Why do Toxic Business Leaders Persist?

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Leadership, Management, Workplace Harassment

Toxic leaders still exist for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons why these bullies are still around in 2024 are:

A Lack of Self-Awareness

Many toxic leaders are unaware of their harmful behaviors or refuse to acknowledge them. Some of them simply don’t care. Without feedback, self-reflection, or repercussions, these leaders may continue their detrimental practices.

Companies Are More Focused on Short-Term Results

Toxic leaders often achieve short-term success through aggressive tactics and high-pressure environments. Organizations sometimes prioritize immediate results over long-term health, inadvertently rewarding toxic behavior.

Cultural and Systemic Issues

Certain corporate cultures may implicitly support or tolerate toxic leadership styles. Systemic issues, such as lack of accountability or ineffective HR practices, can allow toxic leaders to thrive.

Fear and Intimidation

Toxic leaders often create an environment of fear, discouraging employees from speaking out. Subordinates may fear retaliation or career repercussions, leading to a lack of reporting and intervention.

Misunderstood Leadership Models

Some leaders mistakenly believe that authoritarian or micromanaging styles are effective leadership strategies. Misguided perceptions of strength and control can perpetuate toxic behavior.

Lack of Training and Development

Organizations may fail to provide adequate executive leadership training and development programs. Without proper guidance and education, leaders may not develop the necessary skills to lead positively and effectively.

Personal Insecurities and Egotism

Personal insecurities or a desire for power and control can drive toxic behaviors. Leaders with a high need for dominance may resort to toxic tactics to maintain their status.


How Can Businesses Address the Issue?

To mitigate the presence of toxic leaders, organizations can:

  • Promote Self-Awareness in their Senior Executives: Encourage regular feedback and self-reflection among leaders.
  • Focus on Long-Term Success: Prioritize sustainable growth and employee well-being over short-term results.
  • Cultivate a Positive Culture: Foster a culture of transparency, respect, and support.
  • Implement Strong HR Policies: Establish and enforce HR policies that hold leaders accountable for their actions. Take a zero-tolerance stance on toxicity in the workplace.
  • Encourage Reporting: Create safe channels for employees to report toxic behavior without fear of retaliation.
  • Invest in Leadership Development: Provide ongoing training and development to cultivate effective and empathetic leaders.
  • Support Personal Growth: Help leaders address personal insecurities and build confidence in healthy ways.


By understanding the root causes of toxic leadership and taking proactive measures, organizations can create healthier, more productive work environments. This ultimately leads to a happy and engaged workforce, increased retention rates, far less absenteeism, team camaraderie and a sense of belonging, increased productivity and affective commitment, fewer workplace harassment complaints.

If you are a CEO or Senior Business Leader, ask yourself: “Am I a toxic leader?”


Critical Key Areas to Work On

Below are some critical key areas to work on to ensure you do not fall into the category of a toxic leader or bully boss:



Are you self-aware, or do you think you “know it all”? When a peer or subordinate makes a work-related statement or shares information with you, do you respond with, “Yes. I already know that” and/or do you cut them off mid-sentence?

  • Regularly seek feedback from your peers and your team members.
  • Reflect on your own behavior and its impact on others.


Empathy and Compassion

Are you actively listening to your team? Are you leading with empathy? Are you leading with your humanity?

  • Understand and respect your team’s feelings and perspectives.
  • Show genuine concern for their well-being.


Transparent Communication

Is your own self-concept well-developed?

  • Being open and honest with your team about the company’s goals and decisions. Your people’s bullshit meter is working. They will know when you are lying, hiding something or leading with inauthenticity.
  • Encouraging open dialogue and active listening.
  • Creating a safe space where your people feel comfortable coming to you with difficult questions or situations.



Don’t be afraid to admit when you have made an error. This is not a weakness – quite the opposite: This is a sign of a truly successful leader.

  • Taking responsibility for your actions and decisions.
  • Holding yourself and others accountable in a fair and consistent manner.


Support and Development

Are you looking ahead to the future of the business? Have you thought about succession planning, for example?

  • Investing in your team’s growth through training and mentorship.
  • Recognizing and celebrating their achievements.
  • Rewarding your people.


Additional Tips to Avoid Being a Toxic Leader

  • Avoid Micromanaging: Trust your team to do their jobs and give them autonomy.
  • Encourage Work-Life Balance: Promote a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout.
  • Address Issues Promptly: Tackle conflicts and issues head-on with a solution-oriented mindset.
  • Lead by Example: Demonstrate the values and behaviors you expect from your team.


By fostering a positive and supportive work environment, business leaders can all contribute to a healthier and more productive business culture. Remember, leadership is not just about achieving results, but also about how we achieve them. Do not be ‘that’ leader; you know the one – the toxic, bully boss. No one wants to work for ‘that’ person and your business will suffer as a result.

TSERGAS Human Capital’s senior HR Management Consultants can play a pivotal role in identifying, addressing, and eliminating toxic leadership within your organization by:

  1. Developing clear anti-harassment policies and professional conduct codes.
  2. Developing and providing customized leadership and management training.
  3. Providing ongoing executive business coaching for senior leaders.
  4. Conducting thorough, impartial workplace investigations and making recommendations to ensure business leaders are not engaging in toxic, harassing behaviors.
  5. Conducting regular employee well-being surveys.
Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about how our HR experts can help your business achieve its goals. Check out our services here: TSERGAS Human Capital | HR Services + Consulting | Toronto


Effie Tsergas

Founding Principal, Managing HR Director

Effie has been a champion of positive organizational behavior for over thirty years. She founded TSERGAS Human Capital over 10 years ago. Aside from her “effervescent” personality and unwavering commitment to HR best practices, Effie is well-known for her work with some of the top legal firms in Canada. She assists clients across various industries with everything from targeted, direct recruitment, strategic human resources planning; and change management initiatives. With a wealth of experience in human resources, workplace investigations, law, public relations, and marketing communications, Effie is a seasoned strategist with expertise you can bank on.