At some point in our careers, almost all of us have had to deal with a toxic boss. They are present in every organisation and have a catastrophic impact on both individual employees and on the organisation that employs them.
Some might point to recruitment and promotion practices and suggest that the solution should be created there. After all, many of these toxic bosses have been promoted on their previous success as a non-managerial employee. That is, promoted on their prowess at a functional skillset, not on their ability to manage people.
While this is a sensible solution which is already in place in many organisations, it is also flawed. Many companies now include the ability to lead people as part of the selection process for new managers. The problem is, though, that many toxic bosses were promoted years ago and are creating difficulties for your employees now. They are also harming your company’s productivity, profit and ability to attract and retain the top talent.
Many organisations and senior management teams are guilty of ‘passing a blind eye’ to the behaviour of a toxic boss. They often explain that it is their passion and focus on results. This can only be a good thing, right?
Wrong. The toxic boss has a serious impact on your people and your business.
- People working for a toxic boss experience lower job satisfaction and the stress is likely to spill over into their personal lives (University of Manchester)
- Those working for a toxic boss are more likely to experience mental fatigue and have less self-control leading to a cost of $14,000 per employee in lost productivity (The University of Michigan)
- Working for a bad boss, according to multiple studies, increases your chance of having a heart attack by 50%
Employees leave bosses
Then, we all know the old truism – employees don’t leave their job or their company. They leave their boss.
Toxic bosses drive people away. It is as simple as that. There is no other way of looking at this, no matter what justification is presented about their behaviour. As soon as the toxic behaviour starts, your best employees will be the first to look for a new job. Your best employees know their value and know that they can find alternative employment away from this horrible environment.
Your best employees expect their skills, talents and contributions to be recognised and valued. They want to improve and develop both themselves and the job that they do. They usually want a potent voice, at least in their team, feeding into improvements. The toxic boss is often incapable of dealing with this, interpreting suggestions, innovation and motivated employees as threats. The upshot is the best employees leave, quickly.
Consider the cost. Losing employees is never cheap. The cost of replacing an employee ranges from 16% of salary for low-earning positions up to 213% of salary for higher earning and high skilled positions (Center for American Progress). Add to this, over 50% of respondents reported having left a job to escape a toxic boss. This is colossal and totally avoidable cost.
Some employees simply can’t escape
So, a toxic boss will drive some of your best talent away running for cover with your competitors. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?
Is it as painful, though, as those employees who desperately want to leave but can’t. They have been so beaten down and disengaged by the toxic environment that they can’t summon the motivation to complete an application form. And, when they do so, their disengagement shows in the interview and they don’t get the job.
It is extremely difficult for many disengaged employees to escape their current predicament. So, they are stuck with the toxic boss and your company is stuck with a disengaged employee who is underperforming, likely experiencing increased absence from work and hating every minute of their working day.
Toxic is contagious
The final thought has to consider whether the impact having a toxic boss in your organisation can be confined to the team. The short answer is no, it can’t. Toxic environments in the workplace have a habit of spreading.
Employees experiencing such an environment in their team are less tolerant of other people. They are more critical of other people and more likely to try to take credit for other people’s work. They are also more vocal in the company canteen spreading the negative vibes. These employees are also more likely to do what is best for themselves, rather than what is best for the organisation. After all, they are in self-preservation mode and, to them, the face of the organisation is represented by the toxic boss.
This all creates a poor working environment and the toxicity spreads across your organisation.
And, the biggest issue for organisations and senior management teams is….toxic bosses are very easy to spot.