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Yes, the « toxic manager » has always existed. If it looks as if we are discovering him today with the proliferation of writings on the subject, it is simply because theoretical productions and contemporary studies better explain these dangerous managerial behaviors that the economic crisis, the unbridled competition and work-life imbalance seem to have exacerbated.
Then the question is not to ask whether this phenomenon is a reality, but rather how do we identify this “toxic” management?

Toxic Management Typology

Authors such as Chantal Vander Vorst (lien vers son nom: created an interesting typology in many respects. The 5 toxic manager profiles described below, whose characteristics are listed and identifiable, are borrowed from the author.

For use by toxic managers and … intoxicated employees!


1. The Despotic Manager
He takes pleasure in destabilizing and humiliating the employee to isolate him. It is the source of his power that allows him to shine and climb as high as possible. This is sometimes an unconscious process (but not always), or may stem from the fact that the manager himself is overwhelmed and under pressure. You will recognize him when you see him throwing darts in public meetings, only pointing out errors, destabilizing, shamelessly using false pretenses to get to the truth.

2. The « Mission Impossible » Manager
The « mission impossible » manager sets unattainable goals or completely abstract missions. As a rule, he thrives in an organizational context where the job description is vague or nonexistent. He is himself often very distant, overwhelmed or always on a trip. The framework is poorly defined and employees feel lost in it.

3. The Unsympathetic Manager
The unsympathetic type of toxic management occurs in the case of incompatible personalities. For example, when a manager who likes challenges or wants to excel meets someone for whom establishing a relationship, stability or teamwork is paramount … Between these two personalities, sparks arising from their incompatibility of temperament can quickly burst into flames. From the point of view of the person being managed, the unsympathetic manager is seen as a permanent judge. The manager maintains a list of people he does not like and they are subjected to a “special” treatment, or what may be viewed as an injustice.

4. The 4X4 Manager
The 4×4 manager is also described as a “sacred monster”. He is a very bright person with a strong personality. He does not aim to destroy others, like the despot. He is simply extremely charismatic, enjoys challenges and likes to excel. He cannot stand weakness or waste of time within his team. He does not understand that others can have a rhythm different from his. The 4×4 manager carries his title well: everywhere he goes, the grass no longer grows! He is not aware of the toxicity of his attitude, and it is often too late when he deigns to look back to see if his team is still following him.

5. The Hyper Manager
Hyper management can take many forms: hyper-perfectionist, hyper-controlling, super-efficient, hyper-ambitious or hyper-present. But this type of manager is always hyperactive with 5 to 10 projects undertaken simultaneously. Each new project, or new collaborator, is welcomed with great euphoria, before giving way to despair and disappointment. These mood swings are difficult to manage and tiring for co-workers or colleagues who have to work with a hyper-manager. It is like a washing machine that works too hard and drains his team members. It is a vicious cycle.


Tackling this problem in organizations is not easy.  First of all, calling into question the manager’s ability, weakens him vis-à-vis his collaborators. And general managers are always reluctant to dismantle this transmission wheel of their own authority.  Secondly, because the injuries caused by « toxic management » which leave deep scars are difficult to prove; especially since toxic managers tend to act in subtle and sneaky ways.

However, by presenting the problem in terms of individual and collective performance and efficiency, an approach that companies are more willing to listen to, we can act against this evil. Many studies show that when stress increases, performance decreases. Some researchers even believe that the idea of ​​ »good stress » is an illusion, and that pressure acts on only 10% of employees in terms of performance improvement. For all the other employees, continuous pressure causes demotivation, a sense of worthlessness, discouragement, insomnia, increased conflict and, ultimately, continuous decrease in the company’s performance.

When it comes to organizations, the lack of training and information of employees promoted to the position of manager who are not aware of the huge human component of this role, is a major contributing factor.  At a more personal level, the manager must become aware of his qualities, faults, and the toxicity of some of his actions and correct himself accordingly. In short, he must wake up and realize, in all humility, that he may be the manager but he is still a human being like the others.

Let us continue to hope.

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