Why Toxic Leaders Will Ruin a Workplace

Why Toxic Leaders Will Ruin a Workplace

Rants, outrage, abusive language, mood swings, high aggression, lack of sensitivity, passive-aggressiveness, sarcasm, manipulation, intimidation—pick your poison. In today’s workplace, toxic leaders are a dime a dozen.

1 in 5 adults experience uncontrollable anger, and we frequently see news reports of people in key leadership positions releasing their anger in the workplace. Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, is one recent cautionary tale. His actions have thrust Uber into a PR nightmare and sparked an investigation by the US Attorney’s office. However, this kind of behavior isn’t new, and in some circles, it’s even tolerated.

In 1985, we saw well-known basketball coach Bobby Knight throw a chair during a game because he didn’t agree with an official’s call. Knight was known for his volatile outbursts, but people claimed they were part of what made him so successful. Other highly successful leaders have also fallen into this category: Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Bill Gates are just a few of the leaders who come to mind. But do the ends truly justify the means? What is the damaging aftermath of this kind of behavior?


The Damaging Effects of Toxic Leadership

leader being rude toxic leadership

Besides hurting their reputations, leaders with explosive-anger issues create a toxic culture that permeates the organization and creates an environment of disconnection and disempowerment. Workplace anger can have terrible consequences for employers and employees alike: loss of innovation, wasted time, high turnover and absenteeism, increased apathetic compliance, detachment, impaired problem-solving skills, low morale, health problems—and as if that weren’t enough, toxic leaders also expose the organization to greater PR risks, potential litigation, and other serious consequences.

In our work, we are often asked to coach leaders who have great technical skills but exhibit overly aggressive behavior and uncontrollable anger with their employees. These individuals often don’t realize the full impact they are having on the people around them: the long-term damage they are causing; the negative impact they are having on talent retention. Through our executive-coaching program, CMOE coaches help these leaders

  • Increase their self-awareness.
  • Identify triggers that lead to their outbursts and aggressive behavior.
  • Learn how to pause or take a step back as they feel their anger and frustration rising.
  • Work effectively with individuals who have different styles from their own and may cause the leaders some irritation.
  • Increase their emotional intelligence.
  • Know when to let things go.

There are many daily pressures leaders face that can create frustration, disappointment, and anger. However, leaders who want to be truly successful know how to express their anger in controlled and productive ways. If you find that you or someone you work with is expressing unrestrained rage (and creating a toxic work environment because of it), don’t let the behavior derail you or your organization; contact CMOE today to discuss an Executive Coaching Program.

About the Author


CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.