, it’s our story that’s most important that we can tell and live because we only have one life, and we should enjoy and love the work and life that we do.

If you are experiencing a relationship with a toxic boss, reach out to me.  I would love to have a conversation with you.  If you are feeling stuck or disheartened by a manager, I would love to help you gain clarity and confidence in yourself.