The Ten Organizational Toxicity Sources

Toxicity in an organization is a major concept that involves intense and adverse emotions that can disconnect an individual from colleagues and organizations as well. It is important to note that toxicity is detrimental because of its negative effects to both the employees and organization. For example, toxicity affects an individual’s self-esteem, motivation to do things, and generally affects both organizations and individual staff achievement. In the book, “Quantum Leadership” Tim Porter-O’Grady and Malloch introduces the sources of organizational toxicity.

The first organizational toxicity is where an organization has a vertical authority structure (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). In this model, decisions are top-down driven with minimal participation across the organization. The model makes an individual feel that there is a lack of trust and a desire to defend the status quo. The feeling is mostly experienced in a vertical-based hierarchy where only the top leaders have the power to make decisions. Thus, because of the absence of autonomy, staff from the bottom may have challenges in sharing constructive ideas or creative proposals.

Second, the organization has inequitable aspects of reward and recognition practices (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). In this setup, there exist gaps between what an individual earns and what leaders earn. The move can result in feelings of inequality. Where the wages of long-term staff are reduced, but newer staff are brought on at higher incomes, which can result in distrust among the employees.  The cases of dissatisfaction and distrust among employees result in adverse organizational politics that is toxic.

Third, abuse and misuse of power are among the critical sources of organizational toxicity (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). It is worth noting that individuals with all manners of characters may take leadership positions in the organization. Thus, using the concept that power corrupts, some of the leaders may go against the code of conduct. If a leader is involved in a detrimental operation, which impedes his or her authority, the employees working for the organization might feel that their right is being violated. Due to this, the affected employees can either retaliate after running out of patience. However, in some cases, they normally opt to quit.

Fourth, a lack of respect for the employees in an organization is a source of toxicity. Some leaders perceive employees as being expendable and do nothing to retain them (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). The problem involves top leadership displaying disrespect to staff members. The staff thus feels overlooked, unvalued, and treated as people who are not important, which can lead to staff turnover. In regards to this, an organization can end up losing important employees who could have transformed the organization.

The fifth source of toxicity involves organization’s failure to handle unmotivated employees. Though creating time and energy to handle unmotivated employees is hard, the failure to create time to manage unmotivated can lead to a toxic environment where quality performance is not seen as a value. Similarly, a high degree of tolerance to anti-social characters is the sixth source of toxicity (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). These antisocial behaviors consist of extreme bullying, gossip, and harassment. Failure to handle these behaviors can lead to toxicity. 

Seventh, toxic mentoring is another source of organizational toxicity. In regards to this, it is important to note that, in any set-up, the availability of organizational politics cannot be avoided (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). The actions can happen where there is no laid channels of communications, and one person with bad morals can influence followers in the organization. The eight sources are the aspect of dishonesty and inconsistence in the organization. In this situation, the leaders display levels of dishonesty when they do not keep their word and give dishonest reports.

The ninth source of organizational toxicity is getting involved in wrong advocacy programs (Porter-O’Grady & Malloch, 2014). The source described how leaders in an organization focus on reactive instead of proactive. Having much care in a reactive way has led to toxicity in many organizations. The tenth source of toxicity is the failure of the organization to create a balance between individual life and work activities. The behavior causes a toxic platform, particularly where much effort in attaining work linked targets in place of staff’s welfare and well-being.

How to manage the toxicity for a healthy organization

Organizational leaders have a duty to solve other people’s problems. Leaders should act with compassion to individual issues by using their skills to lift these people from the problems. In addition, emphasis should be set on getting rid of toxic mentoring issues while at the same time, major on making sure there is accountability, effective communication, and follow-up strategy on the set agreements promptly (Burke, 2016). Leaders should be able to manage toxicity by creating a positive environment and making sure that the organization has needs like tools to eliminate the possibilities of issues.

To handle toxins in organizations, leaders ought to major in creating a concept of shared governance. The concept provides a platform for partnerships, accountability as well as equity, which consequently lowers toxicity in an organization (Burke, 2016). On the same note, it leads to a friendly environment for the staff members and inspires a positive relationship. Thus, in creating a healthy environment to last for a long time, organizational leadership ought to major in creating reasonable and appropriate objectives, appropriate policies, and rules that capture the needs of everyone in the organization.


Burke, R. J. (2016). The Healthy Organization: Reducing High-Risk Individual Behavior and Organizational Toxicity. The Fulfilling Workplace (pp. 23-72). Routledge.

Porter-O’Grady, T., & Malloch, K. (2014). Quantum leadership: Building better partnerships for sustainable health. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Leave a Reply