How to Approach Toxic Management in the Workplace

Businessman managers pointing out mistakes to their team

By Charlotte Boffey, UK Head of Services, Employment Hero


They say one bad apple can spoil the rest, and the same theory applies to toxic managers. They can have a damaging and lasting effect on the rest of your team if not your wider business. It’s no secret that people are getting fed up with toxic work cultures, as well as the people that instigate them.

We unpack the risks of a toxic manager, how they can affect your workplace culture, signs of toxic behaviours and what you can do about them.


The effects of toxic management in the workplace

The success of your business largely depends on your staff, so retaining talent is critical. Which makes it problematic if your manager is toxic. Their toxic behaviour will not only put employees off but can also lead to you having a high turnover of staff. Costing you more in expenses to retrain them.


Poor leadership and management

Whenever someone in a leadership position displays poor management skills like shutting down, humiliating, or dismissing anyone who speaks out of turn, you’ve got a highly toxic work environment. This kind of toxic environment thrives off fear and intimidation.

The worst part is people are often willing to step over others just to stay on the right side of the boss. An unpleasant leader contributes to not only an unhealthy workplace but also models and endorses their ‘bad’ behaviours to others. In short, if a manager uses threatening language to get work done, it shouldn’t be a surprise that your team leaders and members start doing the same.

When it comes to the level of communication and interaction between employees and managers, it’s often a one-way street from the top down. These kinds of hierarchical structures result in poor communication and provide no room for employees to contribute their thoughts, feelings, opinions or ideas, stifling innovation, and creativity.


Negative effect on workplace culture and work environment

A toxic culture or member of your team can amplify this feeling of anxiety and dread which can really take a toll on your team’s productivity, wellbeing, and motivation. Ultimately, making their work life miserable. What’s more, it can also affect your retention strategy and employer brand, and become a huge expense for you, having to constantly train new employees.


Excessive workplace absenteeism

If members of a team are experiencing high levels of stress and burnout because of the actions of a toxic boss or work culture, this can result in high levels of workplace absenteeism. Not only will this reduce productivity, but it can also leak into workplace morale and place pressure on existing team members.


How to address toxic management in the workplace


Address their behaviour in a one-to-one

While you can’t change someone’s personality overnight, you can help them recognise their shortcomings by addressing these in a one-to-one. Use this as a chance to give them constructive feedback on what’s not working, and what needs to improve.

Depending on the severity of their behaviour and previous actions, you may want to set a deadline and clearly set out what improvements you expect by when, and review these again on a regular basis in a performance review. Make sure you monitor their progress and that it is consistent progress, not just a show when you are present.


Adjust their role

If this toxic boss has a few direct reports, it might be worth looking into whether you can move them into a role that doesn’t require them to manage individuals.



At the end of the day, if you’ve tried everything you can to provide a manager with the chance to improve from their past mistakes and they simply can’t or flat-out refuse, it could be time for them to leave the company.


Creating the perfect work culture

Be sure to develop a strong plan on how to prevent these behaviours and have the whole workforce follow through. You want to try and create a shared vocabulary that supports change and provides an effective means to monitor shifts in workplace culture.

Your employees want to see you’re committed to building a healthy working environment that encompasses respect, trust, support, and integrity. Let’s not forget, your company’s culture speaks volumes to your customers and influences how they choose to interact with your product or service.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for creating the perfect work culture. Business leaders must look within if they wish to address issues of workplace toxicity. How a company chooses to tackle these challenges can be the difference in whether they retain top talent, attract loyal customers, and maintain a healthy brand image.