Toxic Leadership Correction Plan
By Morag Barrett on October 31, 2017
How do organizations correct toxic leadership and toxic behaviors once it infects a business? Is it ever too late for a prevention plan? Is transformation possible in the face of pervasive toxicity?
Many case studies have proved that change is possible, but it requires a major shift in assumptions and engagement in coaching/training. In my research and work on Cultivating Winning Relationships I’ve had both success and failure in changing toxic workplaces.
Not every business is ready to accept suggestions from external experts, and not everyone is ready to change. Sometimes, businesses decide to fire and hire, and often recreate similar toxic workplaces. The reality is that every organization has some toxicity and toxicity is everyone’s business.
When it comes to transforming relationships or an organization culture from an Adversarial to an Ally based environment start with the following steps:
People must believe that change is possible and a realistic goal.
Everyone must accept personal accountability and abandon the use of labels and finger-pointing.
Employees at all levels should identify their role in a given problem and find ways to help instead of hinder.
Everyone must agree to limit the use of negative language and focus instead on the organization’s overarching vision and goals.
Consider training in positive leadership and the language of appreciation.
Key parties must attend coaching sessions to improve their interpersonal relationships, to process and eliminate toxic stories. Coaches can help them identify their strengths and develop coping skills that address their deficits.
Make training in emotional and social intelligence available throughout the organization. Check out our Cultivating Winning Relationships Program and online resources at
Prioritize social and emotional intelligence in frequent performance reviews.
Consider recognizing small wins in project management to encourage appreciative communication.
Hire or designate toxin detectors and handlers who are trained in early detection of dysfunctional behaviors.
Establish a program for early intervention.
Senior teams and executive boards should be charged with finding innovative solutions to their personal leadership deficits (i.e., appointing dual leaders for some positions, implementing collaborative leadership policies).
Leaders should be encouraged to identify an expanded vision for the future—one that inspires people to work collaboratively.
While these correctional steps may seem common sense, they’re an uncommon discipline. Of course, they require time and willingness. Recognizing toxicity as an opportunity for transformational change in organizations can be a turning point.
What do you think? What’s been your experience with toxicity in leaders and in your work place? I’d love to hear from you.
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