The effects of a toxic leader take root at work. But, the problems aren’t always identified until well woven into our whole life. A toxic leader creates situations where an employee is overly criticized, devoid of affirmation, explicitly controlled, or put in an unfair role.
We are hardwired to follow the people who have leading roles in our life and at work. Therefore, it can feel strange to “unlearn” patterns of behavior we learned when we were young and change the dynamic of our relationship with them.
But, here’s something to remember. Healing from the effects of toxic leadership isn’t just about telling “no” to our boss. It’s equally important to reclaim that part of ourselves that was wounded. This means the best way to heal is by learning to communicate with our healthy self.
In this article, I present 5 super useful tactics for healing from a toxic leader.
1. Rebuild your voice
If you’ve never felt comfortable to express your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, it’s easy to get lost in the strongest voice in the room, a.k.a. a toxic leader. Super confident and overly critical, they cover every alternative voice around them. However, you can rebuild your voice and state your opinions. For example, you could practice voicing your opinions with a person you trust and assert your preferences in small ways. You could also express more of what you think into conversations at work. You can even hire a communication coach to help you rebuild and improve your unique voice!
2. Reclaim your worth
Toxic leaders criticize, disrespect, ignore, or abuse employees. That behavior probably instilled some harsh self-talk in your mind. It’s amazing how we pick up on cruel messages from others and internalize them toward ourselves. But, we can change the way we talk about ourselves by reframing the critical thoughts. For example, “You’re not fit for this position, you just don’t have the skills” can be reframed into “I was chosen to be in this position because I had the skills and each day I am going to take the next step where I want to be”.
3. Recover your individuality
The negative effects of toxic leaders can lead you to believe that your goals, interests, emotions, and ideas don’t have any merit. Thus, part of the healing process involves reclaiming your individuality. For example, empathic leaders spend time trying to understand who their employees are and what they are good at. If your leader didn’t help you learn these preferences, start with the basics of getting to know yourself better. Give yourself permission to think about what you like in this job, even if it’s hard. As you define your interests and preferences, notice how it feels and remind yourself that what you like is a reflection of the unique YOU.
4. Reestablish a sense of self-esteem
If your toxic leader used to micro-manage you and your work, you may feel a sense of chaos internally. However, you can teach yourself what self-esteem feels like. Start by creating a self-esteem plan. For instance, try to have a solid understanding of your skills, seek and maintain healthy relationships, have realistic expectations of yourself and your abilities, understand and express your needs. As you reestablish your sense of self-esteem, you understand your potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges and paths in life. Don’t let a toxic leader define your worth, you know better!
5. Receive (ask) care
Healing from the damage of a toxic leader doesn’t happen in isolation. You need to spend time with someone who can extend compassion and clarity. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and receive care. Find someone who can help you see yourself clearly and objectively. Someone who you can talk with in a safe space. For example, schedule appointments with a counselor, mentor, therapist, coach or trusted advisor. Whatever source of care you choose, make sure your goal is clear: to get support from someone who will make that time about you.
Work with me
Are you ready to transform your workplace communication style, so that you become an engaged leader who empowers others using the power of conversation?
Hey, I’m Eleni and I’m a certified executive communication coach and strategist with a PhD in Linguistics, who has been studying how people’s behavior is influenced by the way you talk and communicate since 2005.
Using practices, methods, and techniques backed by scientific research in linguistics and coaching psychology, I’ll help you build confidence and competence in your unique communication skills, so that you get not only seen, but heard and recognized as a leader in your workplace.
So, if you’re a leader, professional, or coach who is ready to stop trying to figure it all out yourself and crack the code to getting your voice heard, successfully transforming your communication style, book a call with me!
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Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash