How to Work with a Toxic Boss

In local governments and in private business, having a toxic boss can be a difficult and stressful experience for any employee. Toxic bosses can cause a lot of harm to an employee's career, as well as their emotional and mental well-being. However, sometimes leaving a job or getting the toxic boss fired is not an option. In this post, we will explore ways that employees can work successfully with a toxic boss.

Understand Your Boss's Behavior

The first step in dealing with a toxic boss is to understand their behavior. Recognize that their behavior is not about you, but rather a reflection of their own personal issues. By understanding this, you can avoid taking their behavior personally.  It's also important to have an open and compassionate mind.  Their behavior may be temporary and driven by some crisis outside work that you are not aware of. 

Set Boundaries

One of the best ways to deal with a toxic boss is to set boundaries. You can do this by being clear about your work hours, responsibilities, and expectations. It's important to communicate your boundaries in a clear and concise manner.

Focus on Solutions

When working with a toxic boss, it's easy to get bogged down in the problems. Instead, focus on finding solutions to problems. Take ownership of the situation and look for ways to make things better.

Build Positive Relationships with Coworkers

A toxic boss can make the workplace toxic, but building positive relationships with coworkers can make the workplace more pleasant. Focus on building relationships with coworkers who are supportive and positive.

Take Care of Yourself

Working with a toxic boss can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being. It's important to take care of yourself by getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising. Take breaks when necessary and engage in activities that make you feel good.

Seek Outside Help

If the situation becomes too overwhelming, it may be helpful to seek outside help. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor who can help you manage stress and cope with the situation.  You can also ask trusted advisors how to address issues with the person directly, if that is an option. 

Discuss Their Behavior Directly with Them

When you have documented their toxic actions and words (and when the time is right) you can have a direct conversation with them.   You may want to have an HR representative or another person present with you.   Ensure that you share specific actions, attitudes and words that have negatively affected your performance and attitude at work.  Letting the person know how their behavior is negatively affecting you is a good first step.  How they react don't react is not in your control.  


Working with a toxic boss can be challenging, but it's not impossible. By understanding your boss's behavior, setting boundaries, focusing on solutions, building positive relationships with coworkers, taking care of yourself, and seeking outside help, you can work successfully with a toxic boss. Remember that your well-being is important, and don't be afraid to seek help if you need it. 

If you have leadership challenges at your city or county, give us a call at 844.853.2337 or email us at [email protected]


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