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Unmasking the Paradox: Why Some Businesses Hold Onto Toxic Managers

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.

Misaligned Priorities:

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

overall performance.

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.

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