The Dysfunction of Toxic Leadership-Guest Post by Stephanie Wimmer

Research suggests that more and more employees are working with toxic leadership in the workplace which has been shown to cause dysfunctional behaviors in the organization, a lack of employee commitment to the organization, and an overall loss of job satisfaction. So what is toxic leadership and what makes someone a toxic leader? The term “Toxic Leadership” was first used by M.G. Whicker in the book ‘Toxic Leaders: When Organizations Go Bad” (Watt, 2016). This type of leadership is defined by the behaviors exhibited within an organization. A toxic leader is not just the typical bad boss who might have a bad attitude or may lack the knowledge or experience to be in a leadership position, but rather a person whose behavior is intentionally destructive and has serious effects on those they lead.

Over the past few years, a number of research articles have focused on a type of destructive leadership called “toxic leadership” (Goldman, 2006; Boddy, 2014; Boddy, 2015; Gallos, 2008; Goldman, 2006; Lipman-Blumen, 2005; Walton, 2011). These articles describe the destructive effects of toxic leadership in a wide range of organizations. For example, authors have suggested that toxic leadership might impair the physical and mental health of employees, invoke dysfunctional group behavior, and may increase absenteeism and employee withdrawal.

A toxic leader is one who uses the power their position awards them to control and manipulate by any means to further their career or to bring more power to themselves and do this without any regard to the individuals that are beneath them. Aggressive tactics such a bullying, threats, and manipulation along with passive tactics such as withholding relevant information or providing incorrect information purposefully are just a few of the ways a toxic leader operates. Toxic leaders have been described by their employees as bullies, narcissists, and even as psychopaths, which any of these personality types can be detrimental to the environment and productivity of the organization. One study (Armitage, 2015) suggests that three in every ten persons in a leadership position could be considered to be a toxic leader. With numbers this high, one could see how this type of epidemic in the workplace could be cause for concern.

According to a study on toxic leadership and how it affected healthcare workers (Ozer, 2017), there are four categories that the behaviors of toxic leaders fall. They are Inapprecitiveness, which includes such behaviors as humiliating employees in front of and behind the employee’s backs, does not value the employee, does not listen, and unsympathetically reminds the employee of past mistakes. Next, is Selfishness, which includes such behaviors as blaming the employee for his or her failures, takes credit for things only when they have gone well, places personal interests ahead of everyone else, and only cares about how they look to superiors. Selfishness is another category that consists of behaviors such as the belief that they deserve the position they are in (or one even higher), the belief that they are more talented, excellent, and deserving than anyone else, and that the organization will only do well if they are in charge. Lastly is a negative spiritual state which consists of behaviors such as if they are in a negative mood it affects the climate of the workplace and the employee’s act according to the negative mood of the leader.

There is a synergetic relationship between the toxic workplace and the toxic leaders who occupy them. As an employee and employer, we tend to follow the natural order in the workplace. There are employees and leaders and the employee naturally looks to the leader for information, training, mentoring, and advice concerning their position within the organization. When there is a toxic leader involved in that natural order, it can cause dysfunction within the organization. As we think about the way an organization functions, it might help to visualize a wheel with many spokes. Each spoke represents a functional area of the organization. When a toxic leader is in control, the spokes of the wheel start to disconnect and break, which causes dysfunction not only to the spoke but the entire organization as a whole. Therefore, the consequences of a toxic leaders’ behavior on the organization are vast. Research has shown that workplace deviance by subordinates who work for toxic leaders has increased (Pelletier, 2010). Employees tend to show counterproductive behavior and even retaliatory behavior in order to try and balance out the perceived scale of injustice. Negative behavior is disadvantageous for any organization and the trickle-down effect causes more dysfunction within the organization.

As an example of a toxic leaders behavior, let us suppose that the leader of an organization while giving an employee a task to do, did not give the employee pertinent information to carry out that task. Consequently, that task is going will be incorrect. The toxic leader can use this to their advantage in many ways, such as pointing out the inferior work of the employee to superiors or coming to the rescue and “fixing” the employee’s mistakes in front of superiors, thus taking credit and making themselves look admirable in the eyes of others. These types of behavior can cause a myriad of dysfunction in the workplace. The employee spends time working on something that no matter how he or she does it, it will be incorrect. Superiors see the employee as incompetent or lazy. And, the employee could either retaliate or have a “why bother” attitude toward the leader and the organization.  With just this one example, one broken spoke on the organization wheel; it is clear that more than just the employee is affected by a toxic leader.

