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Toxic bosses and toxic handlers

There is a universal law that things will go wrong. No matter how meticulously an enterprise is planned, sometimes, spanners just drop in the works. Some leaders can rise to the challenge, and even use it to inspire the team to new heights. There are others who just can't take it, and immediately start blaming, criticising, and generally taking it out on everyone else. These are the toxic bosses, and they spread a nasty emotional virus.

Ideally, you can detoxify the boss. Emotional intelligence is not fixed, and there are plenty of ways to improve it. People can learn to be less critical and more supportive, but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen. Thousands of bosses spread misery and bad feeling as effectively as spreading cold germs by sneezing.

Often, a natural antidote emerges in the form of someone who soaks up the flak, listens, soothes, and generally takes on the emotional load. These are the toxic handlers. When you've got a good one, it's easier to lean on them than to challenge the boss. They're like perpetual agony aunts, smoothing things over, maybe for years. But there is a limit. As toxic handlers tend to be the type who never say No, the limit might not come until they actually burst. This could mean anything from a migraine to a heart attack, from a surge in sick leave, to total nervous collapse.

Usually, everyone else is amazed, and might even blame the toxic handler. The person who laid the last straw on the camel's back thinks the camel's being unreasonable. It was only a straw for heaven's sake!" The toxic handler seemed so infinitely calm and patient, yet suddenly, they just snapped. It might be the first time anyone notices what a heavy load they've been carrying.

It's better to start by recognising the need for someone to help others to deal with difficulties that come with the job. If it's part of their job-description, they can timetable for it. They can suggest an appointment, rather than feel obliged to drop their own concerns immediately. It's easier for them to take breaks. They may well get more recognition for doing less. With more rest and more respect, their performance is likely to improve.

A toxic handler is a prime financial asset. They help people work through problems while they're at the cross or upset stage. Left to themselves, cross or upset people have a habit of becoming vengeful or debilitated. This has a clear effect on their performance, and an immeasurable effect on profit.

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