Toxic leadership is a big problem in the business world. Despite the massive growth in interest in company culture in recent years, toxic managers still exist. They are bad apples having a detrimental effect on employee retention and productivity. Most of all, toxic managers are destroying the good fabric of the business.
It’s increasingly recognized that good company culture is essential for productivity and growth. A new report from breatheHR, a software provider for smaller and medium-sized companies, has found that bad company culture is costing the UK economy a staggering £23.6 billion per year. The report, The Culture Economy, found as many as a third of British employees have quit their jobs due to bad workplace culture. Conversely, the same company also researched to find the top 25 SME culture leaders.
So why do toxic managers prevail? Business owners are guilty of turning a blind eye to toxic managers and some even actively hire and promote them. The havoc they wreak is often forgiven because their immediate success is measured in sales. Toxic bosses are often results driven without any understanding of the impact of their behavior in the long term.
Employing this kind of manager is a short-sighted and short-term strategy. In the long game, toxic managers can destroy organizations.
Weeding out a toxic employee is one thing, but what do you do as a leader if one of your loyal managers is the problem?
How to recognize a toxic manager
Most toxic bosses are clueless that they even have a problem (though some smugly manipulate employees). Most think the way they manage staff and what they are doing is best for the company.
But bad managers can cause irrevocable damage to your business by hindering employee performance and causing stress. The first step in weeding toxic behavior out of your business is recognizing you have a problem in the first place. Here are 11 signs of toxic behavior you need to watch out for:
- Poor coaching skills – getting frustrated when teaching new skills to employees
- Lack of compassion and social skills
- Anti-social behavior
- Not bothered about helping staff to progress
- Takes credit for all the work
- Blaming others for their mistakes
- Is never wrong!
- Belittles or ridicules others
- Won’t listen to ideas
- Gossiping and talking about others behind their back
Understand why someone is toxic
Toxic managers generally fall into one of three categories: narcissistic, dictator, or inadequate. Understanding how your toxic manager operates, how they view the world and what motivates them will help you to influence their behavior. A manager acting from inadequacy may be able to change if given the right support and training.
It can, however, be extremely difficult to change ingrained behavior, so not all toxic managers will come around to your way of thinking, in which case letting the person go may be your only option.
How a toxic manager is affecting your business
Ignore a toxic manager and you are most certainly hurting your business. Toxic managers affect your staff and their productivity much more than you think. Importantly, toxic managers are damaging to your entire culture. Here’s what a toxic manager can do:
- Destroy morale
- Impair staff retention
- Deter cooperation
- Reduce information sharing
- Negatively affect employee emotional well-being
- Increase absenteeism and presenteeism
How a toxic manager affects employees
Working for a toxic boss is extremely stressful. It can be humiliating, upsetting and soul-destroying for employees who feel unsupported and harassed. A bad attitude can also be contagious. Toxicity breeds toxicity.
Employees working in a toxic environment won’t be performing at their best. A toxic manager can make a whole team feel angry, dejected, cautious, and uninterested in the jobs they are doing. This all has a massive impact on productivity, team cohesion, and the development of new ideas. A bad boss can have a serious impact on employee mental health.
How to weed out toxicity
No matter how loyal someone has been to your business, if their behavior is toxic it needs to be dealt with. Ignore the problem and you’ll suffer the consequences of productivity losses and lose good staff.
The first step is to confront them. This needs to be approached in a calm and non-aggressive way. Document the behavior, suggest changes, and support them in making changes. Here are some proactive things you can do to weed out toxicity:
- Be proactive in detecting and handling dysfunctional behavior
- Hire external coaches to improve managers’ behavior
- Provide conflict training to staff
- Review your grievance procedure so staff feel they are safe to whistle-blow
- Offer company-wide training in toxicity
Understand your managers and your employees and support them. Creating a positive company culture is the pathway to success.
About the author: Mike James is an experienced business writer specializing in HR, tech, and cybersecurity. On the latter, he has contributed to many of the leading publications both online and in print – such as StaySafeOnline, GlobalSign, Tech London, and more.