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Ten Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss

Ten Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss

Margot Carmichael Lester, Monster

Distrust of Others: A toxic boss “openly displays a lack of trust in people, especially for those on the team in which he or she is supposed to lead,” notes Gregg Stocker, author of Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline. Ask what the company’s problems are and what their causes might be. “If the answers to these questions consist of blaming others in the organization, especially those on his or her team, the person lacks trust in others.”

Fear Used as a Motivator: Ask the prospective boss about others on the team with whom you will be working — specifically, how well they work together, stay focused and meet objectives, Stocker advises. Be wary if the response identifies a lack of respect for people. When managers disrespect and distrust others’ motivations, they resort to extrinsic means with which to motivate, such as threats, public humiliation and comments about layoffs.

Word Choice: “Your ears are your best hunch barometer,” Hackett says. “Our choice of words sets up a dynamic that can raise or lower the energy in a room. If they begin every sentence with a negative message and then try to diffuse it somewhat, it is likely that negativity prevails in their life and carries over into work.”

Extreme Friendliness: “It may sound odd, but what should have tipped me off was how nice she was,” one administrative assistant says of her toxic boss. “I compare it to children being lured into dangerous situations with candy. How many kids don’t want candy? And how many adults don’t want to work for a boss who is nice? It was a trap I could’ve easily avoided had I caught on earlier.”

Self-Absorption: “If his ideas seem to be more important than finding out about your ideas, or if you provide an answer and the interviewer tells you you’re wrong or interrupts with his own answer to the question, it may be an indication that he will be difficult to work with,” notes one technical support staffer.