Leadership Styles That Create a Toxic Work Environment

Despite the amount of time spent at work, many overlook the ways in which workplaces contribute to emotional health and wellbeing. As relationships set the foundation for structure, those in leadership positions have the authority to set the tone for the workplace culture. While good workplace leaders can set precedence for positive experiences, toxic leadership behaviors can contribute to negative and unhealthy work environments.

It is important for leaders to assess the ways in which they command and lead their teams. As a leader, interactions with employees and the way in which authority is carried set the tone for your workplace. For leaders looking to cultivate a positive and productive environment, here are some leadership styles to avoid like the plague.

Unwillingness to Consider Feedback

Just it is important for leaders to manage employees, another crucial facet of the job includes the willingness to listen to concerns or feedback. In this power dynamic, communication is essential to ensure supervisors and employees are benefitting from the relationship and successfully performing their duties. Leaders who refuse to respond to concerns or consider constructive criticism are not conducive to workplace improvement or open dialogue, which may lead to hostility or conflicts further down the line, and spur employee dissatisfaction.


Successful leaders are consistent in their expectations, rules, and responses. While consistency ensures streamlined order, inconsistency undermines leadership as it obscures which principles and guidelines need to be followed. When leadership is unstable—if in some circumstances a leader might uphold certain circumstances but ignore them in others, or make exceptions for specific groups of employees—conflict breeds easier.

Losing Sight of Ethical Core

As leaders oversee various employees, it is important for leaders to hold onto their ethical philosophies. While they may be juggling responsibilities on top of their employees, leaders must preserve core values such as fairness, inclusivity, objectivity, and empathy. Keeping sight of their morals and treatment of others reduces the risk for corruption and ensures their supervisees are treated fairly and remain an important facet of the company’s dynamics.


In order to lead successfully, it is important for leaders to keep tabs on the work employees are doing. Leaders who are disconnected and unaware of their employees’ progress can prove detrimental to the work structure. If leaders fail to recognize hard work, or do not hold employees accountable for bad work or behavior, employee morale will drop and dissatisfaction will rise.

Intimidate, Rather Than Acquire Respect

Successful leaders acquire respect from their supervisees by providing support and educating effectively. Toxic leaders will use intimidation tactics as a means of gaining authority. This type of leadership not only sets the standard for how the rest of the employees may treat one another, but also breeds a hostile and uncomfortable work environment.


It is important for leaders to appropriately support and mentor employees. This not only cultivates a culture where learning and hard work is valued, but also creates a relationship where leaders and supervisees can exchange information and strive together. Leaders who do not take the time to provide mentorship for employees, or prove indifferent to employee development, can stifle morale and professional growth.

As leaders prove important in setting the tone for the workplace environment, it is important they assess the ways in which they interact with employees and manage their authority. Greater awareness of toxic leadership styles can lead to healthier, more productive workplaces.