So, you think you have a toxic boss?

Here's how to spot one and what to do about it.

Claire Sanguedolce | Brand and Operations Manager at Kip

This article was originally published on Mind Share Partners' "Mental Health at Work" section on Thrive Global.

I remember the exact moment when I realized I needed to quit my job. I was wearing a wrist brace, frantically running back and forth between giving savasana massages in a 98-degree room and laundering dirty towels, while also responsible for checking in every yoga student that walked through the door. Mentally and physically exhausted, injured, underpaid, overwhelmed, and sweaty as hell, it was then that I realized I’d hit “job rock bottom”.

Toxic bosses, unsurprisingly, have a pretty damaging effect on their employees’ wellbeing. A recent study by the University of Manchester exploring employees’ mental health while working for leaders who display psychopathic and/or narcissistic traits not only feel more depressed due to their bosses’ bullying tactics but are also more likely to engage in undesirable behavior at work themselves. Another study by research firm Gallup found that out of 7,272 surveyed U.S. adults, more than half had left their job to get away from their managers to improve their overall life at some point in their career.

So, what really makes a boss “toxic”? Read on to learn about the most common “red flags” so you can identify a toxic boss before you end up with a sprained wrist, broken dreams, and an empty wallet:


Overly controlling bosses stifle creativity and breed a stressful work environment. As a yoga teacher, our CEO implemented a policy in which our classes were harshly “graded” on a weekly basis. We were paid according to our scores. While this policy was originally meant to keep class quality in check, it evolved into a nerve-wracking and ineffective strategy that increased teacher anxiety rather than performance.

Credit-stealing & responsibility-avoiding

You’ve seen this one before. It’s the boss that’s always right and you’re always wrong – and there’s nothing you can do about it. This “my way or the highway” attitude makes for a burnt out workforce. This type of manager doesn’t give praise to their staff when they deserve it. Instead, they steal the spotlight from others, destroying team morale and boosting imposter syndrome in the process. Don’t expect them to own up to any mistakes or clean up the messes they make – they’ll likely blame others over taking personal responsibility.

“Black and white” behavior

Toxic bosses might make a decision to move in one direction on Monday morning and then by Tuesday afternoon, they’re already charging full-force in the opposite direction. A manager that displays “black and white” behavior is erratic and changes their mind more frequently than is healthy, resulting in confusion and anxiety among employees.


Often times, controlling bosses are also bullies. They use fear tactics to manipulate their employees into submission. In my previous workplace, this showed up as name cal