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The warning signs of a toxic boss (and what to do if you have one)

1 Apr 2021

Think you may be dealing with a toxic boss? This flow chart might help you find out.

Working life has been hard enough over the past 12 months, and the last thing you need is a leader who makes it worse. A toxic boss can negatively impact the quality of your immediate work and wellbeing, but can also have long-term effects on your career.

Barbara Kellerman, a lecturer in public leadership at Harvard University and the author of Bad Leadership, has said that “bad leaders are more similar to good leaders than they are different”. According to Kellerman, both good and bad leaders are intelligent and have high levels of energy, a strong drive for power and achievement, decisiveness and determination.

All of this means that it can be hard to know whether the actions of your boss could be considered toxic. To help, Resume.io has created a flow chart to help you identify some of the traits of a toxic boss, with tips on what to do in different situations.

The flow chart is based on Kellerman’s seven categories of bad leadership. This includes rigid bosses, who confuse inflexibility with strength, and intemperate bosses, who lack self-knowledge or self-control.

Other categories include insular leadership, where your boss might take a promotion even though it will mean redundancies for some of your team, and callous leadership, where your boss might say something insensitive in response to a team member’s problem.

Resume.io infographic on recognising and dealing with a toxic boss.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Resume.io

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Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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