5 Signs You Have a Toxic Boss

Have you ever worked with a toxic boss? Chances are that you have. A recent poll by Monster.com found that 76% of job seekers said they were looking for new opportunities because of a toxic boss. That number is astounding, but I’m not surprised by it. There are many flawed people in the world, and there’s something about senior leadership that seems to attract the least self-aware of us. 

I could go past these five traits of a toxic boss and write an article that would put Moby Dick to shame in its length, but for now, we’ll stick with a few that have been on my mind lately.

#1. They Are Excessively Controlling

An excessively controlling boss maintains too high a level of authority over their employees, often resulting in micromanagement and stifling autonomy. Micromanagement is a problem for these control freaks. They need to over-manage every aspect of their employees’ work. They closely monitor and scrutinize every task and demand constant updates. 

Control freak bosses are unable to delegate tasks. They prefer to maintain control over everything, which ultimately results in a heavy workload for themselves and a lack of opportunity for employees to take on new challenges and showcase skills. 

When employees are not free to make decisions or exercise their creativity, it stifles innovation within the team. A control freak boss will inhibit the generation of new ideas and problem-solving approaches. 

These bosses often make decisions without involving their team members, even when further input or expertise would be valuable. A disempowered and demoralized workplace is bound to follow as employees feel undervalued and disregarded. 

Controlling bosses often rely on intimidation to maintain control. They may use threats, public humiliation, or punishment to keep employees in line. This creates a hostile work environment that will negatively impact employee mental health. 

Excessively controlling bosses don’t trust their employees, and they will hinder their growth and professional development. Employees who feel restricted in their work are more likely to burnout and experience dissatisfaction with their employment. Lack of trust will lead to high turnover rates as talent will seek more fulfilling and empowering work environments. Low morale will affect team dynamics and productivity.

controlling boss

#2. They Lack Transparency

Bosses who lack transparency often keep employees in the dark about crucial information related to the company, its goals, strategies, and individual roles and responsibilities. They may selectively share information, leading to a need for more clarity. This is a horrible culture move for any organization. 

When a boss fails to communicate openly and transparently, it creates ambiguity and confusion among team members. When dealing with a secretive boss, clear guidelines, objections, and expectations are lacking. Employees struggle to perform tasks effectively, and frustration increases. 

Trust and credibility go right out the window with an enigmatic boss. The control freak bosses don’t trust their employees, but in an environment where the boss lacks transparency, employees won’t trust them. When a boss constantly withholds information or is perceived as mysterious, employees will feel undervalued and question the motives behind the lack of transparency. 

When employees are not informed about important decisions or changes, they can resist change. The lack of truth telling breeds uncertainty and fear, leading to resistance and reluctance to embrace new initiatives. 


#3. They Don’t Believe in Work-Life Balance

Some bosses prioritize work above all else and fail to recognize why personal well-being and healthy balance are essential. 

These types of bosses often have no life and live to work. Because they live to work, you should be doing the same thing in their eyes. I once knew a company leader that would outright brag that he had no hobbies or interests outside of work, so work was all he ever did. He had no clue that his behavior was incredibly toxic. He thought his dedication to his business was admirable. His employees began feeling like they shouldn’t take real vacations or have time off the clock. The boss was setting the tone of an overworked and exhausted culture without even realizing it.

Expect long hard hours when you work for bosses who don’t respect your boundaries. Say goodbye to your weekends, evenings, and personal lives. Don’t even think about taking a vacation or calling out sick. The expectation is that you will be on and accessible 24/7. Bosses with no life will often question the personal commitments of their employees. 

We all know that a lack of work-life balance leads to burnout, chronic stress, and a decline in general health. Employees suffer from strained personal relationships when work becomes all-consuming. They no longer have time or energy to dedicate to their families, friends, or personal interests. 

But your boss, who thinks you should be working 24/7, doesn’t believe in that. Nor do they think that burned-out employees result in decreased productivity and job satisfaction and increased absenteeism. However, many studies show that they would be wrong.  

no work-life balance

#4. They Don’t Appreciate Their Employees

Bosses who disregard or undervalue their employees’ skills, contributions, and efforts lack appreciation. They often fail to acknowledge and credit their employees for achievements, hard work, and positive contributions. They may overlook or downplay accomplishments. 

