I Worked For a Toxic Boss and Still Got What I Wanted From My Career — Here’s How

Women Talking at Work


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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 14, 2024 at 11:43AM UTC

Often, working for a toxic boss means having to bite your tongue and suppress your feelings and opinions. It's not easy to demand what you deserve — like a promotion or a raise — when you're working for someone who doesn't seem to recognize the value you bring to the table.

Working for a toxic boss may mean having to push a little harder to get what it is that you need or want out of your job. We asked women how they were still able to find success in landing promotions, raises and other accomplishments, despite working for toxic bosses. Here's what they had to say.

1. When there were none, she created opportunities for herself.

"I worked hard to create an opportunity," says Sanjota Purohit of Hackytips. "Two years ago, I was working for a software company. It was a UK-based company, and everyone had the chance for onsite deputation. However, my manager was not proposing my name for the travel. Every other team member who had less experience than me was getting the visa to travel to the UK. So I stood my ground and didn't let it go."
Purohit says that she learned everything required for the onsite project. And, the next time there was an urgent request for someone to tend to an onsite project, nobody was eligible except for her. 
"The manager couldn't play his game because he knew it would adversely affect the project and create a bad impression in front of clients," she says. "So that is how I managed to [get the project] despite working for a toxic boss — instead of cribbing for opportunities, I created one for myself."

2. She tried her best to understand her boss.

"I find it normal to encounter a toxic boss — when I stepped into a corporate job right after college, I'd already expected it, which made it a lot easier for me to handle my toxic boss," says Pratibha Vuppuluri of She Started It!. "What I did is just focus on the work. While it can get stressful at times, I just continue working until the boss is pleased."
Vuppuluri adds that, whenever she is given a chance to speak in private with her boss, she takes the opportunity to tell her boss how she is feeling, communicate her concerns and try to better understand them.
"My advice is, when you have a toxic boss, never stop understanding your boss," she says. "Also, if you get a chance, talk to your boss so your concerns will be properly addressed."

3. She wrote her boss a compelling letter he couldn't ignore.

"I was able to land a job promotion, despite working for a manterrupting, mansplaining boss in a male-dominated workforce," says Jade, who works in biomedical engineering. "I was due for a promotion having been at the company for four years in the same position, making the same pay. So, eventually, I was able to make my case."
Jade says that she knew her boss was going to have a difficult time actually listening to her without talking over her had she gone in to express her interest in a promotion in person. So, instead, she wrote him a letter.
"I put all of my accomplishments down on paper with hard facts to support my case," she says. "This way, he couldn't refute what I was saying. And he couldn't try to mansplain my position to me. He was forced to read what I put in front of him — and it was the simple truth that I deserved the promotion. Well, it worked!"

4. She showed her boss how her success helps the company succeed, too.

"Getting a raise at my company is virtually unheard of!" says Sammy, who is currently still working for her toxic boss at a small retailer. "I finally landed one just a few weeks ago after pushing for it for ages. The company just doesn't have a very big budget, so they string us all along until we quit, and then they just hire replacements at a starting salary again. The job doesn't require much training, so it's easy for them, but it doesn't make for a great workplace culture."
Sammy says she was able to land a raise by talking to her boss about the importance of the company culture to her.
"I walked into my boss' office and told her that I didn't want to quit but that, after years with the company, if I didn't get a raise or see room for growth, I knew I'd have to," she says. "I ultimately told my that I really, truly value the company and want to help create a culture there. I convinced her that creating that culture was only possible with retention. I basically proved to her how giving me a raise isn't only good for me but also good for the company. And she gave me one in the very next pay period!"

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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