dr-eric-kuelker-psychologist

How to Survive a Toxic Boss

Each week, another person in my psychotherapy practice in Kelowna presents with major depression.  When I ask them why they are so depressed, they respond “It is my boss.”   This happens week after week, month after month.  

What triggers such depression in so many people?  The first factor is fear.  If people work for a manager that they do not trust, then they start to fear what will happen next.  They do not know when they will be lied to, they do not know when they will be put down, they do not know when a major upheaval will happen in the workplace.  This ongoing fear creates anxiety and hopelessness, because there is no guarantee that things will improve.  Once trust is broken, it does not come back, until there is sustained effort by the manager to rebuild it.  

Another factor is shame. We spend more time at work than with our families. And if the authority figure at work puts us down, and is sarcastic and belittling, we feel down as a result. Even if our manager does not attack us personally, but sends messages that our work is poor, or worthless, then it is easy to put that concept on our self. We gain a lot of our sense of identity from our work. Since the feedback is that our work is substandard, we come to believe that we are substandard as humans.

The first step you can take is to recognize that a toxic boss causes real harm. All too often, people tell me that they should be able to take it. This is false. I have never met anyone who was routinely insulted and bullied, without it leaving emotional wounds on them. Humans are very social creatures, and what happens in our social environment has a major impact on our well-being. So, if you report to a toxic boss, recognize that you do not have to absorb it. Your negative emotions are valid, and are a signal that you need to make a major change in your situation. We will look at those steps soon.

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