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Stop stressing and start dealing: 4 tips for working with a toxic boss


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If you’ve ever had one of those bosses—the ones who gift you endless eye rolls and sleepless nights—know that workplace karma is real, as in scientifically.

While managers acting abusive toward employees has proven to take a toll on staff members, little was previously known about how that same negative behavior affects the bosses themselves. Unsurprisingly, being a toxic head honcho isn’t helping anybody: A new study suggests that while hostile communication may provide immediate mental resolution for a manager, that jerk-like behavior can have a boomerang effect, negatively affecting their long-term health.

Researchers at Michigan State University conducted multiple experiments on a variety of workplace-related issues and also found that the toxic supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support and productivity from employees—all critical resources for success. In other words: When you have a great boss, you’ll do better work.

Toxic supervisors experienced decreased trust, support and productivity from employees all critical resources for success.

The bottom line is that “although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul, it will come back to haunt them,” study co-author, Russell Johnson, PhD, said in a press release.

Toxic boss or not, you might not be able to quit today. Because you know, life (and bills). So, keep these tips in your back pocket (or top desk drawer) to make sure their bad behavior doesn’t compromise your own health.

Here are 4 ways to deal with a toxic work manager.

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1. Exude confidence, even when you don’t feel like it

You may be feeling beaten down, but make sure your superiors think you’re on top of the world. Speak up, keep eye contact, and even simply smile when appropriate, since all of these things have been shown to help earn respect from others.

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2. Stash essential oils at your desk

If there’s ever a day when you can’t get a moment away from your desk—especially with your boss breathing down your neck—reach for some essential oils: Place a drop of the lavender, peppermint, or lemon variety into your palms, rub them together, cup your hands over your face, and breathe in and out deeply for an instant fix. You can also mix ’em together and create your own blend.

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3. Sneak away for a quick meditation sesh

Have a few minutes? According to a new study, squeezing in some Zen time to clear your head (for as little as 10 minutes a day) not only helps boost your focus and concentration, but also lessens floating anxiety—which is extra handy considering you’ve been spending a whole bunch time with a person who’s at the root cause of your own stress.

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4. Talk it out with the people closest to you

Bottling up negativity is bad for you, but airing your dirty-thought laundry about the boss to your #workwife is dangerous territory as well. Instead, talk with friends and family (and maybe even your dog) to get their opinion on the matter. Or seek expert advice from a therapist (especially one who will work with you while you sweat it out). Sometimes an external opinion may provide the secret sauce for realizing when it’s time to move on from a toxic situation or implementing the coping strategy that’s been in front of you all along.

Pay close attention to the career confidence rules super-successful people follow. And the next time you’re revamping your desk space, make sure you have these things on hand.