What makes a toxic boss?

What makes a toxic boss?

We know that toxic leadership is a primary cause of high employee turnover rates. A less than pleasant boss is not hard to spot, especially when they have certain characteristics in common. According to the respondents of a recent Harris Poll survey, these boil down to the following:

  • Unreasonable expectations. This tops the list, as 51% of employees consider it a toxic trait, especially when the leadership is absolute and does not allow for negotiations or feedback.
  • Micromanagement. 49% of the poll’s responders say that toxic bosses get too involved in minute details, even when it’s not needed.
  • Employee bias. The same fraction of poll respondents say toxic leaders give preferential treatment to certain colleagues.
  • Appearance of being unapproachable. Another 49% say toxic leaders give an impression of being distant or withdrawn, with employees finding it difficult to communicate with them.
  • Inability to give due credit to team members. 48% of respondents think bad bosses don’t recognise their worker’s accomplishments, which could have been key to increasing employee engagement and, therefore, productivity, morale and retention.
  • Intellectual dishonesty. Worse, according to 45% of respondents, is that bad leaders tend to take ideas other people have come up with and present them as their own.
  • Unprofessional behaviour. 45% have also noted that bad bosses often engage in unprofessional conduct, which may include bullying, sexual harassment, and casual profanity.
  • Scapegoating. 43% say bad bosses don’t take responsibility for their own mistakes, often assigning the blame to other people.
  • Discrimination. Racism and bigotry are real in workplaces run by bad leaders, as 33% describe horrible bosses as those who discriminate against employees for certain traits, such as race, gender and faith. 

Bosses exhibiting these traits can drastically impact workplace morale, leading to reduced engagement and productivity.

Be the boss everyone wants to work for

If you think you may occasionally segue into one of the above behaviours, or are newly placed in a leadership position, you will need to put in some work to be what people call a good boss. In contrast to terrible leaders, a good boss displays accountability, responsibility, honesty and professionalism. In effect, they treat their employees fairly and with compassion, always willing to help and lend an ear, all while recognising even the smallest of their team’s achievements. 

That said, here’s how you can adopt such a leadership style:

  1. Foster trust and autonomy. For starters, steer clear of micromanagement and delegate as many tasks as possible, providing your team with the means to accomplish them.
  2. Prioritise clear and transparent communication. Openly communicate all work-related matters with your team, and be open to all feedback and ideas.
  3. Recognise and reward employee contributions. Give every accomplishment a shoutout. While appreciation is a reward on its own, you might want to take the extra mile by awarding tangible ones such as monetary incentives and time offs.
  4. Provide opportunities for growth and development. Support your team’s career development by giving them access to courses relevant to their line of work. 

The antidote to a horrible boss

Toxic leadership is a pervasive problem. However, there’s a clear solution: become the leader everyone wants to work for. Nurture positive leadership qualities that put trust, transparency, and what’s good for your team in the forefront, and you can create a positive and productive work environment where everyone thrives.

About Sam P

EnterpriseZone Staff Writer

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