The dysfunction caused by toxic leadership can also lead to a lack of commitment to the employer and the organization. How can an employee commit to an organization that has a leader that bullies, threatens, or interferes with their ability to do a job? Studies have shown that a very large number of employees prefer to leave an organization rather than endure a toxic leader (Thoroughgood, 2012). An employee who is a victim of a toxic leader would have a lack of trust in the organization which would make it more untroublesome to move on.

One experimental study (Boddy, 2011) showed that in reaction to a toxic leaders behavior and the absence of commitment, employees would engage in counterproductive work behavior that they normally would not have engaged in otherwise. Employees interviewed in the survey admitted to deviant behavior against the organization and not just the toxic leader. Purposely doing work incorrectly or slowly, not following instructions, wasting the employer’s materials or supplies, and even damaging equipment or property are some of the ways the employees took out their frustration and lack of commitment towards the organization. Another study (Goldman, 2008) showed that an employee could have a reduction in loyalty towards an organization just by witnessing toxic behavior directed at another employee. An example of this sort of behavior could be one employee overhearing a toxic leader divulging private or personal information about one employee to another or even speaking badly about an employee behind their back while acting pleasant to their face. This kind of behavior can make an employee think that if the toxic leader could do this to one employee, it could be done to them as well. Not only is there a lack of faith in the toxic leader but also in an organization that would allow one of its leaders to behave in this manner. When an organization condones this type of behavior, directly or indirectly, it sets a workplace culture that this type of behavior is acceptable. Asking an employee to put their faith, trust, and commitment into an organization that permits one of its leaders to disrespect their privacy seems unthinkable. Once an employee no longer feels a commitment to the organization the easier it is for them to be able to move on to another organization, thus the higher turn-over rate for an organization with a toxic leader.

When leadership becomes disengaged, unapproachable, dishonest, unsupportive and untrustworthy and the organization looks the other way it is defining the culture of the organization. This type of culture can make the organization just as dysfunctional and toxic as the leaders controlling it. Looking at the organization as you would a personal relationship, one can see why an individual would not want to commit to a toxic individual any more than they would want to commit to a toxic organization.

A lack of overall job satisfaction is another side effect of toxic leadership within the organization. As human beings we have deep-rooted psychological needs to be accepted and to feel like we make a difference. The turbulence caused by a toxic leader can undermine our feeling of importance. As stated by research (Lipman-Blumen, 2005) constantly being forced to confront fears and uncertainty in the work environment could be not only detrimental to the individual’s job performance and job satisfaction but to the individuals mental and physical health. This “sickness” can carry over and become contagious throughout the organization. Toxic leadership can lead to poor morale, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and higher turnover rates. Employees feel cynical and frustrated, leading to decreased energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem.

Leadership toxicity is an omnipresent aspect of many organizations, yet few organizations recognize it for what it is. Leadership toxicity seems to be an alluring part of the organizational atmosphere that undermines personal and organizational growth and performance. It could be described as a silent killer among organizations. It can consume individuals, groups, and organizations. Failure to recognize and take action can destroy the organization.

To conclude, toxic leadership is extremely dangerous not only to individuals that are affected by it but also to the vitality of the afflicted organization. Individuals having toxic behaviors and dysfunctional traits should not be allowed to lead an organization under any conditions. Toxic leadership and their behaviors will remain within the organizations unless steps are taken to stop it before it becomes an issue.



© 2017 Stephanie Wimmer



Stephanie Wimmer is a Business Management student at Western Governors University working toward her MBA. She is passionate employee/management relations and communication, writing, and sustainability. Connect with her on LinkedIn at: She can be contacted at















What Happens When You’re an Inconsiderate Leader?


“Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind.” — John Tillotson

Just because you have worked your way up the corporate ladder doesn’t mean that you no longer need to be considerate of others. When you are inconsiderate of those working with or for you, you actually diminish your ability to be and effective leader. An inconsiderate leader does not concern themselves with treating employees with respect, they do not care if they take all the credit when things go good and point the finger of blame when they go bad, and they don’t care if they make everyone else’s job more difficult than necessary. So, what happens when you are an inconsiderate leader?

You lose respect

No one has respect for a leader who does not have enough respect for them, as individuals, to even be considerate. No one wants to stand behind and support a leader who is selfish and self-absorbed. Without the respect of your employees, you have no ability to inspire or influence the way a leader must to be successful.

