The Collective Interest and the Toxic Boss

In positive leadership the collective interest is always the prime value. When this is not the case, cultures turn toxic and organizations begin to fail.
We were finishing a successful week of executive education. During a break, we were chatting when one of the participants shared an intimate concern. She provided an in depth description of her extremely toxic boss. She shared disturbing, even shocking examples of his destructive behavior.
When she was done, our colleague who served in a senior position in one of the world’s largest corporations added her own story. Over an extended period she tried to intervene and help her boss who was much like the man who had just been described. Nothing worked and the organization was crumbling. She felt morally driven to go to the boss of her boss.
She prepared a document that recorded 18 highly destructive behaviors demonstrated by her boss in one 24 hour period. The list was stunning. When she made the planned visit and shared the list, she was brushed her off and her boss stayed in his position for two more years. The consequences were disastrous. Later the man who brushed her off apologized.
I marvel at such accounts and wonder how it is possible that in this day and age that it is still possible for toxic bosses to destroy organizations. Yet they are everywhere. In fact, in conventional organizations they are an expectation. Thankfully, in positive organizations the common good is placed first and toxic bosses are not expected.

  • Have you ever seen a toxic boss turn a culture negative? What did you learn?
  • What happens whenever the collective interest is not the first value in all decisions?
  • How can we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


2 comments on “The Collective Interest and the Toxic Boss

  1. I once consulted with an organization where the CEO hired a new VP of Operations without a thorough vetting by his executive team. It was clear from the start that this person was not a good fit for this organization’s culture but the CEO’s pride would not allow him to see the negative impact she was having on her team, as well as on the larger organization. She eventually fired one of the brightest and most beloved employees in the organization because, in my opinion, he did not “look” the part. The removal of this long-term employee occurred despite the protests of many high ranking members of the organization including several of the CEO’s direct reports. Members of the Operations Team began behaving in self-protective ways rather than focusing on the larger common good. It wasn’t until the team missed several new product development goals and time lines that she was removed from the organization.
    While the CEO is extremely bright and well respected in the industry, this blind spot resulted in a decision to remove a beloved long-term employee that reverberated throughout the organization for more than a year. I was coaching him at the time and still feel the pain of this unwarranted dismissal.

    1. Thank you for your comment and sharing this story. Your experience and frustration are shared by many. I hope there were positive take aways and next steps.

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