The Solution

Step-up and Step-in

When toxic leadership behaviors are ignored or tolerated they harm employees and eventually destabilize an organization. Talented and valuable personnel will spend their energy protecting themselves rather than doing their work, and the organization will have to divert resources away from the mission to combat incivility and hostility. 

Eventually, employees will leave for settings in which they feel safer and those who remain will be at risk for insider threat incidents. These disgruntled employees may unintentionally violate security protocols or intentionally harm themselves or others. Any of these outcomes can compromise your organization’s morale, reputation, and mission. 

As a senior leader, and someone with authority, you have the power to create change in your workforce. Hold yourself and others accountable for creating and sustaining a healthy, safe, and productive workplace. 


  • Recognize toxic behavior patterns
  • Speak to others in a non-threatening way
  • Communicate that the organization will not tolerate toxic behavior 
  • Take responsibility for addressing a problem 
  • Ask for help from an objective third party (e.g., Human Resources professional) 
  • Challenge toxic behavior 
  • Develop a systematic process to hold leaders accountable 
  • Remove toxic leaders who are unable or unwilling to change
  • Maintain focus on the organization’s goals and values
  • Evaluate your own behavior periodically
  • Offer coaching for employees affected by toxic leadership behavior
  • Identify and mentor promising leaders


  • Assume that a problem is an isolated case
  • Disrespect or intimidate others
  • Send mixed signals about the organization’s tolerance of toxic behavior
  • Assume a problem will get better on its own
  • Try to manage situations without organizational support 
  • Downplay the effects of toxic behavior 
  • Address toxic behaviors inconsistently or fail to hold leaders accountable 
  • Be afraid to remove or separate a toxic leader 
  • Lose focus of the organization’s goals and values 
  • Engage in toxic behavior
  • Expect employees to fend for themselves in a toxic environment
  • Promote or reward toxic leaders