In the realm of business, success hinges upon several key factors: a talented workforce,
effective leadership, and healthy company culture. However, a perplexing phenomenon persists
in some organizations: toxic managers who continue to hold positions of power despite high
turnover rates and low morale. A recent poll found that 64% of respondents have experienced a
toxic work environment–and 44% blamed leadership. (Minshew, 2023)
This article aims to shed light on this paradox and explore the reasons why certain businesses
struggle to let go of toxic managers, even when it seems counterproductive.
Resistance to Change:
One significant factor contributing to the persistence of toxic managers is the resistance to
change within the organizational structure. Change, particularly in leadership, can be met with
apprehension and uncertainty. Organizations may fear the disruption and instability that can
accompany removing toxic managers. Additionally, if the toxic manager has a long tenure or a
close relationship with senior management, initiating change becomes even more challenging.
In some cases, businesses prioritize short-term gains over long-term well-being. Toxic
managers may exhibit aggressive or controlling behavior that yields immediate results, such as
meeting targets or increasing productivity. Focusing on short-term gains often blinds
organizations to the long-term damage inflicted on employee morale, job satisfaction, and
company culture. This narrow focus on results can overshadow the toxic manager’s detrimental
impact on employee engagement and retention.
Fear of Losing Expertise:
Toxic managers may possess a particular skill set or expertise deemed valuable to the
organization. This expertise can create a perceived dependency, leading businesses to tolerate
toxic behavior in exchange for the knowledge or experience possessed by the individual.
Unfortunately, this mindset disregards the negative consequences of toxic behavior on
employee engagement, teamwork, and overall performance. Recognizing that toxic managers
can often be replaced by leaders who possess both competence and positive interpersonal
skills are crucial.
Lack of Awareness or Accountability:
Sometimes, businesses fail to recognize or acknowledge toxic behavior within their
management ranks. This lack of awareness stems from a variety of factors, including a lack of
proper feedback mechanisms, limited employee voice, or an organizational culture that tolerates
such behavior. In such cases, businesses must prioritize building a feedback-oriented culture
that encourages open communication, transparency, and accountability. Holding toxic
managers accountable for their behavior is essential for fostering a healthy and productive work
Fear of Legal Consequences:
In certain situations, businesses may hesitate to take action against toxic managers due to
concerns over potential legal repercussions. Organizations fear wrongful termination lawsuits or
other legal battles that could arise from removing a toxic manager from their position. However,
it is essential for businesses to consult legal experts and establish robust policies and
procedures that protect both employees and the organization itself. By ensuring a fair and just
process, businesses can mitigate the risks associated with legal action while still taking
appropriate steps to address toxic behavior.
While the persistence of toxic managers in some businesses may seem puzzling, understanding
the underlying factors can help shed light on this paradox. From resistance to change and
misaligned priorities to a fear of losing expertise and a lack of awareness, multiple elements
contribute to this challenge. However, businesses must recognize the long-term costs of
retaining toxic managers, including high turnover rates, low morale, and a negative impact on
If the organization refuses to take action or implement necessary changes, toxic managers can
continue to thrive for extended periods, with some even remaining in their positions for decades.
Conversely, employees who are subjected to such managers usually struggle to endure beyond
nine months. (Palmer, 2022)
By fostering a culture of accountability, promoting open communication, and prioritizing
employee well-being, businesses can break free from this cycle and cultivate a healthier and
more productive work environment.
Remember, successful businesses are built upon a foundation of positive leadership,
collaboration, and a commitment to the well-being of employees. By addressing toxic behavior
and letting go of toxic managers when necessary, businesses can pave the way for a brighter
future, fostering an environment where employees can thrive, and the organization can flourish.