I decided to write this post because in my more than 25 years in corporate experience and working with teams, I’ve seen my fair share of toxic individuals or entirely toxic work environments that leave talented employees frustrated and looking to run for the hills. However, what was more noticeable to me is the leader’s lack of action to improve the situation and create a healthier work environment for their team. One distinct way to hurt or even lose credibility with followers is for leaders to ignore or be oblivious to toxic individuals within their team. Knowledge of the characteristics of toxic employees and toxic work environments could help leaders mitigate, minimize, and even eliminate such situations. If properly observed, leaders will see the following when encountering toxic employees/work environments:

  1. Bullies: continuously belittles and humiliates either one person or specific people in the workplace through the use of sarcasm, rudeness, overworking employees, threats, and violence.
  2. Corporate Psychopaths: cold-heartedness, manipulativeness with the ability to gain confidence in others in efforts to get into higher or more influential positions where they can inflict more pain onto others. Lacks remorse, guilt, or shame. Claims the credit for work they have not done.
  3. Unfair supervision and Corporate Psychopaths: public criticism, rudeness, and coercion of the employee. The employee is dissatisfied as well as the communication is negatively affected. Unfair, abusive, and enjoys hurting others.
  4. Disrupted work environments: chaos, adversely affects productivity and organizational effectiveness. Disheartened workforce with employees who are afraid and traumatized and disengages with the work process.
  5. Rumors and gossip: used as a tool to maintain oppression and social domination over an individual and to widen the power gap.

Corporate psychopaths typically possess certain skills that allow them to get the jobs they want and move up within an organization. These skills include persuasive, interviews well, and charming. They are able to espouse traits that make them appear to be intelligent and successful which make them appear to be talented in certain areas.

Leaders need to understand the damage corporate psychopaths do to their organizations. Although, these individuals appear to provide value and may be truly talented in some areas, the destruction they cause is immensely damaging to the company. The leaders may not easily see this damage because the corporate psychopath is good at hiding it and/or blaming others for failures. One obvious damaging effect is staff withdrawal and turnover. Turnover comes in the forms of resignations of employees who have other options and will not tolerate certain behaviors. Other turnovers come through firings, unethically influenced by the corporate psychopath. For those who are left and feel they have no other options, they tend to arrive late to work, take longer breaks, or call in sick more often.

To mitigate toxicity from corporate psychopaths, leaders should develop and implement certain practices to minimize such behaviors.

  1. First, when discovered, leaders need to acknowledge the circumstance that a toxic work environment exists and immediate decide to change and commit to that change happening.
  2. Second, leaders should develop organizational policy that clearly states rules that guide employee ethics and dismantles unwanted behaviors.
  3. Third, leaders should set the tone for strong cultural boundaries that influences behavior and provides a construct of the company’s expectations, standards, outputs, and what matters most. 
  4. Last, leaders need to be ready and have the courage to get rid of toxic individuals on their teams if they resist changing their behavior.

Leaders who take care of their employees will, in return, receive loyalty, hard work, and preferred results and eliminating toxic workplace situations is a major part of that!

Thank you for taking the time to read this installment of The Better Business Journal! 

Now, I would love to hear from you. Which part of this post resonated most and why? Have have you, as a leader, dealt with toxic employees? What action can you take today?

Leave a comment below sharing your thoughts and ideas and your story. Links to other posts, videos, etc. will be removed.

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With much love,


The following references were used to write this article.


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