Toxic Leadership

12 August 2020 Giles Keay

Toxic Leadership

Toxic Leadership at Work – How to notice it and more importantly How to deal with it…

Any of you who have read any of my previous articles in the last couple of years will know about my passion for well being and happiness in the workplace and the dramatic impact it can have on both business and individuals.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that happiness at work is impacted substantially on how you see your boss! Employees who think of their supervisors as partners report significantly higher levels of happiness than
those who think of their managers as bosses, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. For middle-aged workers, the happiness boost is equivalent to the increased satisfaction that comes from more than doubling your household income.

In complete contrast the number of toxic leaders is on the rise, driven by competition, innovation and the use of social media to promote themselves… the percentage of psychopaths in the world is estimated at 1% of the population compared to 4% in organisations and incredibly the percentage increases to 20% when looking at the percentage of senior leaders.(Applebaum & Stevens 2015)

Ask your yourself the question whether you have ever experienced a toxic manager or colleague in the work place?

Most of you if honest will answer yes for sure and think about how that affected you at the time.

The range of types of leaders in a business can vary substantially from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly; with good being inspiring, collaborative and nurturing through to the Ugly being narcissistic and psychopathic! Quite literally…..

The impact that a toxic leader and in fact any toxic individual can have on a team, office or business can be detrimental in terms of absenteeism, staff retention and productivity and profitability.However, the impact on individuals can be even more damaging leading to unhappiness, mental health issues and sadly even suicide.The most recent reports from the ABS have stated that over 3000 Australians die from suicide each year and
sadly 20% of those are related to work and work environments. Clearly this is an issue for all businesses to ensure that they are dealing with issues in the workplace and toxicity should be at the top of the list. Those individuals responsible could be your managers, peers and even subordinates and as such it is something that cannot be avoided or ignored.

So how can you manage or deal with this problem affecting companies across the country, there are some great strategies to reduce and stop the impact that these individuals can have, often by removing their ability to impact you.

Dealing with a Manager
  • Extend you Network ensuring the more people know the value of the work that you do

  • Involve HR early so that the situation is on the radar

  • Document everything in case you need to use it to defend yourself against them in the future

  • Try to create physical and emotional distance by moving in the office or environment and detaching yourself everything except essential communication

  • Ensure you always remain professional

Dealing with a Peer
  • Never try to compete with them it will fuel them to do more

  • Set clear boundaries to protect yourself

  • If it continues bring a manager and/or HR into the picture and communicate consistently

Dealing with a Subordinate
  • Set expectations with them clearly and document

  • Closely monitor their work

  • Always promote transparency and clear communication

In all cases once you have informed relevant parties internally in the business it is essential that those involved are dealt with swiftly and professionally.In all cases it is essential that the correct HR processes are undertaken, and, in this respect, we would always advise speaking with an expert in the legal and HR area, if you do not have internal resources then you should utilise those of a consultant.

Businesses that don’t deal with these issues at all or do it slowly, will find themselves in a difficult situation where it will be viewed that toxic behaviour is allowed or ignored leading to further widespread issues.You can be sure that good staff will leave the business leaving only those toxic individuals and their followers.A business acting clearly and quickly can show great strength and a fantastic commitment to ensuring a high functioning
environment.It can often take great backbone to remove a high performing but toxic individual from a business but one that can deliver great results.

If you want to avoid this breeding of toxicity in a business, then the first place to start is in the hiring process.If your recruitment strategies are based on your culture, then you should hire the best people into the business who will be positive and add value. The next step is rewarding, developing and promoting those positive individuals to demonstrate the attributes that will succeed in the organisation.

It is an issue that many of us have faced or will face in the future and one that should be tackled head on if it is to be removed from today's workplace…and it is all of our roles to make that happen no matter what our role the business in which you work by calling it out or supporting a colleague you can make a huge difference to someone’s happiness.