The Mighty Logo

4 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health Against a Toxic Boss

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A toxic boss can make work feel unbearable. They can also negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly true for those of us living with multiple mental health challenges.

What are your options when you have a bad boss? How do you protect your mental health in a toxic work environment? When should you go to HR or quit?

Here are four ways to protect your mental health when you have a toxic boss:

1. Take care of yourself.

Start by turning to your go-to self-care rituals. If you don’t have a trusted self-care practice, give Ho’oponopono a try. This powerful, 4-part Hawaiian prayer is helpful in working toward forgiveness:

  • “I am sorry, [Boss’s Name].”
  • “Forgive me, [Boss’s Name].”
  • “Thank you, [Boss’s Name].”
  • “I love you, [Boss’s Name].”

Importantly, Ho’oponopono is about you and your wellbeing. Ho’oponopono is not about blaming anyone. Repeat the mantra to yourself as many times as needed until you feel better. (Tangentially, you may also find this mantra helpful when dealing with difficult colleagues.)

2. Speak with your boss.

Depending on your working relationship, you may find it helpful to speak directly with your boss. As someone who has had several toxic bosses, I recognize this is easier said than done. Consider using the following assertive communication phrase, courtesy of my therapist: “I feel ___ when/about ___ and I’d like ___.” For example, “I feel anxious when I receive work texts after hours and I’d like your help in practicing work/life blend.”

Keep in mind you may need to involve your boss’s boss if speaking with your direct supervisor does not resolve the issue. However, I encourage you to first consider all of your options before consulting your boss’s boss, as going over your supervisor’s head can sometimes cause even bigger issues.

3. Consult your HR department.

When speaking to your boss and your boss’s boss does not work, HR may be the answer. HR can help you in speaking with your boss or provide other interventions if needed. Again, be mindful before going to HR as you want to weigh the pros and cons of this course of action. I encourage my coaching clients to write out and reflect on all of their options before escalating their concerns to HR.

Also, know that some companies employ a confidential employee hotline to file complaints. This can be a helpful avenue to air your grievances without directly disclosing your identity.

4. Quit your job.

At what point do you quit your job over a toxic boss? As a career coach, as well as someone who has been in multiple toxic work environments, I have learned there is no right or wrong answer here. However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • What do I need to be happy at work?
  • What options have I already exhausted?
  • What will it take for me to run toward a new job rather than away from my current job?

These are just a few questions to reflect on as you appraise your current work situation. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself how much your happiness is worth. You’ve got this!

Getty image by fizkes

Originally published: October 15, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home