I am a PM, the environment I am working in now is gradually becoming toxic, my Boss seems to be the main culprit.

The situation:

  • Briefly mentioned in another thread, he is now taking away flex lunch times. Thank you for your advice in that thread, but I am starting to realise now that the problem might be bigger and is more to do with the way he wants to run his company moving forward.

I have decided from that thread not to mention anything to my boss, but let him mention it to the team directly for him to see the reaction he receives at the next team meeting.

  • He is hard to please, and is always unhappy about something.

To give an example of this, after getting the team to commit and deliver work for him on time, he will then complain that other pieces of work have not been delivered effectively changing the project scope without my consent and making me liable.

This leads to a lot of heated discussions between us, where I have to remind him that the project scope has changed.

  • The team he is primarily leading, sales, is very low on morale right now. They are under performing, one team member is actively looking for another job elseware.

During lunch breaks, they are always complaining about him, complaining that he is too authoritarian in his approach.

The team that I am leading, the development team are high morale and consistently deliver, they are however starting to get affected by my Boss's authoritarian attitude.

  • He has a difficult time respecting work/life balance, we are a small company based in the UK where our contracted hours is 40 hours a week.

However, the company does not pay well, and overtime is unpaid, yet he expects us to work 55 hours a week ideally, and says that we are not working hard enough despite delivering everything he has asked for on a week by week bases.

Many of my team members have extra curricular activities and are in relationships. My partner has also been complaining that I am working too many hours a week, and would prefer that I switched off and spend time with her.

I have made the decision to look for another job, but before I leave I want to improve the situation of the company, so that it is a more enjoyable environment for the rest of the team to work in.

Right now, I am doing my best to protect my team, showing reports (burndown charts, gaant charts, cumulative flow diagrams etc), giving recommendations on how we can improve our processes better etc Even if initially he agrees, it is not long before he sets back into old ways.

Any tips for anyone else that has been in a similar situation? If so, how did you improve things?

  • I asked a similar question in this thread: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/70539/…, where the manager says things different from documents, it is disheartening. I encourage you to present any advise you have from the point of a company at the brink of a downfall, UNLESS he implements strategies to avert the issues you identify. He's probably worried about his investment or some other investment elsewhere, and the best you can do is assure him that your ideas implemented will ensure the best results for his investment, not what he is doing. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:11
  • Sales isn't going well, so I think yeah, that is playing a part in him constantly being grumpy. The negativity is making the office atmosphere dead. People are happy when he is not in the office.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:12
  • 7
    You can't improve it - you have no power over your superiors, and if you really think the company is toxic, it's time to refresh your resume
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:38
  • 9
    You're being paid 40 hours, work 40 hours. Its in the UK, they can't fire you for doing just that. Call his bluff and start ignoring his outrageous ideas when he mentions them. Since you're looking for a new job anyways, there is no reason to burn 15 unpaid hours a week in a company that is clearly not worth it. Go spend time with your partner instead, and stop trying to please someone who is obviously unpleasable.
    – Magisch
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:47
  • 2
    Have you signed an opt out from the WTD to work more than 48 hours a week
    – Pepone
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


In general it looks like you need a more confrontational and direct course of action against him. You already decided that you will be looking for a new job, so you aren't constrained by this being a career limiting move down the line.

First of all: Stop working unpaid overtime. This may be career limiting in your company, but you don't care for that since you're already looking for a new job. There is no need to burn away your life for a company and a manager with no regard for you or your work.

Second of all: When HR asks you on your exit interview why you left, be honest. Don't be insulting, but be honest. If more people leave and say the same they may decide to sack him, too.

There are some people who aren't able to ever be satisfied, and have no regard for anything but their bottom line and bonuses. Your manager seems to be one of them. Stop trying to please this person who is obviously unpleasable.

  • When I move on, I will get a good reference from him, he is not the vindictive sort of guy. I don't want to piss him off too much in case he doesn't do that. Collectively we are avoiding overtime, he knows it, and knows there is nothing much that he can do, but he gets grumpy which affected the vibe of the office.
    – bobo2000
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:17

You're looking for a job, that's the #1 thing. As you said, it's damaging your relationship. NO job is worth that. First hand experience here.

As to making it less toxic, it's hard when it's the boss that is the source. I recommend "booking him". No more unpaid OT for anyone. He wants to do things by the book, then by the book it is.

The only thing you can do to limit his effect is to not get into heated arguments with him. This can be done with the art of pushback.

Whenever he pulls his nonsense of trying to get you and your team to commit to something specific, ask what he wants to put on the back burner in order to get that done.

A project manager I knew had a whiteboard with everything he was involved in written on it. IF someone asked him to squeeze something in, he'd say "sure, just tell me which one of these projects I should put on hold to get it done".

It made his situation very clear.

An approach like this also holds management accountable for any changes they make, with the added bonus of you not being in the position to say no.

You can even go a step further and create a scope-change document detailing how resources will be diverted and have him sign it.

If he wants to micromanage, the pushback is to overburden him until he backs off. Any time he makes a change, send him an email, CC your team documenting it. "As per our conversation, the new changes are X with a new estimated delivery date of Y"

Later when he blows his stack, just hand him copies of the emails and ask where you went wrong. Keep calm.

If you do all of this, his erratic behavior may get him removed from his position


I have been in a similar Situation, where our Boss didnt handle all the things so well.

You are being worked 55 hours on an 40 hours work week.
This sounds to me like your either getting 15 badly paid overhours or not at all.

You Need to draw the line here, he cant expect you to work 15 extra hours for nothing.
Seeing as you and your team are getting relationship problems ask for freetime on a different date.

Make a list of priorities say we set hours on this and we work 40hours a week pp. When you want someone else faster move it up the list we give an estimate of hours. Thats how we work. When you want us to work more hours, make it worth our while.

Do note you might wanna take this down a notch, but make sure you get him to understand that his demands are to big and simply not possible for your Team, when he disagrees say then I need to hire more developers since we can't do this with our current resources.

The team he is primarily leading, sales, is very low on morale right now. They are under performing, one team member is actively looking for another job elseware.

You yourself can't do anything about his Teams morale. Perhaps it is time for fresh blood, but that isnt your call. Try and look for improvements you might be able to make for the sales team.

Tell him how the office feels about his new Regime, he needs to know.

My Situation might not apply or help yours, but when my Boss gave us more freedom we got things running again.

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