Counting the cost of the toxic manager

Male boss haranging female employee

One in three working people say they have experienced a ‘toxic manager’ in the past five years, and over four in ten have left a job due to their dissatisfaction with those in charge.

Toxic manager traits are defined as including micromanagement, inflexibility, intimidation, gaslighting colleagues and deflecting accountability.

This is having a significant impact on employees’ experiences with nearly half saying that mental health support and empathy are crucial for their job satisfaction, and a similar number insisting that a positive workplace culture boosts their job performance, particularly among younger staff.

The findings are revealed in the same week that another study suggested fear of retaliation and a lack of trust in company processes was preventing employees from becoming whistleblowers.

The latest findings are from Corndel’s Workplace Training Report 2024, based on research conducted with 250 HR decision makers at large organisations and 1,000 UK employees.

James Kelly headshot

Kelly: evolving expectations

In fact, nearly seven in ten HR leaders admit that ‘bad managers’ are a prevalent issue within their organisations and only 54 per cent believe their organisation’s leaders possess the necessary skills to cultivate effective high performing teams.

James Kelly, CEO of Corndel, said:In an era where company culture is actively promoted and workplace mental health is marketed as an employee benefit, ensuring that employees’ lived experiences meets their expectations for management culture is key.

“The evolving expectations of employees are moving beyond free breakfasts and ping-pong tables to influencing organisational structures built on empathy and inclusion, with mental health and wellbeing support baked into the culture.”

The research also found this “significant number of toxic and ineffective managers” could be in part due to the number of ‘accidental’ managers being promoted into more senior roles when there’s been a lack of qualified candidates over the past few years, particularly as a result of the skills shortage.

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Managers found 82 per cent of those who enter management positions have not had any formal management and leadership training, and half of people who don’t have an effective manager plan to leave their organisation in the next 12 months.

HR leaders were virtually unanimous in agreeing that leadership training is an effective approach to combating a toxic workplace culture – and more than half are convinced that workplace training can completely eliminate toxicity.


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