Why Does My Slave Driver Boss Push Me Beyond My Limits?

PHOTO BY Penshoppe

Ever had your Friday night ruined by a boss who called you for an emergency meeting, or found yourself finishing a report during your sick leave because it's due first thing the following morning?

Slave driver bosses are among the toxins of workplace culture and one of the top reasons why workers resign, studies have shown. While working above and beyond is considered the hallmark of a productive employee, workaholic bosses who blur work-life boundaries can drive their employees to burnout.


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Usually, people who are promoted to become managers are likely to be high achievers and are pressured to produce output, said industrial psychologist and human resources professional Jojo Tandoc.

While they are promoted based on their past technical performances, it's possible that they weren't trained or prepared to handle subordinates.


"We have to admit 'di naman lahat tinuruan na ma-promote bago maging supervisor or manager, so dahil 'di naman sila ni-ready... they are not very good as managerial experts," he told reportr.

When there's a gap between what a boss can do and what is expected of them, stress, anxiety and panic can seep in. When this happens, it could negatively affect how they treat their people, he said.

"Bakit sumasabog? Dahil 'di nila makaya 'yung stress requirements ng new role... most of the time, nare-release to the wrong people kasi you're at the wrong time, at the wrong place."

Workaholic bosses have the tendency to be slave drivers, said business coach Muhammad Sajwani. These managers can be aware that their employees are overworked yet still expect them to keep up with the pace they dictate -- meaning working on off days or working overtime -- because they also do the same.

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"Your slave driver boss may not understand that not everyone is as driven or as committed to work as they are. To them, a strong work ethic may mean staying in the office until the job is done. Your definition is just different," Sajwani said.

Toxic bosses create toxic work culture, which is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to employees quitting their jobs, according to a study by MIT released in 2022. That's almost three times higher than employees leaving due to job insecurity or reorganization, the second on the list.

Toxic work environment with a boss who doesn't communicate well with their subordinates is also one of the top five reasons why great employees quit, according to Jobstreet Philippines.

So how can bosses know that they're becoming toxic? Here are some points to consider, according to training and consulting company Positive Workplaces:

  • Do they have the capacity to plan strategically?
  • Do they delegate and cascade tasks effectively and positively?
  • Do they inspire growth and positive change within the team?
  • Do they know how to monitor performance while recognizing and rewarding appropriately?

The less "yes", the higher the chances your boss can be toxic, it said.

What to do when you have a slave driver boss

Here are some tips on how to manage working with a slave driver boss:

Be sensitive to your boss

Bosses become slave drivers for a reason. Sometimes, employees will know if a boss is panicky or anxious based on the change of tone and the demands they ask of their employees, said Tandoc. This will help remind employees that they, too, are human beings pressured to produce output by their own bosses.

Don't be a 'yes' person

Be assertive when the boss is not. If the project or the timetable given is unrealistic, ask if there's leeway to submit it without giving up leaves, rest days, or precious time with family. Explaining your side can help the boss realize their demands can be postponed, said Tandoc.


It is also helpful for employees who are sick but are asked to report to work because of supposedly urgent matters, he said.

Have a one-on-one with your boss

Ask your boss for an opportunity to discuss possible misunderstandings or differences in opinion so you can both move forward with solutions.

"As a boss you have to ask the right questions. Why can't you deliver or do they need support to deliver?... Parang give and take. It's really a conversation on negotiation."

Seek help with colleagues

Talking to your colleagues to check if they experience the same thing with your boss could mean your boss has a track record of being difficult to work with, said Sajwani. However, avoid badmouthing your boss as it can be used against you.

Document abuse

It's important to have a paper trail if your boss gets abusive so you have evidence in case you decide to take it up with your boss' superiors or human resources, said Sajwani.


If all else fails, leave

If you tried all possible recourse and nothing works, it may be time to pack up and move on, said Sajwani.

"There's nothing wrong with that. Exit as gracefully as possible but remember, your health, your family life and above all, your self-esteem should always come first."

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