There is often an absence of praise or positive feedback of any kind. Bosses who don’t appreciate their employees rarely express gratitude. They usually take their employees for granted, failing to fully recognize the value they bring to the table.

These cultures provide minimal feedback or opportunities for growth. Constructive feedback is essential for employees to thrive in their roles. Unappreciative bosses provide minimal feedback, depriving employees of the opportunity to develop their skills and reach their full potential.

When employees feel underappreciated, morale and engagement levels plummet. Employees become disengaged, disinterested, and unlikely to stick around. Organizations with an unappreciative leader will fail in attracting and retaining talent. Unsurprisingly, prospective employees often seek work environments where their contributions are recognized and valued. When word spreads that a leader fails to appreciate their employees, it tarnishes the organization’s reputation and makes it an undesirable workplace for top talent.

#5. They Are Unpredictable

No one wants to work in a minefield, but employees with unpredictable bosses often feel like they are! Bosses who exhibit erratic behavior, mood swings, or inconsistent decision-making can leave even the best of employees feeling uncertain and potentially scared. 

Unpredictable bosses may be friendly and approachable one minute and suddenly become distant or confrontational without any apparent reason. Inconsistencies like this can create tension in any office environment. Frequent mood swings and a lack of emotional stability impact their interactions with employees, making it difficult for the team to gauge how to communicate with their boss. 

Due to their unpredictable nature, these bosses often set unclear expectations. Sometimes these expectations can change from moment to moment for seemingly no reason, and employees are criticized for being unable to keep up with the nonsensical lack of clarity. This breeds frustration and confusion within the team.

Trying to constantly anticipate your boss’s mood or behavior can create an unhealthy hypervigilance that will never be satisfied. Increased stress and anxiety can create a constant state of unease. 

Trust and loyalty no longer exist in a culture like this one. Unpredictability erodes any psychological safety that might exist between employees and their bosses. Building a solid working relationship based on trust and communication is challenging when employees are unsure how their boss will react or make decisions. 

Employees may become hesitant to take risks, share ideas, or offer suggestions due to the fear of adverse or volatile reactions from their boss. Therefore, innovation is stifled, and the team’s ability to perform at their best becomes hampered. 

Talent will walk out the door to seek stability and a more predictable work environment elsewhere. Unpredictable behavior is too overwhelming in the workplace. 

toxic bosses can change

The Good News Is They Can Change!

If you have a toxic boss, there are many things you can try to resolve the issue. Sometimes it can be as easy as scheduling a meeting with your boss to communicate the problems you have been experiencing with their toxicity. You can kindly point out the behavior and its effect on the team. If you expect change, it would be wise to provide feedback on improving the situation. A culture of open dialogue is needed. Maybe you request that your boss start leading by example. 

If your boss cannot hear you or gracefully accept your feedback, you may have to go above their head to their supervisor, when possible, or to HR for additional support. If all else fails, update your resume and go somewhere that aligns with your values. 

Bosses, employees, and humans at large, YOU CAN CHANGE. Look, we all are toxic sometimes. It’s part of the human condition. You’re not perfect. You’ve been guilty of toxic behavior before. The important part is that you learn from it and work on refining your bad habits into good positive behaviors. You can do it! And if you need some advice, email me. 


Need a little oasis of sanity in that chaotic corporate jungle? You’ve come to the right place. Follow The Girlboss Burnbook for more survival tips. Make sure to leave a comment. If you’ve ever had to deal with a toxic boss, I want to hear all about it. 



Founder of Girlboss Burnbook

Hey there! I’m Jenna, the founder of The Girlboss Burnbook. My mission is to support women feeling isolated in their leadership roles. After leaving the corporate world, I realized many women face the same struggles I did. I wanted to create a platform where we could share our stories and empower each other.

At The Girlboss Burnbook, you’ll find helpful content. If you resonate with it, please reach out and share your thoughts. I’m always looking for guest contributors to our blog. Let’s collaborate!

Contact me at info@girlbossburnbook.com. I can’t wait to connect with you!