Is Your Boss Affecting Your Mental Health?

Published on: 07 Aug 2018
woman leading a meeting in a conference room

One-third of our life is spent at work. That’s nearly 90,000 hours of life. Suffice it to say that if you are spending that much time at work, it needs to be a positive environment that does not compromise your mental health. And the relationship with your boss is maybe the most vital piece for a healthy workplace.

In fact, it can make it or break your work experience. There’s a thin line between a boss being a weak leader or incapable of managing a team, and being toxic and draining. Both can impact your mental health. Another type of boss is one that has zero boundaries in the name of being “friends” with you. An example of this would be listening to your boss dish at the office to you about their marriage, kids, wild nights out, and personal life. We don’t always peg that type of employee/boss relationship as harmful to our mental health, as many times we perceive it as the fact that they are trusting us with valuable info, but it can take a toll and can lead to uncomfortable or inappropriate situations.

If any scenarios below sound familiar it may be time to recalibrate your relationship with your boss so that it doesn’t negatively impact your mental health.. If you have been in therapy or are familiar with self improvement, you are familiar with the “B” word — boundaries.

Many times, we are intimidated to establish boundaries with someone once a negative pattern has been initiated, but it’s never too redefine or re-establish boundaries — in the long term, they’ll keep you happier, and more productive at work.

Dealing with the Uncommunicative Boss

Defining Features:

  • Nonchalant
  • Lack of direction
  • Fears confrontation

This type of boss perhaps means well, but they have difficulty leading and managing a team — and especially in communicating their expectations clearly. Perhaps it’s because they feel inferior, or perhaps it’s because they’re afraid of not being liked by everyone on the team. Reality alert: this isn’t your problem, and you need to establish boundaries so that they don’t punt on their authority and responsibilities, while trying not to get their hands dirty.

Additional work put on your plate results in more stress and anxiety, which directly impacts your mental health. It’s important to be honest and upfront with your boss and let them know when something is their responsibility or your need help with something. It’s important to recalibrate expectations and workloads so that responsibilities and duties are not being shifted due to their poor leadership skills. It’s never an easy conversation to have, but your boss/employee relationship (and your mental health) will be better for it.

Dealing with an Authoritative Boss

Defining Features:

  • Harsh
  • Abrasive
  • Intense

A boss with extreme mood swings, outlandish expectations, and intensity can be one of the most difficult, toxic types of bosses to work with. This boss’s overly demonstrative, bullying ways can sometimes verge into emotional or verbal abuse and can actually be the most detrimental to your well-being.

This type of boss causes us to undervalue ourselves, putting self-love and self-care on the back burner. Resetting boundaries with this person can be tricky but is essential to maintaining your mental health — and self respect. The best way to reset this relationship is to do the work expected of you, and help colleagues do the same, but maintain firm boundaries in regards to tasks and hours.

If your bosses behavior doesn’t improve after setting a meeting to go over your concerns, it may be time to bring in your HR department and explain how the bullying management style is affecting your mental health. With luck, the matter will then be dealt with professionally and anonymously. Talk to your therapist if you have any questions or concerns on how to facilitate these conversations tactfully and professionally.

Dealing with an Unprofessional Boss

Defining Features:

  • Divulges too much of their personal life (or asks for the details of yours)
  • Passive aggressive
  • Views employees as peers

TV’s most loved boss, Michael Scott, may make us laugh during a TBS Office Marathon, but when you’re dealing with this person IRL, it’s a whole different ball game. This type of boss views his or her employees as peers (or pals) and treats them as such, which crosses all sorts of boundaries. We may find it flattering at first — it feels good to have your co-worker, who is also your boss, divulge things to you that could make you feel like you’re a confidant or favorite.

However, as these boundaries shift and lines are blurred, you may find yourself drained by the conversations and baggage they decide to place on your “mental” desk. This is a disservice to you, can be detrimental to your mental health, and can cause us to feel anxious at work and after-hours, as though you always need to be on call and available to help them.

Remember, you are not your boss’s therapist. You are their employee and have not been hired to be a helpline or source of support. Your boss has people outside of the workplace for that — friends, family, hopefully a therapist. The best way to combat this sort of inappropriate boss-employee relationship is to begin to reset boundaries as the transgressions happen, letting them know that you’re not comfortable being their confidant.

Navigating your boss-employee relationship can be a tricky thing. It’s always tricky to reset boundaries with anyone in a position of power or authority in any work environment, but it is essential nonetheless. As you establish limits in the workplace, you will see a positive change in your mental health with your career, impacting other areas of your mental health journey and your life.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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