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Why do some leaders stress out their employees?

Photo: RainStar/iStockphoto

London — Workplace leaders with low self-esteem are more likely to place stress on their employees, a university professor and well-being expert says.

Drawing on his four decades of research, Simon L. Dolan details five main characteristics of a “toxic leader”:

  • Jealousy of their team’s success
  • Constantly concerned about competition or workplace “enemies”
  • Taking credit for other people’s work
  • Constantly comparing themselves to others
  • Placing their self-worth only in their latest results

“Leadership can make or break an organization, with good leaders motivating teams to be creative and productive,” Dolan – a speaker, author and scholar in human resource management, organizational behavior, work psychology and cross-cultural competencies – said in a press release promoting his most recent book. “But on the other side of the coin, a bad leader can demotivate teams (and) cause low morale, and the effect on teams can be devastating.

“Whether knowingly or not, a toxic leader is one who abuses their authority and violates trust to satisfy their own ego.”

Dolan said early life experiences and “learned cognitive predispositions” can turn leaders into toxic bosses. “There are many factors that contribute to a toxic personality, including a compulsive need to display their worth to others, but mainly out of a lack of deep-rooted self-esteem,” he added. “This is usually a culmination of a lack of ethical and emotional development throughout their lives.”

Dolan recommends leaders learn to proactively manage their emotions to “project a calm and rational persona to their teams,” and equip themselves with tools to regulate emotions. He also emphasizes the importance of validation, such as complimenting employees on work performance.

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