Toxic Leadership: How to Improve your Working Environment

Toxic Leadership: Woman Stressed at work

Employees quit because of bad management, not bad jobs. The age-old philosophy still proves fit in current times as industries around the world feel the effect of the great resignation.

And while there are a series of contributing factors that extend beyond leadership, bad management is the most commonly cited reason for resignation. 

Toxic leadership has a damning potential to wreak havoc on mental and physical health as a result of prolonged stress and anxiety.

For decades, generations of employees have complained but dealt with a negative work environment. But in the past two years, be it the Covid-19 pandemic or something in the air – talent around the world has shown that they are willing to trade in their paycheck for a healthy, flexible, and stable work environment

Whether virtual or in-person, there are common patterns and traits of toxic leadership that will work against the goals companies are trying to obtain.

Traits of Toxic Leadership:

  • The inability to take criticism (read: defensive)
  • Micromanagement 
  • Lack of respect or professional and personal boundaries
  • Gossip
  • Lack of empathy 
  • Poor communication 
  • Unable to accept responsibility
  • Inability to give praise when it is due

Ways to Improve Toxic Leadership 

Toxicity is systemically created in a culture, through hiring and rewarding toxic behaviours. Often, people in a toxic environment don’t even realise how detrimental this culture can be.

It’s often the symptoms of a toxic culture and toxic leadership that people begin to notice – employee turnover, general dissatisfaction and low staff morale. Ways to iImprove toxic leadership:

Be Open to Feedback

Feedback is the number one thing that helps us grow. Well-intentioned feedback has the power to help leaders understand their blindspots, and work on becoming better leaders.

We always use the “grain of truth” principle – you don’t have to accept all feedback, but see if you can take out a grain of truth from what people are sharing.

Before responding and being defensive, stop and think – what is this person trying to tell me? Why am I feeling so defensive? 

Communication is key 

Engage with your employees on a personal and professional level. Ask questions even if you fear what the answer may be.

Find out what your talent enjoys about their job and what they don’t. Distribute survey or 360s  that ask for opinions on the culture or your leadership style.

Ultimately, good communication sets a solid foundation for organisational success

Value your Employees

Research has shown that although earning a healthy salary is important, it is not the key factor that keeps employees loyal – feeling valued is.

For the first time, we are seeing a mix of three generations of talent in the workforce, and maintaining engagement can be challenging. New-age employees do not want a one-size-fits-all solution – instead, they want to know that they are valued both personally and professionally.

This can be achieved by introducing incentivised programmes, having company game nights, keeping talent updated on their progression plan, and providing ongoing learning and development opportunities. 

Be Accountable and Reliable

Lead by example. Avoid shifting blame when problems arise within your department. Be accountable for the decisions you signed off on and use mistakes as stepping stones for improvement. 

Creating a Non-Toxic Environment 

Creating the ideal work environment can be difficult but ultimately it is a work in progress.

Being a leader means acknowledging the short and long-term impact you have on your team’s lives and professional development. You can either bring someone down with toxicity or lift someone up through motivation.

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