Are you a toxic leader?

We’ve all known or experienced a toxic boss. Yet it’s safe to say no or very few leaders wake up each day and say, “Today, I’m going to make my employees’ lives as miserable as possible.” So, how do leaders go from good intentions to completely damaging a person’s motivation and confidence?

One of the biggest reasons: thoughtlessness. Whether you realise it or not, your team are paying close attention to your behaviour no matter how subtle.

Here are four signs you may be sliding more into toxic behaviour.

Your team are scared to speak up

In a healthy workplace, employees are encouraged to offer suggestions, and speak candidly about any problems or concerns they might have. So, a glaring red flag that things have gone wrong is when people stop talking.

According to Hemant Kakkar and Subra Tangirala in an HBR article, if you find your team isn’t speaking up, your company culture is to blame. One reason, the researchers suggest, is that your work environment is not conducive for being more vocal. “They might fear suffering significant social costs by challenging their bosses.”

How might you be contributing to this toxic culture? It could be something as simple as dismissing someone’s feedback during a meeting.

Lack of trust in you

This can be a difficult one for leaders. How can you tell whether your employees trust you? A typical scenario you might encounter: walking into a room full of team members enthusiastically chatting about their day. If they stop talking rather than include you in their conversation, it’s a clear sign something is off.

So, what are the key factors generating this distrust? For one, a lack of interest in your employees as human beings. For example, you show a lack of any interest about a team member outside of work. Additionally, when people think of a trustworthy leader, they think of someone who can own up to their mistakes.

Remember ‘life is a mirror’. As a leader you  must walk the talk and practice the behaviours that you want your team to exhibit.

Your behaviour is killing motivation

Beware of micro managing. Although often done with good intentions, this can be toxic especially with high achievers.

This can be a hard habit to break especially if you’re the kind of boss who lasers in on details, prefers to be cc’ed on emails, and is rarely satisfied with your team’s work.

To put this into perspective of your impact: You’re setting up a significantly more stressful working environment, stifling creativity, and fostering burnout.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from those who have successfully broken this habit: start by stepping back, gradually. It’s critical for you as a leader to embrace trust and support your employees rather than unnecessarily try to oversee their every move.

You don’t listen

One of the biggest things toxic leaders have in common is they simply don’t listen. They love the sound of their own voice or don’t know when to stop.

Leaders who listen to understand form better connections and relationships. They develop a more engaged team and don’t lose out on invaluable insights their employees have to offer.

Listening involves complete attention without interruptions; it involves patience, and the desire to understand the other person’s point of view. In other words, it’s the ability to put your ego aside and encourage each team member to become more invested in the conversation.

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