The word “toxic” is mostly used in describing intimate relationships where one or both of the members have a feeling of physical, emotional, or psychological instability. It may interest you to note that toxic relationships exist between bosses and their employees. But this aspect is usually swept under the carpet since the employees; who are supposed to speak up are silenced by the fact that these bosses pay them a salary.

These bosses also cash in on the unavailability of jobs to trample on the right of their employees. A simple instance is an employee who has been employed as a receptionist in an organization. As a receptionist, you are paid to work and welcome clients,  and the scope of your job( as indicated on your employment letter) is within the confines of your office. You then find your boss imploring you to help him or her buy things at the market or pick up children from school.

If care is not taken, relationships like this may degenerate to being toxic because a time will come when your workload would not permit such activities. It would be then your boss would consider you as being stubborn or rebellious and would eventually make life uncomfortable for you at your workplace.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what formal employees go through. Now, you can imagine what the informal and the semi-formal employees like artisans and apprentices go through. With the current use of social media, many people have been able to share their experiences with the toxicity exhibited by their bosses, both in their physical and remote employment.

However, most employees don’t see it coming because they are unaware of the signs. It is for this reason this article is written; to bring to your notice the signs and statements made by toxic bosses.

What is a toxic work environment?

A toxic work environment is a coinage that is used in the description of a workplace or workspace characterized by disagreements, and conflict between the people that work there. It could also be defined as an environment that negatively impacts the productivity of both the individuals and the organization at large.

This usually results from the employer who may be more interested in abnormal or selfish interest, resulting in utilizing unacceptable and unhealthy means to oversee the organization.

Being a toxic boss could also be a reaction to toxic employees who are not committed to their duties, either due to non-satisfaction with the working conditions or general laissez-faire attitude; since the organization does not belong to them.

The issues of toxic workspaces have become a global issue with the rising cases of office bullying; which has necessitated the intervention of various governments through the passage of bills like the ‘healthy workplace bill’ in some countries.

Sample Statements Made By Toxic Bosses

  1. “You’re Privileged to work for me”

This is a common statement made by toxic bosses. They make this statement to portray themselves as the boss they feel they are. However, it is unfortunate why such statements should arise; because every employee who is employed goes through the rigour of schooling, screenings, and interviews and must be qualified before being given the job. So, when employers make such statements, it is made with a direct intention to demoralize the employee’s self-value and confidence, which is simply toxicity. Another variant of this statement is “I could employ someone else to take your role”. Even if you have the power to do so,  courtesy demands that you value your employees, no matter their conditions.

  1. “It was all my idea”

There might not be any problems with this statement if it was truly their idea. But in a situation where the boss constantly takes the credit due to the employee, calls for concern. This is an indirect way of devaluing an employee, who may begin to display nonchalance and not be diligent as before since their inexorable efforts are not recognized.

  1. “Just figure it out”

There are instances where employees run into difficulties while carrying out their responsibilities. Such situations make them come to their boss for confirmation or questions. As a boss, it is your responsibility to support them, and you can give further instructions when necessary; rather than just dismiss them. On the other hand, if you feel they constantly forget the instructions you give, find a way to formally address it (perhaps during your organization’s meeting). Doing so is more polite than just dismissing them with this phrase.

  1. “You don’t need to know, you are only on a need-to-know basis”

A lot of bosses hide the progress of the organization from their employees. There are both positive and negative effects to this. The positive effect is good employees are more encouraged when their company makes progress; the negative effect is the reverse being the case for the un- committed employees. Therefore, be transparent enough to let your employees know the company is at least making progress, even if you intend to hide the degree of their progress.

  1. “I don’t have time”

It is quite understandable that bosses are also bound to have busy schedules, but the problem arises when you claim to always be very busy without creating time to attend to your employees. For instance, if an employee comes to you when you’re very busy, politely ask for a reschedule; rather than just dismiss them and do all you can to keep to your rescheduled time. This boosts them to have confidence in you and makes work more effective.

  1. Not saying anything at all

Some bosses believe in the silent treatment. This type of boss doesn’t interact with their employees. As such, the employees cannot ascertain their take on the quality of work done.


Healthy relationships between bosses and employees bring about higher productivity in the company. Hence, bosses shouldn’t act as their employees work to only benefit themselves.

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