Do you feel unable to carry out your duties in your work area? Does your boss make you feel uneasy? Do you consider the work environment toxic for you? This article is right for you because we will be addressing those issues. Still, you should know that workplace culture does not turn toxic because of a few bad deeds by a few bad eggs but turns toxic because leadership did not see or outrightly ignored the signs that something was amiss.

The responsibility ultimately is on leadership to detect and remedy the source of a team’s fragmentation, but what if leadership is the problem? Yea, I know, right, meaning leaders must get it right with themselves before getting things right with the team.

Research has established that workers who experience high anxiety levels when faced with toxic leadership often become unproductive or ineffective. This article will tell you how to identify toxic leadership behaviours and how to deal with toxic leadership.


Toxic Leadership Behaviours

First, it’s important to point out that we all have some characteristics that annoy the people around us, let’s not talk about my character flaws because I had to deal with a lot of it. With our unique ways of doing things, processing information, and responding in a variety of circumstances, it makes sense that we would be opposed to people who do things opposite to our own. Still, toxic leadership characteristics are not just a matter of personality clashes, trust me, it is way more than that. Instead, these individuals don’t exhibit typical behavioral patterns but extreme distortions, powered by the brain’s more primitive parts, namely fear. When these patterns become habitual, responses to them become unhealthy.

For example, if someone experienced excessive criticism in their early development, the ego would record a perception of being diminished by important caregivers. In return, this would provide a heightened sense that their very survival depends on not being criticized. This could easily lead to obsessively seeking superiority in all situations to alleviate the fear of feeling inferior, as seen in the Shonna Waters write up in Betterup. Examples of the behaviours I observed from my boss who was toxic are below:

  1. Lying or inconsistent expectations

Dishonesty in the workplace is toxic because it’s difficult to understand your place of work when you don’t have access to the truth. Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say your manager tells you on Tuesday that your current assignment is due on Friday, then berates you when it isn’t complete by the end of the day.

  1. Doesn’t listen to feedback

Everyone has room to learn, but toxic leaders aren’t willing to hear constructive criticism especially when it comes from a subordinate. Concerns from their team members go unheard, which prevents the team from improving. For example, you think it would be more effective for the entire team to cut the daily meetings feeling that most of what goes on could be discussed over email, but you are ignored by the leader taking it personally, smile and walk away.

  1. Power/ Hierarchy

Hierarchy (people’s ranks and roles within the business) is what gives toxic leaders control over their team. Since they want to keep this power, they value this hierarchy. They will make sure it stays in place. For instance, they’ll shut down an initiative that would allow you and your team more independence and make their own decisions. There are more, but we have to look at dealing with this type of leadership.

How to Deal With Toxic Leadership

When you happen to work under a toxic leader, here are things you should try:

1. Help instead of judge

Help your team more and drive results. Focus on thriving as a team instead of spending time on drama. If you can’t avoid the toxic behaviour, then give it no thought and just get the job done.

2. Control of your reactions

Controlling your manager’s actions is something that will never happen, but you are in control of your reactions to those actions. Remember that this behavior isn’t about you. Control your emotions and don’t give them the attention they want.

3. Document everything

This should happen even when you don’t have a toxic leader. Document when your leader makes requests you don’t agree with. This way, you’ll have proof that you were asked to do things by your boss and the blame won’t be on you


4. Set professional boundaries

Please do take this seriously, Keep the relationship between you and your leader professional. By doing this, you’ll protect yourself, gain respect and keep your personal life toxic-free.

5. Clarify instructions

Don’t make assumptions while on the job or about what you believe your leader wants. If you do, it may lead to misunderstandings. Take it from me; it may not end with praise. Clarify (in written form) whatever and whenever you have even the smallest of doubts.

6. Focus on your job

Remember never to let things get to you and to take things personally. Your leader’s behaviour is not a reflection of you, and your performance except if you allow it to be so. You won’t win that debate on who was wrong or right. Just let your work rove it for you.



Everything rises and falls on leadership; hence leadership sets the tone of workplace culture and good behavioural patterns. Toxic leadership will disturb and negatively influence workers’ well-being and productivity, leading to higher levels of worker anxiety and resulting in a negative reputation and lower profits for businesses. Hence, learning to deal with toxic leadership is a skill that will always remain relevant.


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