Research suggests that more and more employees are working with toxic leadership in the workplace which has been shown to cause dysfunctional behaviors in the organization, a lack of employee commitment to the organization, and an overall loss of job satisfaction. So what is toxic leadership and what makes someone a toxic leader? The term “Toxic Leadership” was first used by M.G. Whicker in the book ‘Toxic Leaders: When Organizations Go Bad” (Watt, 2016). This type of leadership is defined by the behaviors exhibited within an organization. A toxic leader is not just the typical bad boss who might have a bad attitude or may lack the knowledge or experience to be in a leadership position, but rather a person whose behavior is intentionally destructive and has serious effects on those they lead.
Over the past few years, a number of research articles have focused on a type of destructive leadership called “toxic leadership” (Goldman, 2006; Boddy, 2014; Boddy, 2015; Gallos, 2008; Goldman, 2006; Lipman-Blumen, 2005; Walton, 2011). These articles describe the destructive effects of toxic leadership in a wide range of organizations. For example, authors have suggested that toxic leadership might impair the physical and mental health of employees, invoke dysfunctional group behavior, and may increase absenteeism and employee withdrawal.
A toxic leader is one who uses the power their position awards them to control and manipulate by any means to further their career or to bring more power to themselves and do this without any regard to the individuals that are beneath them. Aggressive tactics such a bullying, threats, and manipulation along with passive tactics such as withholding relevant information or providing incorrect information purposefully are just a few of the ways a toxic leader operates. Toxic leaders have been described by their employees as bullies, narcissists, and even as psychopaths, which any of these personality types can be detrimental to the environment and productivity of the organization. One study (Armitage, 2015) suggests that three in every ten persons in a leadership position could be considered to be a toxic leader. With numbers this high, one could see how this type of epidemic in the workplace could be cause for concern.
According to a study on toxic leadership and how it affected healthcare workers (Ozer, 2017), there are four categories that the behaviors of toxic leaders fall. They are Inapprecitiveness, which includes such behaviors as humiliating employees in front of and behind the employee’s backs, does not value the employee, does not listen, and unsympathetically reminds the employee of past mistakes. Next, is Selfishness, which includes such behaviors as blaming the employee for his or her failures, takes credit for things only when they have gone well, places personal interests ahead of everyone else, and only cares about how they look to superiors. Selfishness is another category that consists of behaviors such as the belief that they deserve the position they are in (or one even higher), the belief that they are more talented, excellent, and deserving than anyone else, and that the organization will only do well if they are in charge. Lastly is a negative spiritual state which consists of behaviors such as if they are in a negative mood it affects the climate of the workplace and the employee’s act according to the negative mood of the leader.
There is a synergetic relationship between the toxic workplace and the toxic leaders who occupy them. As an employee and employer, we tend to follow the natural order in the workplace. There are employees and leaders and the employee naturally looks to the leader for information, training, mentoring, and advice concerning their position within the organization. When there is a toxic leader involved in that natural order, it can cause dysfunction within the organization. As we think about the way an organization functions, it might help to visualize a wheel with many spokes. Each spoke represents a functional area of the organization. When a toxic leader is in control, the spokes of the wheel start to disconnect and break, which causes dysfunction not only to the spoke but the entire organization as a whole. Therefore, the consequences of a toxic leaders’ behavior on the organization are vast. Research has shown that workplace deviance by subordinates who work for toxic leaders has increased (Pelletier, 2010). Employees tend to show counterproductive behavior and even retaliatory behavior in order to try and balance out the perceived scale of injustice. Negative behavior is disadvantageous for any organization and the trickle-down effect causes more dysfunction within the organization.
As an example of a toxic leaders behavior, let us suppose that the leader of an organization while giving an employee a task to do, did not give the employee pertinent information to carry out that task. Consequently, that task is going will be incorrect. The toxic leader can use this to their advantage in many ways, such as pointing out the inferior work of the employee to superiors or coming to the rescue and “fixing” the employee’s mistakes in front of superiors, thus taking credit and making themselves look admirable in the eyes of others. These types of behavior can cause a myriad of dysfunction in the workplace. The employee spends time working on something that no matter how he or she does it, it will be incorrect. Superiors see the employee as incompetent or lazy. And, the employee could either retaliate or have a “why bother” attitude toward the leader and the organization. With just this one example, one broken spoke on the organization wheel; it is clear that more than just the employee is affected by a toxic leader.
The dysfunction caused by toxic leadership can also lead to a lack of commitment to the employer and the organization. How can an employee commit to an organization that has a leader that bullies, threatens, or interferes with their ability to do a job? Studies have shown that a very large number of employees prefer to leave an organization rather than endure a toxic leader (Thoroughgood, 2012). An employee who is a victim of a toxic leader would have a lack of trust in the organization which would make it more untroublesome to move on.
