We all encounter problems in the workplace at one time or another: your boss is too hard on you, you don’t get along with your co-workers. But these are minor complaints that most of us learn to deal with. Lately, there have been major concerns coming up about toxicity in the workplace. Alan Goldman, author of Transforming Toxic Leaders, discusses in an interview on Psychjourney Podcasts how “toxic” leaders affect the workplace and how, many times, a transformation of the organization of the system is what can remedy a toxic situation, not just an adjustment of the leader themselves.
Toxic leaders can be described in many ways and often share a set of common traits. These traits not only make them hard to deal with, but often contribute to their success. Narcissism, obsessive compulsive tendencies, attention to technical detail – these are all traits which can make a leader great at his trade, but horrible at creating a functional working environment.
Goldman asserts that while there are cases where a toxic leader would be toxic in any situation, in many cases you can eliminate toxicity by reorganizing the structure of the workplace and putting experts in their rightful places. He uses the example of a surgeon who is a master of the technical aspects of his job but has no communication skills, yells, and makes his co-workers and patients feel scared or uncomfortable. Goldman coached the surgeon and suggested reorganizing the staff team so that the master of the surgical aspects of the profession worked in tandem with a surgeon with personal skills.
Overall, Goldman attributes toxicity in the workplace to individual psychology and staff organization – the latter being infinitely easier to deal with. With these ideas in mind, one might ask if toxicity is a necessary result of becoming a successful leader. Is it possible to become a master without creating a toxic environment? Goldman seems optimistic that non-toxic environments can exist and that even if toxicity enters the workplace, it can be eliminated.
Perhaps the next time you go to work you’ll look around and ask if your work environment is “working.” If not, how can you eliminate toxicity?