You lose empathy

You need your employees to be able to see things from your perspective. When you are inconsiderate, employees no longer care how you feel, what you want, or what your perspective is. All empathy for what you, as a leader, are going through flies out the window when you treat employees inconsiderately.

You lose cooperation

Once you have lost the respect and empathy of your employees, you will soon lose their cooperation. If you are an inconsiderate leader, your employees will stop caring what you need. They will do the bare minimum necessary to meet their job requirements but don’t expect any more from them than that.

You End Up Alone

If you are inconsiderate as a leader, at the end of the day you end up alone. No one will have your back. No one will go above and beyond to help you look good and accomplish your goals. And, no one will care what happens to you. When you are inconsiderate, you send the message that it is every one for themselves. And, mark my words, you will reap what you sow.

Check your leadership behavior today. Are you an inconsiderate leader?

© 2017 Elizabeth Stincelli

Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


Improving Management Team Performance

Team-1“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.” —Chris Hadfield

The key to improving management team performance is summarized quite nicely in the Chris Hadfield quote above. When your management team can lay the groundwork for their employees to succeed and then stand back and let them shine, the whole organization performs better. So, what should you be looking at to improve the performance of your management team?

What is their focus?

What are your managers focusing on? It can be easy for them to get caught up in focusing solely on the bottom line and forget about the employees who are contributing to that bottom line. Or, they can become so concerned with gaining recognition for themselves that they forget about the people who are really doing the work. The best management teams focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘who’. When management spends their energy on supporting their employees in determining the ‘how’ for themselves, performance improves at every level of the organization.

How are their relationships?

What kind of relationships are your managers developing? Relationships are built on mutual trust and respect; they cannot thrive in an us vs. them environment. Without strong relationships managers are ineffective. If you want to improve the performance of your management team, help them build strong, trusting, inclusive relationships.

How do they accomplish objectives?

How do your managers accomplish the objectives that you have set for them? Many managers defer to micromanagement as a means for accomplishing tasks and achieving goals. Micromanagement kills employee engagement and does more harm to productivity than good. When you put an end to micromanagement and empower employees to make decisions and take action on their own you greatly improve performance.

As Your Management Team Performs

As your management team performs, so will their employees. Make sure your managers are focusing on the right things. Help them build the relationships that lead to efficiency and top performance. Teach them to empower and support employees in accomplishing objectives rather than micromanaging them. When your management team provides the foundation employees need to succeed and can then stand back and lets employees shine, everyone’s performance improves.

What action will you take today to start improving the performance of your management team?



© 2017 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


Are You Pulling Others Up or Pushing Them Down?

pulling“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” —Booker T. Washington

The saddest thing about business and success is the internal political games that some people are willing to play in order to get themselves ahead. There are two different ways of getting to the top and they both look very different and have different impacts on your ability to lead. You can get to the top by pulling others up; serving them, inspiring them, and encouraging them. Or, you can get to the top by pushing others down in an attempt to make yourself look better and eliminate any competition. When you pull others up you serve in a hero role; you earn trust, respect, and loyalty. When you push others down you become the enemy; losing all trust, respect, and influence. Here are three questions to help you determine if you are pulling or pushing.

What is your attitude?

Do you see others as being capable and willing to do the task at hand? If you have the attitude that you are the only one capable of doing things right, I guarantee you are pushing others down. Recognizing the strengths that others bring to the table and giving them the opportunity and support to use those strengths is the trademark of a leader who is pulling others up.

Do you have the influence?

Do you inspire others? Do they trust and respect you? Without these things you do not have influence. If you do not have influence you cannot lead effectively. You gain the ability to inspire others and you earn their trust and respect by being a leader who reaches out and helps them along. If you continually push others down, you may have the false illusion that you have influence, but your employees know different.

Are you willing to make the investment?

If you are unwilling to invest your time and resources into building others up, then you are selfishly pushing them down. I’m sure you had a mentor at some point in your career, someone who you looked up to, someone who was willing to invest their time and energy into showing you the ropes and helping you grow. These are the true leaders. When you are unwilling to mentor others, you appear to have a hidden agenda. Employees will feel that you are withholding pertinent information in an attempt to make yourself look better.

Pull Others Up

Whether you are pulling others up or pushing them down, it will be reflected in your attitude, your ability to influence, and your willingness to invest in others. True leadership is about pulling others up, making them look good, and helping them to become the best they can be. This is the type of leadership that actually makes you, as the leader, look good. When you are pushing others down as you climb your way to the top, you are really showing everyone that you are not actual leadership material at all. Leadership is not about you so reach down and start pulling others up!



