My Boss Constantly Criticizes Me & I Feel Demoralized: What Can I Do About This Toxic Work Environment? by Dr. Bethany Cook Clinical Psychologist
Q: I think I’m in a toxic work environment. My boss is very negative and criticizes so much of what I do. I try to get his approval by working harder, but the bar seems to move and I can’t keep up. I feel demoralized. How do I fix it, or is it time to quit?
A. I’m so sorry to hear your working environment is toxic, as that toxicity tends to leak into other areas of your life. A few things to consider before deciding whether to quit or not:
- Does your boss treat other employees the same way they do you? Is this more about their management style rather than a personal attack on you? While it still stinks to be treated poorly, when we see that same person doing it to someone else, it makes it less about “us” and more about “them.” So if they are just a general “jerk,” be like a duck and let their comments roll off your back like water. If they are targeting you specifically, this can be more concerning and difficult to work with.
- What type of recognition are you looking for? It's important to have in mind what you “want” before switching up how hard you work, because what you want determines where you put the extra effort. Are you looking for positive feedback like “good job,” a bonus, increase in hourly wages, promotion, etc.? Will this person be able to provide you what you seek to feel valued?
- After you identify what type of approval you are seeking, are you able to find anything work related that shows you how to achieve it? Are there steps you need to take? People you need to get to know? A formal process of paperwork that HR starts?
- Finally, ask yourself if finding another job is possible. Sometimes, where you live and what you have access to limits one's opportunities for work. If finding a new job that pays the same can easily be done, I would consider doing it merely for the sake of your mental health. No one can be in a toxic environment for 40-plus hours a week and not have it negatively impact other areas of their life.
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