On top of the usual office slackers and irritating chismosas, can we all agree that there's nothing worse than a toxic boss? They have the ability to make your nine-to-five daily routine quite dreadful, and they can kill employee morale in a snap. If you've ever worked for a difficult boss, you know how detrimental it can be to a person's wellness. We asked seven Pinays how they dealt with toxic superiors and the lessons they learned along the way.
Cath, professional administrative
"I worked as a virtual assistant for a US-based employer. Everything was okay at first: He was nice and the pay was good. Over time, I started becoming overwhelmed with the amount of work handed to me. I had to talk to him at some point, to tell him my capabilities compared to the expectations he set for me and the problems I'm encountering with some of the tasks. But he didn't listen. He still expected everything to be done.
It made me see the importance of looking out for myself and my best interest in the workplace.
I ended up getting sick because I was stressed and overworked. I did not go to work one day and I went to the doctor for a check-up where I was given a medical certificate and was required to rest for three days. When I presented it, I was greeted with the F word and was insulted for not returning to work the day before—despite my letting him know that I was not feeling well. I cried so hard and it was at that point that I told myself it was time to leave the job.
That experience taught me to never lose sight of my self-worth and to not let others take advantage of me. That it's okay to say no, especially when things are not okay. Also, how my workmates treat me also depends on what I allow, that's why it's important to set boundaries and have mutual respect. It made me see the importance of looking out for myself and my best interest in the workplace."
"I used to work for a publishing company. As a newbie in the industry, akala ko normal lang yung pagsigaw and yung pinagagalitan ako sa harap ng madaming tao. I just realized that everything was wrong when I told these stories to other people and when we compared work experiences.
But since I was a newcomer, I was afraid to speak out. Instead, I shared my experienced with some colleagues. Little did I know na yung isa sa pinag she-sharan ko ng work 'problems' ko ay kamag-anak pala ng boss ko. So I was not surprised when they wanted to demote me and replace me with my junior (my boss' relative). Office politics aside, I still remained professional and even worked for them for four years.
What I learned during that time is that you can never go wrong with kindness. You can settle anything without screaming and by communicating in a kind way. Now, as manager, I have a good relationship with my staff because I always keep in mind what I felt years ago when I was still starting—and I don't want my staff to feel the same way."
"I used to work as an Account Manager for a small hotel in Manila. My then-boss was actually a nice person. I can consider him a friend but as a superior, he was really short-tempered. Honestly, it was harder to set clear boundaries because of our friendship.
I was only 23. But as I became more mature and learned a lot in the past years, I realized that things would probably work out if we had a private sit-down talk, with clear intentions about my professional concerns.
We all deserve to be treated well. Let's always remember our worth. It can be scary when we don't have a Plan B. But when we set our boundaries, when we come from a place of self-love, it always leads us to the right path.
The moment I decided to resign is still vivid. I forgot to update a planner and when my boss saw it, he threw my notebook in front of me and my officemates. I was humiliated. I went out for a sales call right after but I was crying on my way there. I decided I didn't deserve to be treated that way. I had no backup plan, but I decided to give my resignation letter that afternoon.
I manage my own company now. I want to be the kind of boss I needed years prior. Our culture in the office is very family-oriented, it just makes work so much light and fun. But when it comes to work, we are very objective and we professionally handle issues and not resort to humiliation, etc.
Here's one more takeaway: Learn to walk away. We all deserve to be treated well. Let's always remember our worth. It can be scary when we don't have a Plan B. But when we set our boundaries, when we come from a place of self-love, it always leads us to the right path."
Kat, human resources
"I have always been passionate about the work that I do. For the past 10 years, I was able to keep the fire burning until such time that I moved to a different organization and met my new boss.
She was truly different and I felt like she gaslighted me. She made me feel incompetent even though she wasn't clear about her expectations. She got mad for unknown reasons. I was used to managing my emotions and was a constant support system to my peers who were experiencing anxiety—but when I was faced with the same fear, I had an emotional breakdown, to the point na I sleep na iiyak and nagigising ng naiiyak, and that happened for almost one month.
I decided to prioritize my mental health so I took a month-long break to enjoy life. During that time, I realized that we can't pour on an empty cup. My mental health is more important than anything else. And if you think a person abuses you emotionally, never doubt your feelings and acknowledge it."
Lunafreya, retail and marketing
"My co-workers warned me how difficult it was to work with our manager the moment I entered the company. For a while, I was thankful that I was not working directly under her but when the pandemic hit, she requested that I worked for her. I was very discouraged at first, especially after hearing the horror stories, but I realized I should give her a chance.
I needed a mentor to guide me but sadly, I was left to fend for myself. She had high expectations but was unwilling to share any insights and train us in any way.
Turns out, the rumors were true. I was just a fresh graduate and I admit that I still have a lot to learn. I needed a mentor to guide me but sadly, I was left to fend for myself. She had high expectations but was unwilling to share any insights and train us in any way. There were also instances when she threw the team under the bus just to save herself in front of management. I hoped she turned out to be more of a leader to us than a boss.
I didn't voice out my concerns and I stayed because I love my work. But after a year, I realized that there are superiors who'll genuinely want me to learn and grow as a professional. Now, I am employed in a job where my manager is more of a mentor. She coaches us, values our ideas, and makes me feel like we're a team."
Queenie, information technology
"I always regarded myself as someone who is receptive to feedback and every coaching session I had with my boss was turned into an opportunity to further improve myself.
Things changed when I started to notice that even when I do exactly what my boss wanted, there was nothing that could please her. Expectations rose to unreachable levels that even when I went above and beyond and was the best performing, award-winning, model employee, I couldn't get a raise or a promotion.
I was able to air out my concerns directly to my boss but I also made a commitment to communicate in a timely manner if I had any feedback for her. It was supposed to be a give-and-take situation. But it was a hopeless case.
It took me years to decide but I finally realized that my sanity was priceless. I dreaded going to work every day and all the stress was starting to manifest physically.
It was hard to emerge from the slump that I was in. I got too scared to try again after my resignation because I was afraid that I will never be good enough. I felt like I was an impostor and that all the good things they said about me were just empty words. But you've got to give yourself more credit than that. You've got to give yourself time to heal. When I was feeling lost, I wrote down what I wanted to do now that I was free. It turned into a bucket list, a sort of guide, to find myself again and live again.
One thing I can share with you from that list is this: 'Forgive yourself and allow yourself to feel your emotions. Your emotions are valid. How you take action against what you're feeling is up to you and you must always remind yourself that you have to let go of things that are beyond your control.'"
"I worked as a creative for a tech company for eight months and I would say it wasn't difficult at first. It was a start-up and I was one of the pioneer employees in their local office so my boss was attached to me. But during my stay, I realized I have no future in the company as they are more focused on other things, and that they treat us, the creatives, as unessential. My career became stagnant.
Other things also happened and I felt my mental health deteriorating. I submitted my resignation in the hopes that I will be able to focus on my recovery. My former boss didn't accept it as a valid reason for resignation and said upfront that I should just get medicine like what he does. He even told me that maybe I was just bored and didn't want to admit it to him.
The lack of career growth and that instance when I felt that my boss didn't really value my mental health became the turning point. Even when I was getting hefty pay and had a lot of free time, these weren't that important as my mental health.
Now, I'm blessed enough to have found a job and a boss that treats my mental health issues as valid. At the end of the day, your mental well-being is more important than the salary, and trust me, there are other companies and bosses who'll value this."
*Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
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