One experimental study (Boddy, 2011) showed that in reaction to a toxic leaders behavior and the absence of commitment, employees would engage in counterproductive work behavior that they normally would not have engaged in otherwise. Employees interviewed in the survey admitted to deviant behavior against the organization and not just the toxic leader. Purposely doing work incorrectly or slowly, not following instructions, wasting the employer’s materials or supplies, and even damaging equipment or property are some of the ways the employees took out their frustration and lack of commitment towards the organization. Another study (Goldman, 2008) showed that an employee could have a reduction in loyalty towards an organization just by witnessing toxic behavior directed at another employee. An example of this sort of behavior could be one employee overhearing a toxic leader divulging private or personal information about one employee to another or even speaking badly about an employee behind their back while acting pleasant to their face. This kind of behavior can make an employee think that if the toxic leader could do this to one employee, it could be done to them as well. Not only is there a lack of faith in the toxic leader but also in an organization that would allow one of its leaders to behave in this manner. When an organization condones this type of behavior, directly or indirectly, it sets a workplace culture that this type of behavior is acceptable. Asking an employee to put their faith, trust, and commitment into an organization that permits one of its leaders to disrespect their privacy seems unthinkable. Once an employee no longer feels a commitment to the organization the easier it is for them to be able to move on to another organization, thus the higher turn-over rate for an organization with a toxic leader.
When leadership becomes disengaged, unapproachable, dishonest, unsupportive and untrustworthy and the organization looks the other way it is defining the culture of the organization. This type of culture can make the organization just as dysfunctional and toxic as the leaders controlling it. Looking at the organization as you would a personal relationship, one can see why an individual would not want to commit to a toxic individual any more than they would want to commit to a toxic organization.
A lack of overall job satisfaction is another side effect of toxic leadership within the organization. As human beings we have deep-rooted psychological needs to be accepted and to feel like we make a difference. The turbulence caused by a toxic leader can undermine our feeling of importance. As stated by research (Lipman-Blumen, 2005) constantly being forced to confront fears and uncertainty in the work environment could be not only detrimental to the individual’s job performance and job satisfaction but to the individuals mental and physical health. This “sickness” can carry over and become contagious throughout the organization. Toxic leadership can lead to poor morale, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and higher turnover rates. Employees feel cynical and frustrated, leading to decreased energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem.
Leadership toxicity is an omnipresent aspect of many organizations, yet few organizations recognize it for what it is. Leadership toxicity seems to be an alluring part of the organizational atmosphere that undermines personal and organizational growth and performance. It could be described as a silent killer among organizations. It can consume individuals, groups, and organizations. Failure to recognize and take action can destroy the organization.
To conclude, toxic leadership is extremely dangerous not only to individuals that are affected by it but also to the vitality of the afflicted organization. Individuals having toxic behaviors and dysfunctional traits should not be allowed to lead an organization under any conditions. Toxic leadership and their behaviors will remain within the organizations unless steps are taken to stop it before it becomes an issue.
© 2017 Stephanie Wimmer
Stephanie Wimmer is a Business Management student at Western Governors University working toward her MBA. She is passionate employee/management relations and communication, writing, and sustainability. Connect with her on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/%20stephanie-wimmer-9b854244. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Planning to start your own business? If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will tell you how you can make your small business look like a corporate giant, without incurring the additional costs. Let’s have a look at some of them:
Learn to Deal with People Tactfully
The first thing that you learn when you start your business is dealing with different people, be it your suppliers, customers, or your employees. Dealing with different types of people will help you learn about yourself, your business, and this understanding will allow you to draw certain boundaries that can be useful for your business in the future. Always remember that having your own business means that you are the boss, so all the responsibility falls on your shoulders. The way you deal with people will determine the future of the company.
Design Your Own Office Carefully
Running your first business venture is just like looking after a baby – you put efforts and watch it grow in front of your eyes. There is a joy in getting an empty place and transforming it into a work space where your employees can utilise their creativity and skills and reap profits and gains for your business. Make sure that you design your office, keeping everyone’s comfort in mind. If you don’t have any specific design in mind, check out The Work Pod and https://customgear.com.au/,
Grab the Chance Travel to New Places
If you want your business to be successful, it is important that you let people know of your presence. One good way to do this is to travel to different places, and meet different vendors, check out the latest equipment, and meet the experts in the field. This way, you will get in touch with new people and will be able to build a promising network.
Have a Vision
Think about the entrepreneurs who have changed the world. We have some good examples among the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. What did all these people have in common? A vision. Make sure that you know where you want to be a few years down the lane, so that you can embark on your journey of success.
