A boss who undermines you all the time is bad, right?
Obviously. Everyone knows that a toxic boss is bad. But you know what’s even worse?
A boss who undermines you one day and supports you the next is even worse than a boss who is just consistently toxic. With someone who is always your enemy, consistently toxic, at least you know where you stand, which means you can make good decisions.
Believe it or not, they’ve done studies on this subject. You can read about the study right here. Why is a boss who is ambivalent or inconsistent even worse than one who is outright toxic? The authors of the study came to a pretty common-sense conclusion to that question.
If a boss is just always negative, then the employee never sees that boss as a form of support anyway. So when the negative behavior continues, well, the employee really hasn’t lost anything. Negative behavior from a boss who is sometimes supportive is actually more threatening, because the employee sees a potential loss of support. The support that the boss sometimes gives actually makes the employee more vulnerable.
The study reached the same conclusions when looking at co-workers. Police officers whose closest co-worker always undermined them reported higher levels of stress, had more absences, took longer breaks, and were less committed to their jobs. Of course. No one needs a study to understand that toxic co-workers make you less likely to want to do your job.
However, again, the interesting point was that officers whose closest co-worker sometimes undermined them but sometimes supported them reported even higher levels of stress! They had even more absences, were even less committed to the organization, etc. The officers with ambivalent co-workers were worse off, in every way, than the ones whose co-workers were flat-out toxic.
Whether it comes to careers, finances or anything else, if you want to improve your life you have to be surrounded by people who are going to support your changes. If you get promoted, will your friends be happy for you? Or will they subtly try to cut you down? If you get a new opportunity, will your friends encourage you? Or will they talk about how difficult it might be, that you might fail, that there might be all sorts of pitfalls? Or here’s another common behavior. Will they change the subject immediately to talk about some opportunity they have?
When you look at your job, your romances, your friendships, your social groups, what do you see? Do you see people who are toxic? Do you see people who are ambivalent?
Do you always have to question whether your friends are genuinely happy to see you succeed?
If you are surrounded by ambivalent people, there is no other way to say this. It’s time to make some new friends. If you are surrounded by ambivalent co-workers, or worse, if you have an ambivalent boss, it’s time to start searching for a new job. And let’s be honest. If you are surrounded by ambivalence, it’s probably time for you to ask yourself if you are also ambivalent.
If you look in the mirror and see that you are the sort of person who is not genuinely happy when your friends succeed, then it is time to stop blaming everyone else. Sure, others may be even more passive-aggressive than you are. That doesn’t matter. The only way to attract new people, healthy people, is to be healthy yourself. And if you can’t be healthy, then you at least need to act healthy.
So commit to change unilaterally. Commit to treating everyone around you differently no matter how you feel, and no matter how they respond. Start supporting the people you know, and do so unconditionally. As you change, your social circle will change–or your social circle will leave. Either way, you are better off.
In personal finance and careers, yes, the math matters. But the emotions and relationships matter more. How much healthier would your body, mind and finances be if your friendships and relationships were more consistent?