Identifying toxic leaders and how to handle them

One of the most important factors for the success of an organization is the leader. An unfortunate reality in today’s world is the existence of toxic leaders in workplaces.

  • Release Date: 20 October 2023
  • Update Date: 15 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency
Identifying Toxic Leaders And How To Handle Them690x460

One of the most important factors for the success of an organization is the leader. An unfortunate reality in today’s world is the existence of toxic leaders in workplaces. Some leaders, whether in businesses, or in communities prefer to assert their leadership by creating a toxic leadership, driven by a culture of fear.

The toxic leadership impact on teams can be severe. It can cause serious HR problems and make team members stressed out. We tell you how to identify toxic leaders and what you can do if you have a toxic leader.

All about toxic leaders

The first question to answer is what is toxic leadership? Toxic leadership comes from personal traits of individuals that generate a poisonous effect on the team or organization they lead. Toxic leaders are known to use dysfunctional behaviors to get the results they want. To achieve results, they use tactics of intimidation, coercion, deception, and punishment.

Narcissism and toxic leaders are made for each other. They are self-serving and only care for achieving their goals; and will do it whatever the cost. The toxic leadership triangle is a reality with destructive leaders, an environment conducive to such behavior, and susceptible followers.

Toxic leadership examples can be found when you know the characteristics of toxic leaders. When you work in an organization, it is possible that you may have a toxic leader. A significant point is that toxic leaders can be charismatic, and hence their toxicity may be hidden. Recognizing toxic leadership traits will help you identify a toxic leader. The following are some key traits that will help you identify a toxic leader:

  • Toxic leaders can indulge in gaslighting. They may tell you that a deadline is tomorrow but later insist that they had informed you the deadline was today. Frequent lying is a key trait.
  • Nepotism and favoritism are traits of toxic leaders. They have their favorites and show preference for their favorite employees. They give special treatment to relatives and friends. They discriminate against others and do not practice inclusive leadership.
  • They are arrogant and always believe they are right. They refuse to accept any kind of feedback from others.
  • Toxic leaders create a culture of fear. They threaten team members with punishment and intimidate them. They use fear to motivate people.
  • Bullying people is another trait of toxic leaders. 
  • Toxic leaders expect loyalty from everyone with no questions asked.
  • They use hierarchy to control people. Their reliance on hierarchy will prevent them from allowing people to work independently.
Toxic Leader

Handling toxic leaders

Dealing with toxic leaders in the workplace is essential to prevent becoming their victim. Here are some strategies you can use to handle toxic leaders:

1) Acceptance

If the toxic leader heads or owns the organization, then you may not be in a position to do much. In a situation where you cannot change their behavior, you have to accept the reality and move on. You must focus on your work and prove your abilities with results. Ignoring their behavior is a strategy to use in such cases.

2) Have a heart-to-heart talk

You are not under any obligation to suffer due to a leader’s toxic behavior. One of the strategies for handling toxic bosses is to confront them. You must take care not to accuse or get into an argument. Approach them with your concerns and have a frank conversation. It is possible that you may be able to convince them with logic so they change their behavior.

3) Put yourself in the leader’s shoes

We are not suggesting that you condone toxic behavior. But put yourself in their shoes and think from their viewpoint. Try to understand why they are behaving in this way. You may be able to understand why they have turned toxic. It could be due to pressure from higher authorities or some other pressure. Once you understand the issue, you can then even empathize with them. Such an action from your end may help in changing their behavior.

4) Keep documentation

Whenever your leader indulges in toxic behavior, document it. You may require this documentation at a later stage. Whenever the toxic boss makes an unreasonable request or tries to gaslight you, record the details. 

5) Quit

When no other option is available, it is better to quit. Working under a toxic leader can negatively affect you and make you frustrated. If you are in a position to look for another job, then do it. Look for a better organization where you can flourish and where the leader nurtures you. Quitting is an option when nothing else works out. Ensure that you speak frankly during the exit interview and let them know why you are quitting. 

Toxic leaders are an unpleasant reality at workplaces and in communities. You must identify such leaders and deal with them by following the strategies listed above. It is important that you handle toxic leaders and do not allow them to overwhelm you.

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