Dealing With Toxic Managers…

Leaders need quality mangers who effectively manage employees, work to ensure the success of the organization, and keep the organization moving in a positive direction. It has been said that managers do the right things, however some managers who become apathetic in their positions become saboteurs (sometimes intentionally, others unintentionally). A toxic manager can subvert a leader’s mission and directives, and create a microculture in which other disgruntled employees seek opportunities to sabotage the organization.

Leaders must find positive methods to motivate and stimulate those within the organization who have become disgruntled or disengaged. A few methods for the leader to show that s/he cares about those managers are to listen, lead, confide or offer rewards that are valued by those managers. Finding stimulators which will motivate them to change their ways may be difficult, however if the situation is not resolved, one of two things will happen. Either the leader elevates the manager’s ability to lead, or the leader helps the manager find another employer.

A leader needs to be able to recognize toxic behavior and be watchful for behaviors that may be causing a culture of sabotage. No supervisor or manager is immune to toxicity. Having a manager who is toxic, and is left in his/her position, will inevitably cause more damage to the organization. The leader in this sense must determine whether the problem is being caused by a manager. Once it is determined who is the source of this toxicity, the leader of the organization must confront the individual about his or her behavior. While it is possible that the individual may not be aware of how his/her behavior is affecting others, it must be addressed.

Leaders must be receptive to the opinions of others while dealing with a toxic manager, because leaders should never be alone as a leader. Willingness to receive feedback from others about a manager should always be valued as it shows that you value the opinions of everyone within the organization. However, when it comes to negative information, it must be investigated without the opinion of the leader. It is important in this situation to make sure that those who are reporting such information are not trying to sabotage an individual or the organization.

To address and hopefully remedy a situation where a manager has been identified as being toxic, the leader must have a one-on-one conversation with them and be crystal clear about their behaviors that must be stopped immediately. Be specific about the behaviors in question, be prepared for a defensive reaction, and be ready to offer positive suggestions. This confrontation may be enough to change the negative behavior.

Create an incremental improvement strategy with the manager to ensure that s/he is clear about expected behaviors and ask him/her to paraphrase or repeat the changes you would like to see. Provide them with a timeline within which you expect to see permanent changes with their attitude, as well as consequences for noncompliance. Be SMART in your goal setting for the toxic manager. Make their behavioral goals Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. Let him/her know that their performance review will reflect this process.

In the end, genuinely show them that you are invested in them, and want to see them grow within the organization. At the conclusion of this meeting, genuinely thank and acknowledge them for the pivotal role that s/he plays within the organization, and help him/her feel the importance of their role in your vision for the organization.

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