Most of us have worked for a toxic boss at one time or another; we read about their behaviors in research studies and how those behaviors affect people, morale, and work productivity.

And so much of it begins with words spoken out loud in close proximity. A boss’s words or phrases can raise stress levels and stifle someone’s ability to perform at their best.  

Here are five things that you will never, ever, hear respectable andrespected leaders saying.

1. “I don’t need your opinion.”

Rarely do these words emanate from leaders who value and seek people’s differing perspectives. Such leaders naturally seek out feedback from multiple angles to get clarity on a situation or problem before pulling the trigger on a course of action. Sometimes the decision may not be the most popular, but it’s always the right one due to many views and opinions sought.

2. “I’m not responsible for that.”

The best leaders resist the tendency to deflect responsibility and cast blame elsewhere to protect themselves at all cost. They accept that they’re not perfect, that they make mistakes, and will own up to it. Their toxic-boss counterparts will rarely admit making mistakes. In turn, employees don’t feel safe enough to take risks and make their own mistakes, or honestly admit, “Hey, boss, I messed up.” 

3. “I already know everything there is to know.”

Toxic bosses think they’re above it all, including their own need to be better as leaders. They are not willing to accept the role of a continuous learner and will defer learning opportunities to individual contributors doing the work. This is contrary to great leaders, who understand that they have much to learn and that each person has something important to teach them. 

4. “Everything is just peachy.”

Employees aren’t stupid. They can feel the pulse of the organization during challenging times and will see right through a lying boss who nonchalantly tells them ‘everything is fine.’  While some things are on a ‘need to know basis,’ bosses still need to keep employees abreast of what’s going on, especially when it impacts their work, their livelihoods, and their customers.

5. “You are wrong.”

No person ever wants to feel like they are wrong or be told that they are wrong. When toxic bosses speak this out often, it causes dissension; employees who feel targeted may act out in anger and things can quickly escalate to arguments and further conflict. As these three toxic words pierce the atmosphere, you can feel the mood in conversations drastically change and dark clouds begin to form. Walk away from “you are wrong” because the forecast always calls for rain.

Originally published on Inc.

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  • Marcel Schwantes

    Business Insider

    Marcel Schwantes is a speaker, executive coach, podcaster, and syndicated columnist drawing over a million readers per month worldwide to his thought-leadership. His powerful speeches teach the conditions necessary for creating human-centered workplaces that result in high-performing cultures. He is the host of the popular Love in Action podcast. Visit or follow him on LinkedIn.