5 tips for good leadership in a toxic workplace

June 28, 2022

What is a toxic workplace? 

Most people spend over 8 hours of their day in their workplace- whether it’s in the breakroom, in meetings, on their desk, or with their colleagues. It is undeniable that having a toxic or unhealthy workplace can add significantly to one’s daily stressors. 


effective leadership in a toxic workplace


The key differentiator between a bad day at work and a toxic workplace can be the consistency of bad days.

Think about- how normal it is for you to have a bad work day? Do you find it difficult to gather the motivation to show up at work?

Will the average work day be described as below average for most people? Chances are that answering these questions will help you differentiate between a bad work day or a bad work environment.  


Signs that leaders should look out for 

There are several indicators to alert a leader that the workplace is becoming toxic and taking a toll on the wellbeing of their employees 


Stress levels 

It is common for employees to be stressed and distracted. Being overworked, bombarded with deadlines and long meetings is too normalised. On most days employees have to work overtime. The constant pressure can even lead to irritation, anger, or depression, making the work environment pretty tense on most days. 


Turnover/ absenteeism 

Increased absenteeism is an early warning sign for turnover. High absenteeism and turnover point to low employee satisfaction which could be a major sign of an unhealthy workplace environment. 


Lack of team spirit 

High competition, lack of sharing information, lack of socialisation and communication are highly common in a toxic workplace. These kind of social dynamics reinforce the work environment and may prevent it from improving. 



Office gossip may point towards bullying, boredom, low motivation, discrimination and lots of other things that may be a nuisance in the workplace. 


Lack of trust in management 

This directly points at the relationship between leaders and subordinates. Trust building is important in order for the employees to be aligned with the goals of the organisation. However, subordinates being unable to trust the information or goals set by the management may require a serious intervention in the way things are running. 


Tips for good leadership in a toxic workplace 

After spotting the signs of a toxic workplace, steps need to be taken by managers and leaders to improve the working conditions in order to both- ensure employee well-being and organisational growth. 


1. Acknowledging the problem

Leaders need to be attentive, take a note of the issues in the workplace and lead an open conversation about it. It is helpful to be specific about the problem and have a discussion involving everyone on how to fix it. 


2. Open communication 

Going through long chains of commands, not being specific, not interacting with your subordinates directly, and other such gaps in communication can lead to increased stress, low trust and lack of belongingness. It is necessary to be able to discuss difficult issues that might be disrupting the workplace and making it an unpleasant environment. 

3. Feedback 

Giving valuable feedback is a great way to build a healthy relationship with one’s subordinate and help them grow. Having this kind of a personal relationship doesn’t only act as a motivating factor but also helps employees align themselves with the long-term goals and feel appreciated. 


4. Embrace diversity 

A workplace that is not open to embracing diversity is prone to bullying, office gossip, discrimination and exclusion. It is necessary to ensure that the office is a safe space for everyone present there. 


5. Open to suggestions 

75% of the employees believe that their immediate supervisors are a source of stress, while managers who receive upward feedback are 8.9% more profitable. Upward feedback is an important tool that can help managers improve their leadership style according to the employee needs and build trust in the workplace. 


In conclusion, creating a healthy workplace can require directed and conscious effort. However, it is important to remember that any change can be facilitated by acknowledging the current issues. The mental health of employees is a factor that does impact turnover, absenteeism, office environment, etc and has very real social and monetary impacts. Thus, workplace mental health and leadership skills need to go hand-in-hand. 


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