One Good Point…with Dr. Mitch Kusy

Dr. Mitch Kusy of Antioch’s Graduate School of Leadership and Change shares One Good Point about handling toxic behavior in the workplace.

The number one question that I receive is “How do I deal with a toxic boss?”

One of the strategies is this: Often, there’s an individual that’s called the Toxic Protector. This individual has a special relationship with this toxic person, maybe their kids go to the same school, and they are key influencers of the [toxic boss]. Go to that individual and say something like this: “You may or may not be aware of this, but based upon what’s happening at the meeting when this boss of mine is constantly interrupting people, you go on like nothing is happening. I’m wondering, would you feel comfortable talking with my boss about the impact of their behaviors?”

A second strategy is this: I often notice that individuals do try to talk with their toxic boss about their behavior, and they try one time, and it fails, and they say, “See, it doesn’t work.” So one of the things I say (and you have to determine your threshold for this) is if you tried it one time and you tried it alone, the second time, try going with other individuals who are experiencing the same problem. This also has the serendipitous finding that what ends up happening is there’s sort of power in numbers, and you’re a little bit braver in talking with this individual because, let’s face it, a toxic boss is not going to fire five individuals that are coming to them saying, “here’s an issue.”

And the final strategy is: you need to be respectful when you’re giving feedback. I have a three-point strategy: It’s called The Intro. It’s called The Behavior. And it’s called The Toss Back. So it would go something like this: when you’re having this conversation with your boss, (either alone or with someone else) “The past several meetings, you have been interrupting a number of individuals at this meeting. And we are really frustrated.” 

Part of the Intro is “Is this a good time to talk about it?” or “Can we set up a time to talk about it?” Then the second piece is The Behavior. You want to be concrete and behaviorally specific. So what that means is you don’t say things like “You’re shaming people at the meeting!” or “You’re engaging in passive-aggressive behavior!” Instead, what you say is: “You’re interrupting, and what ends up happening with the interruption is that it impacts us and we’re less apt to participate in the future.” 

Third, the Toss Back. “Can we talk about this further?” “Do you have some ideas about how we can resolve this dilemma?”

So those are some of the strategies that I found highly effective when dealing with a toxic boss.