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Bosses Behaving Badly: How Toxic Leadership Kills Effective Talent Acquisition And Retention


  • Toxic leadership is more prevalent than we may believe it to be, and it might just be holding companies back in attracting new talent as well as retaining existing talent.  
  • Wielding power over others is an important responsibility, and it is the boss’s job to do so ethically.  
  • To start – ensure that you practice humility, give credit to others where it is due, and keep an open mind to any feedback you might be given by your team members.   

With 44% of workers wanting to quit their jobs (during an unprecedented labor shortage), doing whatever is necessary to retain employees should be at the forefront of employers’ minds.  

A healthy and productive workplace has many facets: Usually, working people desire an uplifting, comfortable, and harmonious work environment.  

This type of environment can be created by both employees as well as their superiors… or not.  

ALLWORK.SPACE KYR SURVEY 2022

Unfortunately, toxic leadership is more prevalent than we may believe it to be, and it might just be holding companies back in attracting new talent as well as retaining existing talent.  

“The reasons for the persistence and spread of bad behavior are legion: a global economy, with its demands for rapid decisions and around-the-clock interactions, overburdens leaders, employees, suppliers, and customers. In this world, where email, texting, and social media replace face-to-face conversation and the compassion triggered by eye contact, too many jerks feel unfettered by empathy, guilt, and old-fashioned civility,” according to McKinsey & Company 

Bosses who bully are imposing costs on their workers and their organization as a whole that are huge — but often hidden. 

Employees with bad managers/leaders begin to replicate the same behavior as them. Toxic bosses lead to a toxic work environment that fosters a cycle of toxic behavior.  

A toxic corporate culture is the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.  

82% of employees would even consider quitting because of a bad manager. Employees who feel that their boss doesn’t value them or their work often find it challenging to meet their workload.  

Hundreds of experiments show that encounters with those who are insulting, rude, and demeaning undermines workers’ performance, including their decision-making skills, productivity, creativity, and willingness to work harder and help coworkers.  

Great bosses directly impact productivity. If you lead by intimidation or your leadership style makes you inconsistent and unavailable, you can’t expect employees to have high productivity. 

The fundamental elements of good employee-boss relations are the same as with any other human relationship: mutual trust, encouragement, empathy, and good communication. 

Regardless, any leader can become a better one and, in turn, play an essential role in improving workplace happiness and employee satisfaction.

How to Be a Good Boss in Today’s Climate 

1. Realize you might be the problem.

The likelihood of becoming insensitive and unkind to others increases as people become more senior in their professions. Research shows that being and feeling powerful provokes people to focus more on their own needs and wants, making them less tuned into others’ feelings/needs.  

50% of Americans say they have experienced or witnessed persistent bullying, but less than 1% admit to doing it. Understanding whether your actions are appropriate towards your workers is invaluable and can ensure the health of your company.  

2. Watch how you use your influence.

Wielding power over others is an important responsibility, and it is the boss’s job to do so ethically. To start – ensure that you practice humility, give credit to others where it is due, and keep an open mind to any feedback you might be given by your workers.   

Just like employees, bosses and those in leadership roles are also experiencing burnout. But how you deal with it is what will define you as a good boss.  

Being in a rush and having too many tasks to complete can turn even the most civilized person into an unkind and rude person. Figuring out how to deal with work-related overstimulation and stress can greatly improve how you lead others, as well as improve their faith in you (and the company as a whole).  

3. Invite feedback from your workers, and listen to it. 

When leaders are unwilling to hear the truth, that’s a recipe for failure. You can reduce your risk of treating others badly by listening to what your workers have to say about your leadership, which can prompt reflection on your past behavior that helps identify circumstances that bring out the worst in you. 

You could also conduct frequent checkups and check-ins. Are the workplace behavioral guidelines being followed consistently? Are all participants feeling comfortable and working toward shared goals? Are there any adjustments that need to be made? 

4. Identify the current organizational climate.

Organizational climate is the result of a combination of elements that affect the way team members perceive their workplace.  

Before you can begin improving the climate in your workplace, you need to identify its current state, and a great way to do this is by conducting employee surveys.  

Within these surveys, there are many aspects you can evaluate to understand what you need to improve upon in order to make your employees’ jobs easier and their morale higher.  

  • Clarity: Gage whether all team members understand their expectations. 
  • Standards: Ensure that the goals you’ve set are challenging and realistic. 
  • Rewards: Check whether your team members receive proper incentives and praise for their performance and success. 
  • Team commitment: Understand whether team leaders and members have a sense of pride in their work and the organization.  
  • Flexibility: Evaluate if rules, procedures and policies are reasonable and necessary. 
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