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Toxic Workplaces and Bosses Have These in Common

The Great Resignation is partly due to many people realizing that the demand for employees has created opportunities for them to try new things. A side effect of the work-from-home shift during the pandemic and an overall change in workplace culture shined a rather bright light on toxic bosses, a toxic workplace, and toxic coworkers.

Sometimes red flags can be hard to spot, but there are a few things that negative bosses and toxic workplace cultures have in common.

1. Blame is Shared, Credit Isn't

President Truman famously said, "The buck stops here," a management style where a good leader takes responsibility for a team's performance – both good and bad. A boss that's a glory hog or one that takes all the praise and credit themselves is one to be wary of.

Credit-grabbing bosses may also be the kind that shuffles blame. They're typically either very new managers, afraid of making a mistake or being held accountable for poor team performance, or a self-aggrandizing manager who feels they do no wrong. Both types of bosses pass the blame to anyone involved in the project and rest on the laurels of successful team efforts.

2. Lack of Trust Unglues Culture

If you've ever worked on a collaborative project, you know how important trust and communication are. However, in a toxic work environment, there may be people on your team who claim credit for the contributions of a group or use the information and insight you give them to advance their career, leaving you behind.

If you find yourself blind-copying your boss on every email you send to a teammate, you might be in a strained work environment. Or, if you note one or two individuals always look out for number one, to the detriment of the rest of the department, you may be working in a fragmented culture.

3. Uncertainty Limits Your Best Work

When your boss doesn't clearly communicate expectations or shift the goalposts, it's hard to know if you're performing up to standard. If you have a boss who's an information hoarder or one who changes their mind about priorities every week, it's hard to keep up. An unpredictable work environment naturally won't have the best results from a team because the members are too busy playing catch-up or anticipating their boss's desires.

4. Fear of Negative Feedback

There's a saying that honey catches more flies than vinegar, and it's very true in the business world. Bosses who create an office culture where workers produce out of fear of punishment, rather than working towards an incentive or a reward, end up with employees who do just enough to avoid consequences.

Fear of criticism, especially when delivered in public or inappropriately, using sarcasm or raised voices, creates a workplace environment where everyone is tense and on edge. That's not to say that there shouldn't be consequences for poor results or bad behavior, but good managers praise in public and chastise in private.

You Have Options

If you've noticed one or more of these warning signs about a toxic work environment or boss, you have options. Businesses all over our region are hiring, and reading these signs may be just the impetus you need to look elsewhere. When leaving a job, however, refrain from a dramatic exit, and instead, turn in a notice and leave on as good of terms as possible. Look for small businesses in your area, where an owner-operator is hands-on and invested in success, or check with the Chamber for companies in your area that are hiring.

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