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The Great Resignation: How to Deal with a Toxic Boss

When quitting is not an option. Yet.
by Pia Regalado
Nov 30, 2021
Photo/s: Shutterstock

For two years, community manager Gina endured being loaded with tasks and called to meetings just to nitpick on her team's mistakes, until she quit her job and swore to never work with such a boss again, noting the many red flags.

Workers leave managers, not their jobs and when your boss is unmasked as a bully, human resource professional recommend stepping back to evaluate your options.

"There were times when she would delegate tasks that she has committed to, without consulting if I still have the time to do it. She shouts when somebody in the team does something wrong and calls for a meeting just to nitpick on how 'stupid' the mistake was," Gina told reportr, asking not to be named for fear of retribution.

"I got so afraid of exploring my other writing styles dahil sabi n'ya, mag-stick ako sa turo n'ya... Sad kasi sa labas ang ganda tingnan ng trabaho, pero 'yung dinadanas mo with her everyday, my god!" she said.

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Worse, she said her boss asked her to spy on her teammates.

Is your boss a bully?

What Gina experienced was a form of office bullying, a hazard that could be detrimental to employee and company performance, senior human resources manager Michelle Morales said.

Being in a position of power, bosses can be the main stressor at work if they become abusive and create a culture of fear among subordinates, Morales told reportr.

When your boss slams the table during meetings whenever they're angry, that's physical abuse, Morales said. "Kahit hindi diretso sa'yo pero baka ini-imagine nito na ako 'yung table, gusto na ako nito saktan."

Verbal abuse is when your boss curses at you, gossips about you, or when the tone of voice gets unusually high or loud when speaking to you, said Morales.

Can overtime be a form of abuse? It could be, when a boss won't compensate you for it or when requests for OT are unreasonable. Calling you at 10 p.m. or 12 a.m. for a task that isn't urgent? That's abusive.

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"Nagkakaroon na ng disrespect sa time, nade-demoralize ngayon ang mga employee kasi they feel na hindi pa ba sapat ang work ko sa otso oras, minsan more pa nga," Morales said.

Is micromanaging a form of bullying? Morales said it could be an effective leadership style, depending on the employee. Micromanaging works for newbies, but not to tenured employees.

Why is my boss abusive?

Before you accuse your boss of being abusive, ask yourself if such behavior is due to work pressures or "nanti-trip lang." It depends on the intention, Morales said.

For those who are plain bullies, these could be the reasons why:

Your boss sees you as a threat

When your boss thinks that you do their jobs better than they could, he or she can see you as a threat. "Hindi lang pala si employee ang natatakot, may fear din kasi si boss. Part ng role n'ya ang control so teka, 'di ko hahayaan na maungusan ako,'" Morales said.

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Your boss doesn't like you

Bosses could also have biases on employees, determined sometimes by how smart they dress or how good they can put together a deck of slides. That's called the "halo effect", Morales said.

The opposite is the "horn effect", where employees who are caught late or stutterring in their presentations are seen as incompetent. Simply put, "'di maganda vibes sa'yo", Morales said.

"Tipong 'di lang talaga kita gusto e boss ako, I have the power, 'di kita gusto, I want to get rid of you."

Your boss won't take responsibility for the team

Instead of owning up to their subordinates' errors, some bosses would pass the blame . It's a form of gaslighting, Morales said. "'Yung boss na ayaw mag-take ng responsibility, kapag nagkaron ng mistake, mansisisi ng ibang team member... they will make you feel na kasalanan mo."

Your boss demands your loyalty

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"Gusto ni boss, siya 'yung panigan, kailangan sa lahat ng pagkakataon, employee kita so dapat loyal ka sa akin," said Morales. Prolonged exposure to destructive work culture could lead to unmotivated and unproductive workers, or even resignation, she said.


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Abusive bosses are less credible, she said.. "Bakit dito sa department na ito ang taas ng turnover, ang daming nagre-resign? Ano ba mga reason? Sa performance n'ya rin 'yun, KPI n'ya 'yun e."

Ultimately, the organization will suffer when bully bosses cause employees to perform poorly or make it seem that they are below standards.

You can't leave your job. What can you do?

Here's how to deal with a toxic boss, Morales said.

Perform your duties and fulfill your end of the bargain

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"If hindi mo nagagawa excellently, at least satisfactory, within the performance standard."

Know your rights as employees

When was the last time you've read the company policies? If your boss violates these, you can report them to human resources. It goes the same way for employees who disobey policies.

Do not be afraid to report bullying

Keep the receipts, Morales said. Don't report unless you have substantial evidence against anyone at work. "Mamaya magre-report ka lang, wala kang evidence. Baka mamaya ikaw ma-charge na nambu-bully ng boss."

Dear boss...

Morales said bosses should assess themselves as leaders when people start leaving their team.

"How are you as a boss? In a span of six months, ilan na ba 'yung umalis? Check on their profile, check on their exit interviews. 'Yung sagot doon sa exit interviews, consider it as an area for improvement," she said.

Morales' message to bosses: "Be a leader who will be the reason good employees will stay working in the company."

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Michelle Morales is a psychometrician, human resources manager, and co-founder of Leading with Success, an eLearning company which aims to infuse positivity in the workplace.

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