top of page

How to make a toxic leader more inclusive

“Employees don’t leave companies – they leave bosses” is a phrase we have all heard. It turns out to be true. Research reveals that the main reason for employees leaving their jobs is a toxic leader.

Toxic leadership is very common. A recent report by workforce consulting firm “Life Meets Work” claims that 56% of employees endure a toxic leader and his venomous behaviors leading to an obnoxious environment. Another research by psychologist Nathan Brooks and Dr. Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Dr. Simon Croom of the University of San Diego reveals that one in five bosses are found to be psychopaths in the upper echelons of the corporate world.

Toxic leadership leads to employee turnover. According to a recent study by Accenture, employees leave their jobs due to bad leadership. The study reveals that the four main reasons for unhappiness at work include: They don’t like their boss (31%), a lack of empowerment (31%), internal politics (35%) and lack of recognition (43%).

Toxic leadership is expensive. A new report from HR software provider Breathe found that the cost of toxic workplace culture is around £15.7 billion per year in the UK. Over the last five years, American businesses lost $223 billion due to bad culture.

Toxic leadership is a major problem in today’s organisations. As the talent war is becoming increasingly competitive for employers, organisations must address the problem of toxic leaders to attract and retain top talent. Here are three ways to make a toxic leader more inclusive in your organisation.

Establish trust and use their competitiveness as motivation

Take time to establish a secure and trusted working relationship that allows toxic leaders to begin confronting themselves about their own dysfunctions. Explain to them how they are limiting themselves through their behaviour. By building trust, you will be able to make mild suggestions about what actions might improve their career. Toxic leaders’ ambitions can be used to motivate them. Be careful not to go too far in a criticism because it might make them angry and close to receiving feedback. Instead, remind them they have great high potential to succeed in their career. Discuss with them how likely some actions are to help or hinder the realization of their career goal. By helping them building self-confidence, you will see them become more prepared to share the limelight. Test your diversity and inclusion skills with the two-minute quiz: What type of diversity champion are you?

Leverage colleagues feedback to make collaborative suggestions

Many toxic leaders’ reality is impaired: they have poor insight into how they are perceived by and act toward others. Getting them to admit that they have a problem is the main challenge. In that case, you might want to confront the reality of their relationships with others and work with the people they affect to create a new structure. Speak to their colleagues and team members about what they feel is particularly disruptive about their behavior. When appropriate, you might want to bring them into the discussions. The toxic leader might begin to recognize that he/she needs to play a different role in the team. They might decide to make some changes accordingly. The toxic leader in your organisation might recognise that they should change their approach based on the feedback they hear from their colleagues.

Get them to practice better behaviour

Some toxic leaders might express negative feelings indirectly and shy away from confrontation. Their feelings may be so repressed that they don’t consciously realise that they’re being uncooperative. So when others get upset by their behaviour, they take offence, because in their minds whatever caused the irritation was someone else’s fault. In that case, you might try to point out the inconsistencies in their behaviour. Try not to argue or correct denials; just quietly leaving them to reflect on your comments. These types of toxic leaders who express negative feelings indirectly tend to have low self-esteem so it is best to help them by building them up. Get them to practice directness and asking them to explain how they would resolve or improve situations.You might try to assign them specific tasks and if they don’t deliver, expressed your disappointment directly, factually, and unemotionally. You might want to balance your direct feedback with acknowledging their strengths. To learn how to foster inclusion at work every day, watch 4 Ways to Foster Inclusion at Work Every Single Day.

Develop explicit standards for inclusive leadership

It is critical that you create and implement explicit code of conducts for the leadership behaviour in your organisation. Share examples of behaviours that you expect and encourage leaders to enforce those norms with each other. If left unchallenged, toxic leadership behaviour can become the norm. Team leaders need to be direct with each another about which behaviours are inappropriate and challenge one another in enforcing those standards. Encourage all leaders to lead by example and reward inclusive leadership. Find out how to become an excellent diversity and inclusion champion in your workplace by downloading my free guide: The Ultimate Diversity Champion Guide.

Toxic leaders are very common, they lead to employee turnover and they are very expensive to the business if left unchallenged. As employers have to fight to attract and retain top talent in a competitive environment, it is critical that they coach their toxic leaders to make them more inclusive. Take the first step to creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace by booking your complimentary consultation here.

72 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page