Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Toxic Boss by AJ Joseph

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

T is forToxic Boss
AJ Joseph
In June of last year, I left the company that I had set up with my ex-boss turned business partner. It was difficult to leave a company I’d help start but I couldn’t stay in a place where I was being worn down emotionally every single day by someone I used to call mentor. This was the second time I had parted ways with her.
The first time was two years earlier when I’d resigned from the consulting firm she’d set up. Then, I was just a lowly employee, the most senior consultant. When I handed in my resignation letter, I told her that I needed to help my recently retired parents move back to my hometown and that I’d have to stay with them for a bit till they settled. This was not entirely true as my parents were perfectly capable of doing the move themselves and had everything mostly dealt with already. The real reason I left was because I was drowning in her toxicity and the only way to leave was to lie. Everyone who had left before me, left with some version of a lie. I found out later that we all chose lies that she wouldn’t be able to use to convince us to stay because that’s what she does, she’ll take your words, and twist it, and turn it until all you see is a gift and the next thing you know, you’re retracting your resignation. I know, because it happened to me.     
It’s difficult to adequately explain what she’s like to people who don’t work for her because when she’s out and about meeting with clients, she’s the epitome of friendliness and grace, a social butterfly. In the office, she rules with an iron fist and a razor sharp tongue capable of making you feel that your worth is less than an amoeba’s.
There was one time, when we were organizing an office do for associates; she’d told us that she would take care of the catering. We all breathed a sigh of relief. On the day itself, 2 hours before the event, she asked when the food would be ready and we looked at her, our eyes widened. No one wanted to remind her that she had said she’d take care of catering, though eventually I did, knowing that she would not admit she forgot. True enough, she said that she’d not said such a thing so now we had to scramble to go to the nearest mall and get food and drinks! And even when that was done, she criticized our choices – “Why did you get this cheese? Why not the other sort? Are we only going to serve these drinks? Did you get ice?” I stood there, trembling with rage and told her that this was the best we could do since it was last minute. “Don’t get so emotional,” she replied.   
She has this ability to make you feel smaller than a grain of sand. I was never enough, no matter how much I tried and to my detriment, I kept trying. I tried for nearly 10 years to be the person she wanted me to be. By then, I didn’t even recognize who I really was and what I really wanted.
And even when I decided to leave, it was a path filled with thorns. She accused me of deceiving her because she assumed that when I decided to go into partnership with her, I’d be with her forever. She had plans, she told me, plans to get her doctorate and now that I’m leaving, I’d upset her plans of that as well. I had turned her life upside down and she’d make me pay. I compromised by not leaving in the next 3 months as per my contract but in the next year. The weeks that followed that declaration were filled with painful silences, she rarely came into the office and she avoided my gaze. 
When I eventually left, I felt a sort of lightness. I had been in a place where I was suppressed and subjugated and that marked me. More colleagues left after I did and one of them (braver than I ever was) told her that she was giving her 24 hour notice because she didn’t want to stay any longer than that and experience more ill treatment. A few of us who once worked with the Toxic Boss still keep in touch and now we can laugh about our past work experience and we’d say that we’re all suffering from a sort of PTSD which I think is partially true. Work shouldn’t be traumatic but working with the Toxic Boss was that and so much more.
I still have dreams where she’s in it and shouting at me for no reason but at least, in the morning, I wake up and she’s gone.        
AJ Joseph is a bookaholic, semi-insomniac, unsuccessful recovering javaholic, but most importantly a writer. She is currently in the process of reinventing her life around her first love: words. She blogs about her writing adventures at


  1. I'm glad you finally got away from her, AJ Nobody needs that type of negativity in their lives. I know it's not easy to walk away from your job, but peace of mind is worth a lot.

    1. If only I realised it sooner though. I feel as if I may have had a mild version of Stockholm syndrome...

  2. Oh my gosh AJ, I feel like we were working for the same person! Your post made my blood boil all over again. I too suffered with a toxic boss, a woman and I quit that job a year ago this month. This woman drove me to distraction with her nit-picking and micromanagement of my every move. I grew to despise her because she was indeed toxic and sought to publicly embarrass me at every turn. I don't know where these toxic bosses come from but I hope they stop making them sometime soon. Thanks for your thought provoking post, from a fellow A to Z blogger. & Thank God, we are already on "T".

    1. Oh gosh Stephanie, you mean there's more than one toxic boss??? It was a truly horrible experience working with that kind of person, it wears you down until you just can't tell which way is up nor down. Glad you're out of it too :)

  3. Replies
    1. Everyday that I am away, I am grateful :)

  4. Having had a toxic boss or two, not to mention toxic coworkers, this struck a chord. Thank you.

    1. Hi Melanie - My toxic boss overwhelmed any toxic coworkers I've ever had. Thanks for dropping by :)

  5. I'm so glad you got away from her. It's so soul-destroying to be in a relationship (business or otherwise) with someone like that :(


***NOTICE*** Thanks to a spam bot infestation, every comment must now be subjected to a full-body search. If you pass, you can skip the anal probing...maybe.