7 Warning Signs of Toxic Managers in the Workplace

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Toxicity in the workplace can be a serious problem, especially when it’s a direct result of the attitudes and actions of those in charge. The aptly termed “toxic manager” not only wreaks havoc on a company’s culture but also can destroy morale, inhibit communication and cooperation, cause increased absenteeism, and negatively impact the emotional well-being of employees.

So why do these toxic managers prevail? Business owners often are unaware, or unwilling to see, the problem. Such shortsightedness can destroy a company. The first step in removing toxic behavior from your business is recognizing it when you see it. Here are seven red flags you need to watch out for:


Physical and mental absence. Watch out for managers who are mentally checked-out or never in the office. They often don’t understand what their employees do on a daily basis and are unaware of brewing discontent. Worse, they leave staff members to make important decisions without guidance or leadership.

Un-accountability. Pay close attention to the manager who never admits fault. By making excuses and justifying their poor decisions and mistakes, or by shifting blame, these managers are taking advantage of the employees they are supposed to lead and support.

Micromanaging. Don’t overlook managers who get hung up on minutiae instead of focusing on the big picture. These leaders tend to criticize every little detail causing their employees to feel incapable and because they don’t trust their employees, they end up taking on way more work than they should.

Belittling, ridicule, gossip. Watch out for managers who belittle the work of others or ridicule employees in meetings. A manager who talks badly about—or to—their employees is definitely toxic. Gossip is the death of collaboration because it creates an atmosphere filled with suspicion and distrust.

Taking all the credit. A toxic manager may take all the credit for every completed project. Beware of bosses who never offer praise for their team, do not celebrate the success of others, and offer no recognition of team members for their individual contributions.

Playing favorites. Pay attention to undeserved promotions and overly lenient disciplinary actions. Toxic managers create a culture of favoritism among their employees, often protecting or promoting those who reinforce their own power.

Negative focus. Be wary of managers who never have anything nice to say. Toxic managers lower employee morale by focusing solely on employees’ mistakes or correcting perceived problems. They often fail to give positive feedback or reinforcement for a job well done.