Career Advice

How Toxic Bosses Can Chase Off Amazing Employees

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated May 14, 2018

A recent Gallup study found that around 50 percent of people have left a job to get away from their boss. The same study found that those with good relationships with their managers had higher engagement and satisfaction levels. Management truly drives their teams to success or failure — and in some cases, stress and anxiety.

If you’re unhappy at work and wondering if it might be time to leave, take a look at these stories from the employees of former nightmare bosses.  

David’s Telemarketing Troubles

David ran into a toxic boss 20 years ago in the telemarketing department where he worked:


“I worked very hard, loved the place and put in extra time. . . . Each day, this bully boss would claim that I was somehow doing things that were wrong and find excuses to threaten me with the sack. I often turned around to find him sitting behind me, just inches away. . . .

I was eventually called upstairs to the HR managers department and told that I was being let go due to not having done well. When they crunched the numbers on my final pay packet, I had achieved 180% of the end of month target on the tenth day of the month.”

Talk about intimidating.

Beyond false complaints about performance, this toxic boss also used physical intimidation. But there’s more.

“I had been let go just 2 weeks short of passing the probation. The timing was intentional because if he had waited just a fortnight longer, then I would have been an employee with full rights. I never complained about him because he said that if I did, then the department would be wrapped up and my job would be gone anyway.”

Not only did the boss use the probation period against the David to target him when he had fewer rights — he also threatened the entire department if David went to human resources and complained.

What should you do in this situation?

If you think you have a decent rapport with HR, you could go to them despite the threats and tell them about the bullying, bringing records of the interactions if you have them. Even if you’re new to the company—and worry the department might be more inclined to take the manager’s side—still make the report. You don’t want to work for a company where HR doesn’t take employee claims seriously, and no job (or very few, anyway) is worth the stress that this toxic boss put David under.

Katie’s Management Mess

This second story features Katie, who worked her way up from the bottom of a company and gave it her best for five years, only to be driven out of the job by a toxic manager:

“I worked for a company for 5 years before I finally had to throw in the towel. I had started with the company in 2008 and actually loved every second of it. . . . Quickly I moved to an area manager position and moved around to different territories across the US. . . .

Eventually, I was promoted to a Regional Manager and I worked very closely with my boss (the VP of Sales) and the owner of the company. My boss was actually pretty incredible. . . . The owner of the company, on the other hand, was not. . . . If you caught him on a bad day, he would call screaming and cursing, rather than ask questions to find out what happened. He failed to coach, and just belittled. Still, I withstood the verbal abuse because I respected my boss and she always had my back.”

This sounds like a situation many of us find ourselves in. A member of management is tough to work with, but we love the job and our direct boss is great, so we stay and tough it out.

However, in Katie’s case there was more to the story.

“Aside from being verbally abusive at times, which all of us just somehow got used to, he was not good with actually running a business. . . . Eventually, it seemed that he found excuses not to pay the people working for him to make sure expenses at the main office got paid.

The straw that finally broke the camel's back for me was when I was in LA with my boss. He called to yell at me. . . . I hadn't gotten paid, and he had no intention of paying me, and he wanted me to fire someone that was integral to the success of the area. . . . I couldn't support his decision, so he said I needed to do what he said or leave, so I chose to leave.”

What should you do in this situation?

Katie made the right choice. You should never feel forced to compromise your morals or integrity by a manager. You also shouldn’t have to deal with a supervisor that calls just to yell at you. Getting the right message across over the phone is important, and yelling definitely sends the wrong message. However, since this was the owner of the company, there, unfortunately, may not have been much Katie could do but leave.

While there’s definitely something to be said for toughing out the more tedious parts of an otherwise enjoyable job, it’s smart to set boundaries — and to hold firm on those boundaries. Katie’s experience and rapid rise in the ranks may have made finding an equivalent job easier, without having to sacrifice five years of her career to a miserable boss.

Working with horrible bosses is tough. The stress and emotional conflict it causes can leave scars that take years to heal. There are options, though. And there is almost always another job. You should never feel trapped in a position at any company. Don’t let a toxic boss derail your career passion.


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