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Could the flare up in your anxiety come from having a toxic boss?

By Devan Moonsamy

by Media Xpose

Are you anxious at work around deadlines and the quality of your work when talking to your boss? If you are feeling or having thoughts of dread, distress and fear when completing work for your boss, then you are severely compromising your mental health. Research has shown that a toxic boss can play a significant role in damaging your mental health.

If you are someone who already has anxiety and you are exposed to an environment that amplifies or flares up your anxiety, it can become challenging to get through the work day. Infact, the impact from having to be anxious all day might even make its way to your personal life. Studies conducted have shown research that indicates that a toxic boss can be the reason for chronic depression, lowered immune system as well as severe conditions like suffering a stroke, heart attack or other cardiac conditions. 

There might even be those who don’t know their anxiety is being flared up by their boss. Do you feel stomach aches, perhaps chest tightness or other physical symptoms when you think about your boss? These are some of the changes we experience in our body during a feeling of anxiety. Sometimes one might feel agitated, on edge and irritable at work. Anxiety can also be when you wake up and feel dread to go to work. It might also be the inability to fall asleep at night due to anxiousness of going to work the next day. 

The anxiousness associated with the toxicity of a boss might easily be solved by finding work elsewhere, but the solution is not as easy. Many individuals are working for businesses that they love, however they are only on edge due to the management they work under. As a result, they might not want to leave the workplace because work is good but the boss is not. This might also be the reason that you would avoid your boss. If you need leave or time off, due to the feeling of anxiety you might not want to speak to your boss. 

This is unhealthy and unproductive for your experience in the workplace. Below are a few ways to address and work on the impact having a toxic boss has on your anxiety: 

  • Take a step back and assess where your boss might be coming from. As much as a toxic boss might cause one to doubt self-worth and self-esteem, it is crucial to remember not to take it personally. Chances are their behaviour towards you is due to their own ongoing inner conflict. Sometimes a boss that micromanages, can be a person who has their own issues with matters of control. Even though their toxicity might affect you, it is not about you as a person. 
  • Consider speaking to your manager about the impact of their behaviour on your well-being. This might seem like an impossible approach which might cause alienation or isolation from them, but discussing how you feel might help address the toxicity and improve the working relationship. Chances are the manager might not be fully aware or even if they are aware they might be oblivious to the impact their behaviour is having on your anxiety. If this approach seems daunting, seek advice from other individuals in your circle on how to tackle this. 
  • Try to find something to do that sends positive hormones and chemicals through your body. Take a walk, connect with nature or even exercise to help focus and channel your energy on something more rewarding. This will significantly impact your mood and help manage the triggers to anxiety. If there is a deadline or meeting coming up with your boss, try to work on breathing techniques and even exercises to help manage the levels of anxiety you feel around this. 
  • If nothing seems to be improving you frame of mind and assisting you in managing your anxiety, consider quitting. The reason for this is not that you have accepted defeat, but rather that you have prioritised your mental health and wellness over being in an environment that is negatively impacting you. If it helps look around for alternative work spaces, or request a transfer – if quitting isn’t the option right now, try to find ways to limit the contact with your boss to improve your wellness. 

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African Corporate Training Provider & National Learning Institute. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute. He has also graduated with his Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Majoring in Psychology and Counselling) Practice/Registration Number: CO30161 – Devan is a CCSA Registered Counsellor, Executive Coach and Psychological Safety Wellness Consultant.

The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.


1 – https://hbr.org/2023/03/how-high-achievers-overcome-their-anxiety

2- https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/7-signs-of-a-toxic-boss-and-how-to-deal-with-them

3- https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2019/07/21/why-your-bad-boss-could-literally-be-killing-you

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