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September 25, 2023

3 Ways To Deal With Bad Boss Energy In Your Career

The number one reason employees complain about their jobs and eventually say, “Take this job and shove it,” is because of an abusive boss. A SHRM study found that bad bosses cost companies $223 billion dollars in turnover between 2014 and 2019. Instead of seeking advice, asking for input or showing humility, bad bosses are notorious for […]

The number one reason employees complain about their jobs and eventually say, “Take this job and shove it,” is because of an abusive boss. A SHRM study found that bad bosses cost companies $223 billion dollars in turnover between 2014 and 2019. Instead of seeking advice, asking for input or showing humility, bad bosses are notorious for ruling with an iron fist, using intimidation as a defense against their own insecurities, unwittingly undermining subordinates to reinforce their own, more powerful position. They micromanage and pressure employees to match their own inhuman standards of long hours and frantic pace. You can find a list of some of the telltale signs to look for in a bad boss here.

In “the good old days,” business was built on a motto that you live by the book and follow the straight and narrow. If you didn’t rock the boat and went along with the corporate culture, you could retire with the proverbial gold watch and live happily ever after. If your workplace was toxic or you suffered work stress, burnout or mental health issues at the hands of a toxic boss, you were expected to grin and bear it. But not anymore. The American workforce has resounded with such trends as The Great Resignation, “quiet quitting,” “productivity paranoia,” “proximity bias” and “lazy girl jobs.” The younger generation is sending a clear signal. They will no longer tolerate toxic bosses, a climate of fear, urgency, anxiety or disrespect, mistreatment, burnout or work-life imbalance in a job.

Signs Of Bad Boss Energy

Leaders with bad boss energy confuse their subordinates, gaslight employees, email before thinking and mange down. You’ve worked with them, have worked for them and actively try to avoid them. They have bad boss energy, according to neuropsychologist, Dr. Julia DiGangi, and she insists that, although it’s pervasive, there’s a way to nip it in the bud. DiGangi, author of Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Powerexplains that energy isn’t encased in a crystal ball; it’s brain science, she told me by email. You know you’re dealing with bad boss energy when interactions with your boss make your heart pound, jaw clench or bring up feelings of dread and anxiety.

Her research reveals that you have the power to reshape your energy—the force determining how you process information, make decisions and act. Too often, managers send conflicting signals to their teams by asking too many questions, giving too much advice or holding too many meetings.

They’re unclear about what they want from you. They’ll say, ‘I want you to take total leadership on this project . . . just make sure you run it by me first,’” DiGangi says. She calls that “energy zero,” messages that cancel out as people wonder, “Am I supposed to be self-starting or permission-seeking?” And with a boss like that, who knows? Although their confusing leadership style can create frustration, DiGangi ensures us that neuropsychology can help find success in the face of a bad boss.

Three Steps To Manage Bad Boss Energy

Better bosses require better energy, according to DiGangi, who suggests that you identify your boss’ motivation, so you can meet him or her where they are. Act like a leader in areas where your boss lacks competency. Avoid becoming engrossed in toxicity. Anticipate your boss’ needs to get ahead of their wrath. You can’t fire your boss or restructure the organization, but DiGangi offers three pieces of advice that enable you to meet bad boss energy head-on.

  1. Refocus your attention. “Much of our pain at work comes from spending too much time paying attention to our boss’ behavior. You might find yourself thinking, Do they think my work is good enough? Do they like me? Are they mad at me? If so, you need to refocus on yourself. What boundaries do you want to set at work? How can you uphold them? Do you inspire yourself? Are you being authentic? When you become secure in yourself, your boss’s behavior won’t have the same power over you or make you question yourself and your abilities. You will see their behavior only as a reflection of them.”
  2. Avoid toxic exchanges. “A relationship is an energetic exchange between two people. To overcome a toxic relationship with your boss, reflect on what ways you’re energetically contributing to the situation. Ask yourself: Am I wasting my free time gossiping about my boss? Am I spending my evenings stewing about them instead of enjoying my life? Am I spending too much effort playing out imaginary conversations with them? Am I making passive-aggressive comments? Am I failing to communicate my boundaries with them? Once you start claiming responsibility for your energy, you’ll feel more empowered.”
  3. Embody positive feelings to spread better energy throughout the office. “Neuroscience demonstrates that emotion is a thing of contagion—people catch each other’s feelings similar to how we catch colds. When your boss possesses a strong emotional signal—when their feelings of stress or anger or disappointment are clear—you can sense this and tend to calibrate to their negative emotions. But the good news is emotional energy works in two directions.”

A Final Takeaway

You have the power to counter negative emotions that your boss might be spreading to you and your coworkers. DiGangi points out that the first step is to identify what energy is missing from your boss. Is it kindness, patience, organization, authenticity, etc.? Then, she recommends creating that energy. “You can be the source of the energy you want to see on your team,” she declares. “Strongly embrace those feelings and notice how the people around you will begin to catch your positive emotions, creating a better workplace for all.”

It’s not worth sacrificing your mental health when other job openings are now prioritizing employee mental and physical well-being. You are not weak or selfish if you refuse to subject yourself to bad boss energy. You’re a normal person responding to a toxic work situation, and it’s important to make your self-care a top priority.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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