Why Toxic Leadership Costs More Than You Think

I am one of those annoying people who, every morning, jump up out of bed with a big smile on my face and are raring to go. No need for a couple of double expresso’s to get me ready to face the world.

Every day I was excited and happy to go to work and face any challenge.

My enthusiasm was infectious and helped to create a positive atmosphere.

But when I worked for a toxic leader that enthusiastic person laid in bed waiting for the third and fourth prompt from the alarm clock, a device I never needed, before I reluctantly got out of bed.

I would look to get to work as late as possible and leave early, and I would take any opportunity to take a day off sick.

I did the minimum possible. I didn’t volunteer for anything extra and any spare time I had was spent looking for another job.

I wasn’t just disengaged. I was disinterested. Disillusioned. And disappointed in the company that would put up with that kind of behavior and allows a leader to create a toxic, stressful atmosphere, and treats people that way.

And I was not alone.

Many of the silent leaders who did a great job in driving the culture, collective enthusiasm, and performance levels. They just became silent.

The result was the individual performance and collective performance levels dropped.

Highly engaged teams deliver 200% more than disengaged teams which is massive.

But the long-term effects of toxic leaders’ results are worse.

You lose your best staff.

You lose your inability to replace them with quality, as toxic reputations travel fast, and you become an unattractive option for new candidates.

All of which impacts your long-term performance prospects.

Companies need to deal with toxic leaders immediately, you need to become aware of the subtle changes, those early warnings such as sick days and punctuality.

By the time the departures start it’s too late, and even if you do deal with it then, the resentment will linger and hamper performance.

At one company where I worked, it took 2 years for HR and Senior Management to address an issue, but by then nearly half the department; including all the top performers had left, and it was another 2 years before the team started to get the performance levels anywhere near what you would normally expect.

It’s true that sometimes you can change a leader and it immediately has an impact, dispelling the toxicity and boosting morale.

But too often the people are left distrusting of HR and Senior Leadership, wondering why you took so long to deal with it. They are still looking to leave and good people are not interested in joining.

This is why you need to be looking for early signs of toxic leaders. Look at punctuality and sickness rate, and check for enthusiasm levels, as soon as you see these you need to act.

Don’t wait to see if it gets better, it won’t.

Toxic leaders don’t change, they need to be replaced.

If you don’t do that your best staff will down tools and leave.