© 2017 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


Top 3 Mistakes Most Managers Make

heather-guest Guest Post by: Heather R. Younger, J.D. CCXP

Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility. Peter F. Drucker

In my role, I often meet with employee focus groups and leaders of organizations. While on one side I am privy to what employees think of their manager’s effectiveness, I also see first-hand some of the key mistakes that block managers’ ability to be their best. Below are the top five mistakes I see managers make in their role as manager.

I have to focus on getting work done.

I do live in the real world where organizations exist to make money and profits. To this extent, I understand that managers have to meet their own deadlines. They have to get work done.

Having said that, most managers focus too much of their effort on tasks and not on the people who help perform the tasks. These are the same people who can make or break the customer experience and the bottom line.

I challenge managers to schedule in a sliver of time every week to sit with each team member. Having meaningful conversations with team members will actually drive improved performance.

We believe in this so much that we created a Meaningful Conversations tip sheet for managers.Click Here if you need direction.

I see what you are doing, but don’t have time to recognize you.

This is a big one!

I don’t think I need to be academic about this concept, because we all crave more consistent recognition. It is such an important driver of employee engagement that Gallup research still lists it as one of the top reasons employees remain with or leave an organization.

If you are a manager, how often do you recognize your team members? Remember, know how your team member likes to receive recognition. Some just don’t like big parties and balloons. Many just prefer a “thank you.”

Be sure to use their name and be as specific as possible about the reason for the recognition. This way, they know what types of behaviors drive positive praise from you.

In order to have long-lasting effects, you want to recognize team members every seven days. I don’t mean you have to give them a party or even give them a ribbon. Keep it simple. If you go too long before praising them, they will forget that positive feeling and that affects performance.

How did you feel the last time your manager recognized you?

Give that same feeling to your team members often!

I need to tell you what you are doing wrong and don’t have time to care about how that sounds.

Ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it?”

Managers are in a unique position to be able to use their authority for the betterment of others, or to use it to make others feel awful for their shortcomings or mistakes.

I would caution managers from jumping too quickly to find their team members’ mistakes. If you notice that any one team member’s performance, behavior or attitude is below your standards, sit with them to find out what might be going on to cause such a change.

Let them know that you are concerned about this decline. Offer to provide clear guidance to help them get back on track. They need to know that you are not always judging them. Choose your words carefully in order to avoid creating this perception.

They need to know that you are on their side and will fight for them if they put in the hard work.

The good news?

Managers can control whether or not they make these mistakes and how often they choose to do so. While the power and authority rests on the manager to drive their team forward, the more important thing to remember is to use that power for the good of the team. I know that these mistakes can create a lot of frustration. What other mistakes do you think many managers make? Ideas on how to stop them?

Senior Consultant and Trainer

Heather is a leadership strategist and employee engagement consultant, trainer, coach and speaker with proven expertise in building Voice of the Employee cultures and acting as catalyst for employee-driven cultural & process improvements. Heather is a frequent author on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform, a blog contributor for Huffington Post and a member and Certified Customer Experience Professional with the Customer Experience Professional’s Association.

Heather truly believes that the fastest way to create employee engagement and loyalty is to transform organizational culture into an environment focused on breaking down silos, aligning around a common purpose, empowering employees to do their best work and reinvigorating leaders to take ownership in their role in creating all of it.

Stop the Micromanagement Madness

lady-w-crazy-hair-2-day-sale-ad“Trust is a core currency of any relationship. Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: people are much more capable than we think. A hearty dose of trust is often what’s needed to unlock the magic. Go ahead, have faith.” —Kris Carr


Kris Carr hit the nail on the head in the above quote. As a manager or leader, trust is the key to effectively influencing others. Without the ability to influence you completely lose your ability to lead. But, trusting the abilities of others is often easier said than done. When you don’t trust others to perform their work tasks at your definition of a satisfactory level you get caught up in micromanagement madness.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a micromanager. Do you remember how it made you feel? Did you dread walking into work every day? Did you cringe when you heard your manager’s voice down the hall? Micromanagement destroys employee morale and the culture of the whole organization. Here are three important aspects of micromanagement that you must understand.

Your issue not theirs

Your inability to let go of control is your problem, not your employees’ problem. Your micromanagement is bases solely on your need to control everything. Employees do not cause micromanagement, insecure leaders do. This creates an unhealthy environment for everyone to work in. Through the lens of a micromanager, they are forced to micromanage everyone because everyone else is incapable. This is an absolute lie. Capable employees are hired to do specific jobs and should be provided the necessary resources and then allowed to do their job without a babysitter.

