How to Recognize a Toxic Work Environment

Nothing can sink the morale and effectiveness of an organization faster than a toxic manager.  Unfortunately, most of us have first hand experience with the damage that even a single toxic manager can cause.  With all the pain and suffering that toxic managers create, along with the decline in results that follows, it is true that they are a scourge in the workplace that must be dealt with. 


What does this toxic management look like?


Extreme Micro-Management


Toxic leaders can include micromanagers who undermine and correct employees, tyrannical bosses who blame them for everything and take no accountability themselves. Managers who seek to control every aspect, every activity that the employee undertakes.


Bad Communication


Insufficient communication is the cause of countless workplace issues, despite the fact that it’s easy to fix with a better focus on clarity. However, toxic managers will often hoard information, seeing it as a source of power. This shows up as lack of clarity and alignment around directions or entire projects. Different people may have received different information, and leaders may not listen to or value employee ideas or contributions. 


Tolerance of Bad Behaviors


Toxic managers will also allow bad behaviors to fester in their organizations.  This often includes uneven treatment, with their personal favorites receiving preferential treatment and being allowed to create their own toxicity. Behaviors such as finger-pointing, not meeting deadlines that cause problems for others, gossiping, undermining, etc. are allowed to persist, creating challenges for the entire team.





While a good leader will focus on the success and growth of their people, a toxic manager will focus on themselves. They will hoard the credit and share the blame—good things happen because of their “efforts” and failures are the fault of their employees.  Also, a toxic manager will limit the growth of their people, feeling threatened and therefore taking active steps to limit the potential of their team.



At the end of the day, employees are unlikely to want to stick with a company they feel has no respect for their values or needs. And if they do, they will not put forth the effort to make the organization successful. Symptoms such as high turnover and low engagement are a possible sign that you have toxicity in your management. It is crucial that you take steps to eliminate this cancer from your business.   By taking these steps, you will dramatically increase the success of your business, and will reduce the pain and suffering of your employees.  Take steps now to rid yourself of toxic managers.