Whistleblowing on cruel leaders

Toxicity at work is a slow poison for the victims of its intentions, too often bosses are at fault but what can be done to stop it in its tracks?
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Whistleblowing on cruel leaders
Too often toxicity at work is left to fester until the damage is done

A toxic boss slowly chips away at an employee's self-confidence, left unchallenged it can cause severe damage and bleed into the culture of the business overtime.

It may not be obvious at first and others may gasp in disbelief when it’s revealed but to the victim it is a living and breathing daily hell which may be endured for many months or years before it stops, or one party leaves the organisation. What is certain is that it is highly damaging and corrosive to the victim’s self-belief, confidence and ability to perform at work. Sadly, for too many it doesn’t stop at the office gates either, seeping into every membrane and fabric of their personal life too as the clouds form and the ensuing levels of desperation spiral further towards a hopeless pit of despair.

Spotting the signs

As with many things, toxicity may be misinterpreted as a loud boss, one that likes to have banter, the David Brent comic of the Office, the wind-up merchant, the snide commentator, the one that belittles publicly or privately, the saboteur, the public berater, the boss that asks for work around the clock, or the glory hunter – taking praise for others' hard graft. They are chameleons that come in many different guises. Spotting them is the work of the brave.

One HR professional who wishes to remain anonymous, sadly experienced this first hand, “When I was early in my HR career, I worked for a toxic boss. The kind of boss that gaslighted you into thinking that you were "too enthusiastic" or convinced you that your lack of experience in your discipline meant your views and ideas weren't valid.”

This kind of shaming, mostly likely doesn’t occur as a one-off but is a steady stream of put downs and snide comments.

When I was early in my HR career, I worked for a toxic boss. The kind of boss that gaslighted you into thinking that you were "too enthusiastic" or convinced you that your lack of experience in your discipline meant your views and ideas weren't valid

HR professional (anon)

“Once, after I raised a concern about something I found in some data which we had to disclose legally to the government, both this manager and the CEO at the time tried to hide it to make the company look better. I refused to purposely tamper with data when it was a legal requirement to disclose it, and I wouldn't participate any further in the piece of work. I was young and it was hard to stand up for my beliefs against such senior people.”

Compromising integral professionalism with what those from above are requesting is a challenge, particularly when a career is fresh and unestablished.

She adds, “After this, my relationship with my manager deteriorated further and I was treated unfairly in comparison to my colleagues, repeatedly. I made the decision to leave after my mental health couldn't take it any longer.”

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