Toxic Leadership

How to Deal with Toxic Leadership Behaviors

Toxic leaders place extreme mental, emotional, and sometimes physical pressure on their followers. Their actions can cause a breakdown in the leader/follower relationship. They may withhold important information or muddle the messages they deliver. They also tend to discriminate based on gender, age, race, and other factors. Managers should treat everyone with respect, regardless of title or level within the company. It can help deter toxic leadership.

Blaming Others

Toxic leaders are self-centered and often single-mindedly focused on their benefit to the detriment of others. They display aggressive narcissism that can manifest as a lack of remorse, callousness, superficial charm and pathological lying. They want to be noticed and may be able to manipulate their followers with their grandiose schemes. To avoid falling prey to their attacks, try to stay positive and not give them the attention they crave.

If they persist in their negativity, have a meeting to discuss their behavior and see what motivates it. For example, if they have a pattern of accusing coworkers of being less competent or having mental health issues, bring a senior manager into the discussion to give the blamer the impression that their concern will be taken seriously.

Coaching the toxic leader is essential to maintaining workplace peace and productivity. It can be accomplished by creating anonymous reporting mechanisms, revising organizational policies and empowering employees to take action without fear of retaliation. In extreme cases, an employee can leave the organization to escape the destructive leadership.

Intimidating Behavior

Intimidating behavior is a clear sign of toxic leadership. A leader who is aggressively narcissistic, unable to admit mistakes or display empathy for others, will often engage in intimidating behavior to bolster their false image and impose their authority over others. This type of bullying may take many forms, including psychological or physical abuse.

Toxic leaders also may be able to manipulate the disciplinary system, using it to cover up their misdeeds by leveling false accusations. Identifying the signs of toxic behavior is the first step in addressing it. Keeping records of instances where you observe this behavior helps document unnoticed problems. It’s also a good idea to ensure your company provides an anonymous reporting system so workers may voice their concerns without worrying about repercussions.

Leadership behaviors based on manipulation, aggression and bullying can be extremely damaging to employee morale and the long-term success of an organization. Most leadership books and consultants promote compassionate, truthful, kind, humble and selfless leaders as the hallmarks of effective and successful leaders.

Controversial Values

Research indicates that toxic leadership is a serious impediment to organizational success. It causes interpersonal conflicts and undermines the flow of ideas, preventing creativity and innovation. It also leads to a sense of disengagement and lower morale for employees. Ultimately, it harms company value and the bottom line.

Destructive leaders cannot connect with people and are often characterized by a lack of self-worth, manifested as aggressive narcissism in the workplace. They exhibit a lack of remorse, superficial charm, failure to accept responsibility and pathological lying. They tend to divide their opponents and create disharmony to gain control. They may need to be more flexible and bound to their procedures, even if inefficient or harmful. Toxic leadership often goes unnoticed until it is too late. However, clues can help identify a destructive leader earlier. These include:

Three-Level Hierarchy

Toxic leaders are characterized by aggressive narcissism, which may include a lack of remorse, callousness, failure to accept responsibility, superficial charm and indulgence in pathological lying. They use their position to take out those who stand in their way and do not share their same vision or values. This behavior is often a result of childhood issues such as being ignored by important caregivers or a need for excessive attention.

Preventing toxic leadership behaviors is crucial to improving workplace dynamics and achieving desired organizational outcomes. Working with such people can make them feel stressed, scared and anxious, affecting their performance and productivity.

Several ways to address the issue of a toxic leader include confronting them directly, creating a supportive environment and revising organizational policies. Employees can also consider contacting HR or another neutral third party to seek assistance when they witness such behaviors. Creating a platform where employees can voice their experiences and concerns without fear of retaliation is also important. It can help to address issues before they escalate into serious problems.

Negative Reinforcement

Toxic leadership can cause employees to feel insecure and fearful of their job security, leading to decreased morale. Employees may become unmotivated and underproductive because they may be afraid to try new things out of concern that their boss will punish them. To address this issue, leaders must promote open communication and positive feedback for their team members.

In addition, it’s important to remember that negative reinforcement and punishment are not the same. Negative reinforcement removes something unpleasant to increase desired behavior, while discipline adds an undesirable consequence to decrease undesired behavior. For example, if a child lies about doing their chores, their parents might add extra tasks to eliminate the behavior. It is a negative punishment because it’s taking away a positive consequence (recess) to stop the undesired behavior of lying. 


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