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Dealing with toxic leadership

by Ion Gireada on 23 March 2015
Health, Lifestyle     |      stress,  toxc behaviors,  toxic leadership,  well-being,  workplace health

Workplace health and safety legislation in Australia holds employers effectively responsible for ensuring the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of employees.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of mental stress claims filed by employees against their employer increased by 25 percent. The proportion of stress claims indicating a “poor relationship with superiors” was not reported, but a study commissioned by Medibank Private reported that the total cost in 2007 of work related stress on Australian economy topped A$14.8 billion, while the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism reached A$10.11 billion.

A study of the impact of systemic toxic behaviors displayed by managers found that even or two toxic behaviors, say manipulating and intimidating, had sufficient effect on employees to cause mental and physical discomfort.

The most common toxic behaviors exhibited by managers include:

  • Constantly seeks and needs praise
  • Has to win at all costs
  • Lapses into time consuming, self-praising anecdotes
  • Charms, cultivates and manipulates
  • Plays favorites
  • Takes credit for others’ work
  • Lies
  • Bullies and abuses others
  • Incessantly criticizes others publicly
  • Has mood swings and temper tantrums
  • Treats all workplace interactions as a fault-finding exercise
  • Takes all decision making authority away
  • Micro manages everything you do
  • Promises to take action but later reneges
  • Ignores requests

Psychological effects include anxiety, depression, burnout, cynicism, helplessness, social isolation, loss of confidence, feeling undervalued.

Emotional effects include anger, disappointment, distress, fear, frustration, mistrust, resentment, humiliation.

Physical effects include insomnia, hair loss, weight loss/gain, headaches, stomach upsets, viruses and colds.

Several strategies useful to individuals facing toxic leadership, when reporting it or leaving the organization is not possible, include:

  • Seeking social support from colleagues, mentor, friends and family
  • Seeking professional support, i.e. Employee Assistance Program, counselor, psychologist, general practitioner
  • Seeking advice from Human Resources
  • Undertaking health and well-being activities, i.e. diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises
  • Restructuring your thoughts about the incidents in question to maintain a sense of calm and manage your state of mind.

On the other hand, there are actions individuals working for a toxic employer should avoid taking:

  • Confronting the leader
  • Avoiding, ignoring or bypassing the leader
  • Whistle blowing
  • Ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration
  • Focusing on work
  • Taking sick leave

Individuals who regularly find themselves on the receiving end of toxic behaviors, commonly start questioning themselves, doubting their capabilities and feeling locked into their current situation, role, and organization.

Dealing with toxic leadership

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