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Why A Toxic Manager Keeps Getting Promoted

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Leadership is one of the most important factors determining the success of a company. Leadership can make or break the company both fast and slowly. When it does so slowly, you don’t easily notice it, unless you are a true leader. Poor leadership seriously affect employees morale and cause the company’s bottom line to plunge. Bad leadership leads to poor employee retention and demotivates the remaining employees, causing them to be much less productive than they would otherwise be.

The big question is, what really makes toxic managers to really keep getting rewarded in a form of promotions when they are actually bringing the company down? Well, firstly, let me make this important statement: When bad managers get ahead, it is a sign of organizational dysfunction. When dysfunction reigns, toxic managers thrive. This simply means that organizational dysfunction is the number one reason these ineffective managers get promoted, period. I’m certain you’ve had and even at least seen a bad manager who seemed to fool everybody, you know the type. They threaten people using their positional power, play favourites, fire off last-minute requests, call it demands, and take sole credit for team’s effort. But here is the most frustrating part – they keep getting promoted, that really hurts!

Yes, sometimes it seems like the most toxic people are the ones who get ahead the fastest. However, it is not because people do not see through them – it is because there are cracks in the organization, I mean serious cracks. The effect of those cracks is measurable. Surveys have shown over and over again that many people who voluntarily quit their jobs because of bad and toxic managers. Internal company surveys are conducted where these serious issues are raised and also exit interviews are done by human resources departments just for formality as nothing ever gets done about these acts of wickedness. As a business consultant, I’ve had a fair share of my frustrations over these and lost more than one business opportunities because I was very honest with the findings and my reporting. I was expected to work against my conscience which I didn’t do. There’s no way I can sell my soul just for a business contract. I had employees crying when they shared with me what they are put through by these managers and the evidence was glaring for everyone to see, but because the organizational culture is built on fear, these are just swept under the carpet. I couldn’t hide these things and as a result I lost favour with the powers that be, what a shame.

It’s so sad and frustrating hearing companies preaching culture change, change management, transformation, diversity and inclusion while they’ve no will to implement these. I’ve seen companies wasting millions of rands by bringing in consultants after consultants on the same things packaged differently just to tick the boxes that these have been done. I hear about these unhealthy scenarios all the time, especially companies in dire need of enterprise transformation, the story follows the familiar trajectory. When a company has no clear vision, it is fuelled by chaos. Without a strategy to follow, managers make decisions based on their own pride and greed. Even where clear strategy exists, culture eats it for breakfast. When top management just focuses on short term results, irrespective of how they are achieved, you are bound to find them turning a blind eye on employees’ wellness. In all likelihood, these managers did not start out toxic. But in a rudderless workplace like the one I just described, few leaders can muster the strength to rise above the infighting, groupthink, and downright nastiness. Well, toxic managers may get ahead for a while, but they will eventually hit a roadblock. It always comes, even if they make it to the top.

A manager must always keep it in mind that every employee deserves a manager – and a company – that will help them reach their highest potential. In business, being a leader doesn’t just fill a job title. You must have a capacity to motivate your team and enable them to deliver their tasks in a manner and in line with the overall goals of the company. On the other hand, unmet targets are only the start of the problems caused by bad leaders in any organization.

As a leader, always remember that there’s no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your organization. Yes, no leader is perfect, each one has his/her strengths and weaknesses. An effective leader, however, takes the time to pause, reflect and analyse where they are weak so they can take measures to mitigate or prevent these issues from affecting the organization.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn.

Veli Ndaba is a Neuro-Conscious Leadership Speaker and Trainer, Life & Business Coach, Motivational Speaker and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773