I love my job and I am with an employer that everyone dreams of in my field. The only discordant note is my boss. He is angry, very difficult to please, in addition to being controlling. Our team is young and I can see that many fear speaking openly and keep their distance. For me, resigning is out of the question. What else can I do? – Isabelle

Research data shows that nearly 14% of employees have observed or experienced abusive supervision. So the unfortunate situation you are experiencing is quite common. The negative impacts of a toxic relationship with your boss are documented and well known: decreased engagement, burnout, talent leaving, loss of confidence, questioning of your skills, and of course, decreased productivity.

Many employees resolve their problem by migrating to another employer. You have ruled out this option and are instead looking to remedy the situation. Here are some things to think about and three key questions to help you determine how you might intervene constructively.

Intervening in the face of inappropriate behavior at work is a challenge in itself. The situation appears even more delicate when it concerns your boss. We must recognize that we are used to seeing the boss-employee relationship through the prism of a relationship of dependence, or even a passive attitude of helplessness or victim.

To get out of this posture, it is wise to carry out some introspection work by asking yourself to what extent you contribute to the maintenance of toxic relationships at work through your negligence, or through certain of your behaviors likely to fuel this type of relationship.

In short, by realizing that you and your boss are in a relationship of mutual dependence, this opens up possibilities, including that of asserting yourself more by seeking to “manage your boss” in a more proactive way, in the collective interest. He needs you as much as you need him. It would be wise to start on this basis in your search for solutions.

Regardless of the intervention strategy you choose, you will have to make explicit the toxic nature of your boss’s behavior. It is therefore a good first step to objectively document the harmful behaviors you have observed, including their effects and the context in which they manifest.

In this regard, it is wise to seek other perspectives, from your colleagues, a mentor and even internal or external experts, in order to validate your interpretation of the situation. Also, don’t hesitate to question colleagues who seem to get along well with your boss, if there are any, of course. This might give you more nuanced information about it.

First of all, consider that very often, adopting toxic behaviors is not a conscious choice for the person. In fact, it is possible that your boss has a major blind spot regarding his actions and their impacts, namely how others experience the situation and what they think or say about him in his absence.

Ask yourself how to pass this information on to him without accentuating the problem or putting yourself at risk recklessly, because acting alone could very well turn against you. As the problem seems collective, you could try to create solidarity between colleagues affected by the situation, by means of a formal complaint or a petition exposing the unacceptable situation and the need to remedy it. But be careful, because you will see that it is often difficult to rally everyone around such an approach and that this type of alliance remains precarious.

Another option would be to contact your boss’s supervisor. But in this case, consider your organization’s management culture and your boss’s likely reaction, as this could be perceived as a lack of loyalty. If this is the case, see if another trusted, neutral, credible and well-placed person in the organization could intervene with your boss.

Finally, you could discuss with human resources how to approach your boss or people in authority to try to make things happen. These internal experts could also assess what type of support would be offered to help him do his supervisory work better without the toxic effects caused by his attitude or behavior.

In any case, if you decide to be the bearer of the message, you will have to face the challenge of preparing a conversation that will be difficult, that is, giving him critical feedback without attacking him personally. In preparation for this meeting, a good idea is to write him a message that clearly conveys what you want to say. You will probably never send it, but this exercise will allow you to clarify your thoughts, find the right tone to express your dismay and show your willingness to improve the situation.

It is prudent to take a step back. Even if, for the moment, you are not considering terminating your employment relationship, it would be wise not to completely rule out this option, especially if your mental and physical health are affected. You could thus equip yourself with an initial plan B, without burning the bridges behind you, by considering the possibility of rejoining the team later, when the situation has evolved favorably.