With that weird reading title, I must clarify that this blog post is on Leadership and not on a Health topic. Well ok, a bit on health, your mental health, and the health of your career if you happen to be working (read: suffering) in a toxic workplace.
So here comes the cat out of the bag: This blog that I chose to write today is on Toxic Bosses and not on Tuberculosis. This headline for my blog clicked in a breeze. I could quite easily draw parallels between the two. Persistent cough is a common symptom of Tuberculosis and so is persistent coughing of wrong notions, a common symptom of a Toxic Boss.
What I mean when I say toxic is not an assertive boss at all. Those are two different styles. Toxic, by definition is poison. Just to share a few tell-tale signs, a TB is someone who has his/her integrity misplaced, who is overtly obsessed with self, divides and rules, refuses to mentor, keeps no record of performance data and talks in the air, someone who denies everything, admits nothing, and blames somebody else.
Are toxic leaders born?
Before I even answer that, the more pertinent question to ask here is: Are leaders born? Or Are leaders developed?
I’d say both. Either someone is a born leader or they are very much within the zone i.e. born with the basics right. You can train someone to become a leader, but not just anyone. It is a skilful business to be in, one that would eventually define the course of your organization. Born with innate abilities to lead or not, every leader must graduate in leadership through a formal degree and I wish to emphasize, that I mean this to be a serious suggestion. It is high time we introduce a bachelors or masters degree course in Corporate Leadership and not rely on hunches while giving someone the mantle of leadership.
Toxic leaders are born as a result of a bad corporate culture, one where the HR is symbolic and Management diabolic.
Who is accountable for a toxic leader?
There is not even an iota of doubt in my mind that the culpability of a toxic work environment rests jointly with the Management and the Human Resources. Management because they will prefer to be armchair generals, not perform skip-level interactions, push wrong people in Leadership roles and the HR because they will slip back into their cozy cocoons, once they have promised the moon to their next hires and brought them on board.
It is high time to realize that Leadership is a specialized position, one that adversely affects productivity, morale and profitability of your organization. For the sake of organizational sustenance, you just cannot take an idiot and motivate him/her to take on the mantle of leadership. That’ll only give you – A Motivated Idiot!
What to do if you are in a toxic workplace?
Now that is absolutely a personal call. You can continue to face the harsh winds, turn the tide back, or make your peace and exit!
Facing the harsh winds -If you love heavy metal and are thick skinned to survive the harsh winds, by all means do it!
Turn the tide back – Toxic bosses have many victims. Find your comrade-in-arms who is also a victim of the toxic boss and seek redressal from your HR.
Quit – When you are convinced that the rot is present from top to bottom and there is no way out, you make peace and plan your exit strategy. Remember: There’s a big world out there.
What to do if a toxic boss makes you ‘the apple of her eye’?
Some toxic bosses are clever enough to not upset the entire lot and handpick their favourites just to get their public image going. Even if you are in that lucky lot, I’d say think twice. You cannot sit silent as your colleagues are subjected to this form of bullying by a toxic boss. Learn to take a stand, not for the love or hate of individuals but for the love of the organization.
What can you do if you are a toxic boss?
Well, to start off, head for the nearest church and confess to your sins. Go back to the drawing board. Understand your people. Respect their different abilities. Spot their uniqueness. Nurture them. Mentor them. Bring out the best in them. Lead by example.
I am not saying carry bad performers on your shoulders. Sure, put them on a ‘Shape up or Ship out’ plan but do it once you have exhausted all available options of enforcing correction, even then do it with dignity.
‘Integrity’ has to be the #1 trait of a good leader. The day you start serving your organization and not your ‘one level up’, is the day you will set course towards this beautiful island called Leadership.
A good leader is not skewed towards style but substance.
Toxic leaders only fear the people above them and have no love for the organization that puts bread on their tables.
Jumping to conclusions is a cardinal sin a good leader must not commit to.
‘Praise in public, criticize in private’ is a doctrine I still subscribe to dearly and believe should be practised by every leader.
And I can go on… (but I got to conclude now)
With a satisfying professional career spanning over a decade, I have had the pleasure of leading from the front and being led. More than that, I must say that I have been an avid student of a corporate work environment. I have learnt a lot by just observing a lot many different leadership styles around me. I have seen many different kinds of personalities leading their platoons at the workplace, some worthy and some not. All I’d say is Leadership is no walk in the park. The position comes with immense responsibilities of nurturing human potential and bringing the best out in the process. The real challenge is in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and not reversing the cycle. You achieve that, and you will in turn, invest in your own personal growth and that of the organization.
So, here I bid adieu to you but before I do that, here’s a Domino’s Pizza leaflet that I had painstakingly preserved for over 4 years and painstakingly restored today, which will put a comical turn to bring home the point.
Love and Peace to All!