4 Signs You’re A Toxic Leader, Because Sometimes The Business Problem Is You

When I encounter frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest with my observations and the things that contribute to a negative workplace atmosphere – I sometimes have...

Photo: Errol D. Allen, Founder of Errol Allen Consulting; Source: Courtesy Photo

As an operations and customer service consultant, I have a first-hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I observe the corporate chemistry – how leadership teams interact with employees, how employees interact with leaders, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers. I observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior.

When I encounter frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest with my observations and the things that contribute to a negative workplace atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them they are the problem.

Here are a few instances I’ve observed where the leader is the problem.


Undefined expectations

When expectations are clear and well-defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind. It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to develop and communicate expectations.


Poor employee relations

Some of the most shocking behavior I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, and the blame game just to name a few. Cultures where the leader is prone to any of these is not conducive to long-term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.


Unclear direction

In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter-skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something new to chase.


Know-it-all syndrome

When a leader has a know-it-all attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff. Employees become exasperated by the leaders inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture instead of a give and take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge. Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend and often find another place to work.


These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often share concerns along the lines of: “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employees behavior?”


Errol Allen is the founder and CEO of Errol Allen Consulting, a Houston, Tx based firm specializing in operations improvement and customer service training. His passion is to create long-term value by assisting his clients in developing both customer and employee friendly processes. Connect with @consult53 on Twitter.


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