Build confidence

Relinquishing the control of micromanagement requires you to build confidence, not only in your employees, but in yourself. You must give employees the training they need, and then let them do what they were hired to do. You must also be confident that you are able to give them the tools they need perform their work and problem-solve on their own. You must also be confident that you are capable of monitoring and managing performance from a distance. Through the lens a micromanager, they are overly confident in their own abilities and underestimate the abilities of others. This overconfidence is usually compensation for lack of true self-esteem. Develop your own healthy self-confidence and then work WITH others to develop confidence in their abilities.

Learn to trust

If you don’t have mutual trust with you employees, you have nothing. The relationships you need to be successful are built on a foundation of trust and respect. When you look at others through the lens of a micromanager, no one seems trustworthy; no one seems capable; except, of course, yourself. This is the perspective of someone who is insecure and is willing to kill all trust to hide it. Your employees are as capable of doing their job as you are of doing yours. If they aren’t, it’s you that has dropped the ball. Give them the training and resources they need and then trust them with their own responsibilities.

Let Go of the Madness

Good managers are NEVER micromanagers. If you are a good leader, you will never need to micromanage employees. You will give them training, tools, and guidance, but you will never micromanage. Organizations thrive when employees are engaged, making decisions, and designing their own work. Micromanagement is the madness that suffocates the life out of any team, department, or organization. Let go of the madness.

© 2016 Elizabeth Stincelli

Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at

Five Ways Your Passive-Aggressive Behavior is Undermining Your Leadership

No_Back_Stabbing_Swatch“I’m sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe. The same way I’m not going to start wearing ties, I’m also not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords.” —Linus Torvalds

According to Barrie Davenport, on her website, “Passive aggressive behavior can manifest in many ways but has the common feature of non-verbal negativity, resistance, and confusion. In relationships, it is a form of emotional abuse that is insidiously destructive to open and honest communication.”

Very few things make work-life worse than working for a passive-aggressive boss. The negative energy that passive-aggressive behavior creates causes distrust, disrespect, poor communication, lack of loyalty, and loss of influence. These are key factors in being able to lead effectively; so, how is your passive-aggressive behavior undermining your leadership?

Loss of trust

If you are passive-aggressive, employees will find you fake. They won’t trust to turn away from you because they know you will stab them in the back every chance you get. The worst part about this type of behavior is that, because it is all done behind employees’ backs, they will never trust you.

How can you fix it? Be real. Never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. Show them that they can take you at your word.

Loss of respect

There is nothing to respect about a person who allows passive-aggressive behavior to play a role in their leadership. This type of behavior is cowardly. It is disrespectful to employees who deserve to know where they really stand and to be treated fairly.

How can you fix it? Be fair. Employees should know where they stand and have the opportunity to defend themselves against untrue allegations and assumptions. Show them that you have their back.

Loss of communication

When employees lose trust and respect for you, as a leader, they no longer care to hear anything you have to say; they can’t believe you anyway. They no longer care to share any information with you; you can’t be trusted not to use it against them and to not take the credit for their hard work for yourself.

How can you fix it? Be open and honest. Your words better match your actions. Employees should never hear from someone else anything that they should have heard from you. Ask for their input, give them the credit they deserve, always follow through, and be honest with feedback.

Loss of loyalty

Once you’ve lost the trust; respect; and willingness to communicate of your employees, you will definitely have lost their loyalty. They will no longer give you 100% of their effort, they will no longer work to make you look better, they will not look out for your best interest, and they will jump ship as soon as they can find a way out.

How can you fix it? Employees will be loyal to you if, and only if, they KNOW that you are loyal to them. Mutual trust, respect, and two-way communication must all be present before there will by any loyalty.

Loss of influence

At the end of the day, your ability to lead at all is based on the influence you have over employees. If you are a passive-aggressive leader, you will lose your influence. Once that is gone, you have nothing left.

How can you fix it? Influence is the catch all. You must eliminate the passive-aggressive behavior completely if you want to regain your influence. Build the trust, earn the respect, repair the communication, and prove your loyalty.

Fix It!!!!

You’ve heard it said time and time again that people do not leave jobs, they do not leave companies, they leave leaders. Passive-aggressive behavior is NEVER okay for a leader. You will lose trust, you will lose respect, you will lose loyalty, and you will lose your ability to influence. It’s time to stop being a passive-aggressive leader and fix it!

© 2016 Elizabeth Stincelli

Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at