Learn to Outsource the Work
As a start-up, it is not possible for you to take care of all the tasks alone. This is why it is a good idea to outsource some work to professionals such as Employment Innovations. They will help you with the follwiing:
- Workplace Advice
- Fair Work Compliance
- Human Resources
- HR and Payroll Software
- Workforce Management
So, there you have it. These are some of the ways in which you can make your small business look like a corporate without going overboard with the costs.
Author’s Bio: Haris Quintana is a writer and marketer of Employment Innovations. He takes film photos, makes home movies, and write poems in his spare time.
“Leadership can’t be fabricated. If it is fabricated and rehearsed, you can’t fool the guys in the locker room. So when you talk about leadership, it comes with performance. Leadership comes with consistency.” — Junior Seau
One of the most overlooked, yet imperative, leadership behaviors is consistency. Lack of consistency leads to unmet expectations, confusion, and lack of commitment. If you aren’t consistent, you can’t lead effectively. Here’s why:
No one can hit a target that is constantly moving. What do you expect from your people? They need to know what your expectations are and they need to feel confident that those expectations will not change unexpectedly. Don’t set your employees up for failure by constantly changing your expectations.
Your organization will never get anywhere if you lead in a ‘one step forward and two steps back’ fashion. You need to lead your people in a consistent direction. Sure, sometimes that direction will need to change but, it should not be changing on a daily basis. Don’t confuse your employees and zero out any progress you have made by constantly changing direction.
If you want a committed workforce, you have to give them a ‘why’ they can believe in. Your true ‘why’ should rarely, if ever, change. Don’t lose employee buy-in by being wish-washy about your ‘why’. Instead, inspire them to a higher level of performance by making their work meaningful.
Every Day Consistency
Leadership is made up of every day behaviors that are consistent. In order to feel secure in their positions, they need to know what your expectations of them are. In order to make progress, everyone needs to be moving in the same, consistent direction. Employees will go above and beyond for a ‘why’ they can believe in. As Junior Seau said, “Leadership comes with consistency.” Learn to recognize the importance of every day consistency in your leadership.
© 2017 Elizabeth Stincelli
Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.
Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, stincelliadvisors.com and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When communication breaks down in business, your bottom line suffers and your reputation can, too. Poor internal communication is often at the root of business failures – from product recalls to under-resourcing promotions.
By learning and practicing better communication within your business, you can easily avoid the pitfalls that come with waiting until after an issue has occurred. Soliciting employee feedback early on and exploring new avenues for promoting conversations across departments are the means to achieving overall better internal communication.
Some of the most pervasive communication problems that organizations face are noted below, along with tips on how to solve or avoid them.
Establish Company Goals
A clear purpose is the glue that holds your workforce together. If your employees are asking themselves what they are doing at work then you are failing to provide the necessary motivation needed for them to attend the office each morning and rally around the common goals of your business.
Ask yourself and your leaders to answer some basic questions to find your company mission and vision:
- Who are you?
- What’s your primary motivation at work?
- What does your business stand for?
- Why should any of your employees feel motivated to come and work for you?
Refine the answers into no more than 2 – 3 short, high-impact sentences that can be easily understood by every employee in your office. This will help everyone to unite around the common cause of your organization.
Encourage Commitment From Day One
When new people join your organization, are they introduced to colleagues and taken through an induction process that explains their role, responsibilities and the resources available for achieving their targets? If not, you’re setting yourself up for a communication failure and also indicating that you don’t care about the progress of new hires.
To make the most of your employees’ abilities, it is essential that they understand company culture, core operations, protocols, best practices, and what resources are available to them to support their work. The easiest way to do this is through a short induction program. The added benefit is you will elicit strong commitment from new recruits on day one of their career with you.
Point Them in the Right Direction
You will never achieve great communication throughout your business if people don’t know who to communicate with and when. Employee directories, team meetings and planned collaboration sessions will assist staff to know when and who to speak to, in order to meet challenges and work together cohesively.
Communication is a two-way street and open door policies encourage staff to share concerns, ideas and thoughts about projects and policies. The power of the collective minds you employ will always outweigh even the smartest of leaders so it’s important to give employees a safe and easily accessible space for sharing ideas or concerns.
A company wiki, document repository, or communication and project management software will encourage efficiency and stop different departments from creating the same work over and over. Don’t be mistaken by seeing these resources as static, either. Encourage staff to continually add to FAQ documents and process libraries as they learn. They will be able to teach important skills and ideas to others if the resources are provided and encouragement to do so is given.
Get Out of the Office
Genuine relationships are built on a variety of experiences that are not all found in a work environment. Take some time out to do something fun as a team. This will allow people to get to know each other on a deeper level. The shared experience of doing something not work-related will have the added benefit of transporting positive energy into the workplace, making for a happier and more close-knit team.
Great communication begins with you. The next time you take a break from your desk, make eye contact with your team, begin a conversation, and get everyone talking to each other. Great communication is the basis for success in any business vertical.
Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.