THE BLOG

The Toxic Boss Syndrome

03/13/2015 08:07 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2015

How many of us can relate to the movie Office Space and the infamous boss Bill Lumbergh? Most people would say that they can easily point to a boss that they currently have or have had who could have served as a role model for the movie character. According to a 2010 survey by the Conference Board Research Group, only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work and only 51 percent are satisfied with their boss. The correlation between work satisfaction and boss appreciation can easily be interpreted as good boss = happy worker.

What type of behaviors do people typically attribute to a bad boss then?

  • Micromanages to the ninth degree and doesn't allow for employee independence.
  • Rules by fear-mongering and shows a dictatorship-type personality.
  • Takes a military-style approach and assumes that the corporate world is like the battlefield.
  • Can't be trusted and takes credit for his employees' contributions without recognition.
  • Shows favoritism for certain employees and ignores the others.
  • Is unapproachable and unavailable to either her direct reports or people within her chain of command.
  • Can't say no to others and commits to projects that may be unrealistic or not well-thought out.
  • Constantly uses the word "I" when presenting departmental achievements.
  • Is very hands off and the employees feel like their floating out there without any guidance.
  • Holds people back from career growth and sabotages any career moves employees may attempt within an organization.

The worst part for employees is that they're typically told that if they don't like their job or company that they can leave anytime. However, given the current economic condition this isn't as easy as it sounds. So, how do you navigate the dirty waters of dealing with a toxic boss when you can't just exit out of any organization, be it for financial, family, health or lifestyle choice reasons? Here are a few ways you can help transform the current job nightmare you're living into a fairytale that has some learning lessons woven into it:

Set up a strong support system. This support system needs to include:

  • A confidante you can vent to and get guidance from on how to handle messy situations with your boss. The person should be someone other than your spouse/partner and be somewhat neutral so that she isn't just a bitching partner that keeps you stuck in the mud. The confidante should be someone who can give you great advice or a "smackdown" if that's what you need.
  • A hobby or recreation activity that juices you outside of work. It's something that keeps you grounded and can help you wipe out all thoughts about work when you're engaged in the hobby. It literally melts away the stresses like when you lounge in a beach chair on some faraway island and have a wonderful drink in your hand.
  • A plan to nourish yourself physically. When the stressors are high, we tend to neglect our bodies. We eat junk food, watch crappy TV shows, cut out physical activities and toss and turn at night without getting adequate sleep. However, a healthy mind requires a healthy body. So, make sure that you're taking good care of yourself physically so you can face the daily challenges that a toxic boss can bring.

Investigate options to turn around your career within. You need to become savvy and find out what your options are for getting away from your Bill Lumbergh-wannabe boss. Align yourself with other leaders who you would want to work for and start building a relationship with them. Also, look for a sponsor within your organization with whom you can discuss your career options and who can make things happen for you. You'll have to be mindful of not blasting your boss too much during this exploration. If the bad boss has been around for a while and continues to get away with his behavior, badmouthing or bashing him is not the way to go. Your organization obviously doesn't deem it necessary to rid itself of him. Instead, it becomes about you looking at career options within and for other ways you can contribute toward the growth of the organization. It might even mean that you just make a lateral move internally so you can remove yourself from the toxic environment, but you need to take action toward the change instead of just boo-hoo'ing your circumstances and staying stuck in the situation with your boss.

Sign up for professional development courses. If your organization offers professional development classes onsite or pays for you to go to one offsite, sign up for as many as you can. Take advantage of the skills building that these training programs offer and network with colleagues within so you can learn as much about your organization as you can. Participation in these courses also makes you more viable as a candidate for internal promotions. Plus, you might catch the attention of another manager who sees what you have to offer. This interaction in turn might provide you with additional future opportunities outside of your own department. While external networking is an absolute must for anyone looking to build her career, internal networking is just as important.

This article originally appeared here.