Are You a "Toxic" Boss? | Athletic Business

Are You a "Toxic" Boss?

No matter how great you think you are as a manager, it may be time for a reality check.

"MY BOSS SAYS she is in perimenopause, so I have to excuse her moods and constant crying spells. One day she yelled at me for not meeting my sales quotas. Turns out, she was using biweekly figures, not monthly figures, so she had her information wrong. When I pointed this out to her, she started crying, saying that she's always screwing things up. She's my boss, yet she treats me like I'm her keeper!"

Sound familiar? Just about everyone has a story about the world's worst boss, and who doesn't love hearing those stories? It's fun to express shock and horror at the incompetence and stupidity of some of these characters -- unless, of course, you are the bonehead in question, known in some circles as a "toxic boss." Unfortunately, the effects toxic bosses have on their employees can be far more serious than ire-filled stories.

High turnover, a poorly functioning facility that loses members in droves and even employee revenge are only some of the consequences of being the boss from hell. And, the truth is, not everyone is blessed with the self-awareness to notice that they've exhibited some toxic behavior. No matter how great you think you are as a manager, it may be time for a reality check.
Take the toxic boss test

Only a genuine crazy would aim to be a manipulative, hypercritical, unethical, dishonest, passive-aggressive boss. Of course, that's not you. Is it possible, though, that you are behaving in a toxic manner without realizing it?

Take this quiz and find out:

Are you hypercritical? Many bosses pay lip service to the notion that there are no dumb questions, when in reality, they react like screeching banshees at the first suggestion that they don't understand. Rigidly insisting staff does things only one way -- and overreacting so that employees walk on eggshells to avoid knee-jerk negative responses to any suggestion -- stifle creativity and demoralize your staff. So does second-guessing employee decisions.

Are you dishonest? Requiring employees to deceive members or suppliers to make a few extra bucks compromises their integrity, makes them lose respect for you and could even make them potential witnesses against you in a criminal proceeding. That's the obvious sort of dishonesty most managers would never even consider. However, some bosses are not always forthright with their employees. Being dishonest with your employees by promising benefits or opportunities that you don't deliver, or lying about the reasons that they didn't get a particular perk or promotion, breeds distrust and rage.

Are you passive-aggressive? For example, if an employee needs to leave work for a personal emergency, some bosses pretend to be supportive, only to raise that absence later as a reason for denying a promotion, or even for dismissal.

Are you dismissive? Open communication requires both a speaker and a listener, preferably one engaged in active listening. If you regard statements from your employees as simply ambient noise that goes in one ear and out the other, you are not only failing to treat them with common courtesy, you are telling them that you have no respect for their intelligence, talent and contributions to your business. Would you want to stick around and help someone who felt that way about you?

Do you show disrespect for your employees' time? Unreasonable deadlines, requiring that employees perform work-related tasks on personal time and intrusive questions about what employees do on their own time convey this message: "My time is valuable. Yours? Not so much." Once employees understand that, which won't take long, they will look elsewhere for a boss who does respect their time.

So much of avoiding the dubious title of "toxic boss" is as simple as following the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It's a great way to be a person you can respect, not to mention avoid being the "Story of the Week" on


How toxic is your boss?

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