Two weeks ago, I was fired on the spot in front of others as soon as I walked in the doors of my workplace. I felt humiliated. This was the first time a toxic manager destroyed my confidence.
The first few days were rough. I went through the highs and lows of emotions. Anger, happiness, sadness. At the end, I felt an overwhelming joy that I was no longer working for a micromanager.
Having someone only criticize you every meeting can have a lasting impact on your self-esteem. I would freeze up and question my abilities, but it would only upset my manager further.
My manager began to get more detailed than she was before and had me report to her about tiny details frequently as if she had OCD.
After some time, I started to have panic attacks and would constantly complain about my work situation to my family and friends. My manager began using techniques to make me more stressed out to get me to quit on my own with unreasonable tasks and expectations.
I began to disassociate with my employer and enrolled in therapy. I wanted to quit for my mental health, but I couldn’t. Until I was fired.
I saw all of the red flags with this employer during the interview process and knew I wouldn’t work well with my manager in the future, but I needed a job and had no other offers.
Now as I begin the job search process again, I realized that I have to overcome my experience in my previous job and rebuild my confidence.
Have you ever had a toxic manager that made you feel lost in your career? Here are some ways to recover.
What are some signs that you have a toxic manager?
Signs of a toxic manager could be that they:
- Don’t provide you with support, but expect you to complete what they ask for (one-sided relationship)
- Lack empathy
- Ignore your suggestions
- Never show appreciation for your successes
- Have unrealistic expectations
1. Remember your job is temporary
You won’t be in this job forever. It’s okay to job hop while you’re in your 20s. You’re exploring what types of companies and leadership is a match for you.
One day you’ll be looking at the experience as a thing of the past, feeling so relieved that it is over. Start making a game plan for your next opportunity.
One thing I did was count down the days I had left until I had 6 months emergency savings to quit. It helped me to feel a bit more optimistic.
In 2023, almost 70% of Gen Z and millennials are planning to leave their jobs. Since the great resignation, people are redefining what work means to them, their relationship with their employer, and prioritizing themselves more.
What you are going through, many others can relate with.
2. Find a creative outlet
You need to take your mind off of work when you are not on the clock. Do you have any hobbies besides watching TV? Think of hobbies that get you away from electronic devices.
Here are some hobbies you can try:
- Drawing, pottery or painting
- Outdoor activities like hiking or swimming
- Cooking or baking
- Sewing, Embroidery, Knitting
- Making candles, perfume, soaps
- Playing board games with friends or family
- Reading books or writing
- Play with animals
- Join a club to learn a new craft and socialize with others
As you master skills that have nothing to do with work, you will start feeling more confident.
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3. Make a list of all your achievements in your current and past jobs
This is so important because with a toxic manager, you will need to remind yourself of your successes. Just because you don’t work well with this particular manager, doesn’t mean your next opportunity will be the same.
What have past managers and/or co-workers said about you? What did you do particularly well in? Write that down to put on your wall.
This will also help you score better jobs to have a list of examples to bring up during the interview process.
4. Create a list of traits that you want in your future manager
There were so many traits that I realized my manager didn’t have that my previous managers did that created a sense of psychological safety. One major one that I realized they lacked was empathy.
They lacked the ability to be understanding to other’s work and communication styles. They wanted everything their way and through communicating with others, I was told that they were most likely a narcissist.
There was no compromise with them and I had to change all of my habits to make them happy. But nothing I did was enough, because there were a ton more requirements added to the list.
Another trait I added to the list was the ability to have patience and adaptability.
Most people don’t quit because of the company, they quit because of a bad manager. Therefore, it is crucial you look for traits of a good manager during the interview process.
5. Treat each interview as an opportunity to evaluate the employer
If you have a toxic manager, it’s time to start looking for new employers to work for.
Don’t be desperate during the job interview process with only focusing on putting yourself in the best light. This is a two-way street. You have to make sure the employer meets your requirements also.
Ask questions to better understand the company leadership values and their future plans.
Some things you want to know about your potential manager are:
- Their values
- Their communication style
- Their understanding of your role
- How they measure performance
- What they think of the previous person in this role
- What success looks like to them in this role
- Their expectations
6. Before accepting a job, talk to the manager’s former direct report
This is one of the best opportunities to get to know your potential manager before starting a new job.
The manager’s former employees will have great insight on the manager and will tell you more than what the manager shared during the interview process. They might even tell you a few red flags that you didn’t catch.
On the other hand, if the former employee praises their manager and says they didn’t leave because of them, that could be a good sign of a manager you could work for.
7. People often treat you the way they view themselves
Sit back and reflect on the personality of your manager. Can you think of ways of why they act the way they do? You’ll begin to realize it’s not always because of you.
I studied the way my manager worked and saw that they worked over 60 hour weeks, sometimes from early morning to late at night. They were constantly stressed out about assignments and kept editing them several times to perfection.
Because of their insecurities with the outcome and having everything perfect, it was reflected into the company culture. This was highly stressful with being in a new role and new department.
In a new role, there is likely to be many mistakes made and room for growth, but a perfectionist won’t accept that. Instead, I was fired 7 months into my new role.
Through a lot of reflection, I learned how our internal thoughts really have an impact on who we work with and this helped me to be more mindful of them when I have direct reports in the future.
One thing I learned after my toxic manager destroyed my confidence is that you should always have 3 – 6 months worth of emergency savings to be able to quit these types of jobs, or 6 – 12 months emergency savings if the economy is rough.
It will help you protect your mental health and give you the opportunity to find another job with a healthy culture.
If you had positive experiences with past jobs, reflect back on those and remind yourself that you have had good experiences with managers. This was just an outlier.
You will find a great manager again, you just have to get better at reading the red flags.
For now, rediscover who you were before this job and find what makes you happy.