Toxic Leadership: Are You Infecting Your Team?

RL03-26-15Great leadership is contagious. If you are a positive person, chances are your team will catch on. If you are a highly productive person, your employees may become more engaged at work. If you are generous with your time in developing careers, your positive influence may encourage your employees to raise up next-generation leaders. However, the flipside is that toxic leadership can be just as contagious. And without even knowing it, you may be infecting your team.

In many ways, toxic leadership can have a lasting effect on your office. Side effects may include lack of motivation, disengagement, and chronic stress. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, the highest factors for stress are co-worker tension, bosses, and workload. This toxicity in the workplace may be creating an infected environment. To see if you’re infectious, check out the following three symptoms of a toxic leader and learn how to find the antidote.

“Do as I say, not as I do”

Though tongue-in-cheek, everyone has heard this phrase. And while most people wouldn’t actually say this out loud, their actions speak loud enough. Nothing causes dissension and disengagement more than having a leader who uses the “do as I say, not as I do” approach. Leaders who don’t practice what they preach develop employees who have little respect for their superiors and less motivation to work for them. Your employees want to know you’re in the trenches with them—working alongside one another for a common goal. If you don’t act a certain way, you can’t expect it of your team. If you would never do a certain task, then don’t expect it of your team. The best way to combat this toxic mentality is to lead by example.

“It doesn’t matter how it gets done, just get it done!”

There are two ways to prompt your team to work harder to achieve a goal or meet a deadline: positive and negative motivation. The latter can be effective in the short term, but can lead to a high-stress, low-morale workplace. Negative motivation—like the fear of being fired or reprimanded—can quell your team’s creativity and give everyone tunnel vision. This type of motivation doesn’t let your employees flourish in their positions. Having open communication about how this can be accomplished is just as important as what is being accomplished. Your team members bring their own unique perspective to the table, but when negative reinforcement prevails, they may close up and actually be less productive. Fight this toxicity with positive encouragement and motivation.

“Nothing’s going right—this whole thing is a failure!”

One of the most influential aspects of toxic leadership is attitude. Whether in body language or verbal communication, leaders are setting the stage for either success or failure everyday—and some don’t even know it! By revealing a negative outlook on a situation or problem, leaders are giving their employees the permission to be negative. And though not everyone, some employees tend to emulate their direct supervisors. So if you are frustrated and feel defeated about the task at hand, you are setting the stage for your employees to feel the same way. It’s imperative to know how your employees perceive you, so you will better know when and how to control your emotions. If negativity is pushing away your top talent or infecting your team, filter what your employees see and hear from you. Keep calm and remain positive.

Toxic leadership can only have two outcomes: either it infects your workforce, or it leads your top talent out the door. Your team is looking to you for guidance and support. If you are positive and optimistic, your team will follow suit. However, if you are negative, on-edge, and emotionally unstable, your employees will either find a way to emulate you or find a way out. Don’t spread this type of infectious leadership; take the antidote and cultivate a healthy, positive work environment.

Have you ever encountered toxic leadership in your career? What are some ways you were able to combat it? Let us know in the comments section below!

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