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#9 – Toxic behaviour in different positions - Company owner

Unfortunately, this case is not a real rarity. Decision-makers who have adopted toxic behaviour in the course of their careers are often in high positions. In the past, this behaviour, with all its lack of transparency, has unfortunately usually led directly to success. Dominating other people, having control over them and thus only following one's own boot has led to various interesting but also frightening business scandals in history. That is why it is so important to focus on this and finally address this issue. It is not taboo and these people will no longer enjoy immunity in the coming period.

How can toxic behaviour manifest itself in the company owner?

When we look at this phenomenon and deal with it, the first question is to what extent there are differences to other positions in the company.

To be honest, my view is that the manner, personality structure and behaviour patterns are similar, but the sphere of influence is much larger, the actions are sometimes much more public and there are numerous free riders in the environment. It is therefore more of a spun web that contains many similar representatives.

In this way, they carry on the same behaviour, whereas they adapt to the company owner and make themselves small. Which behaviours are conspicuous here?

1. authoritarian management style: An authoritarian management style can lead to employees feeling oppressed or not heard and the working environment being perceived as hostile.

2. lack of communication and transparency: A toxic company owner may withhold information or communicate unclearly, causing mistrust and unrest within the organisation.

3. micromanagement: interfering in all aspects of the business instead of having confidence in the employees' abilities can lead to frustration and a lack of autonomy.

4. sub-optimal work-life balance: The expectation that employees work around the clock without offering adequate compensation for leisure and relaxation leads to enormous stress and pressure. This can make people ill.

5. belittling and bullying: If employees are belittled, insulted or bullied, this has an enormous impact on their self-esteem and performance.

6. disregard for ethical standards: Ethical standards can be ignored or disregarded in order to achieve short-term profits without considering the long-term effects on employees, customers or society.

7. lack of accountability: The company owner may refuse to take responsibility for mistakes or problems in the company and instead blame employees or external factors for problems. If this happens in an inhumane way, not only employee satisfaction suffers, but also the company's image in the medium term.

8. discrimination and injustice: Discriminatory practices based on gender, race, religion or other characteristics lead to unfair treatment of employees.

9. waste: Enrichment in favour of the company owner while cutting costs, waves of layoffs and reduction of benefits, etc. lead to significant ill-feeling within the company.

These behaviours can not only have a significant negative impact on the working environment, but can also jeopardise the company's growth, sustainability and image in the medium term. It is important that mechanisms are put in place to identify toxic behaviour and provide solutions to maintain a healthy and safe working environment.

What are the possible reasons for this behaviour on the part of the company owner?

There are a variety of backgrounds that can lead to toxic behaviour on the part of the company owner. Some of the most common are

1. personal characteristics and experiences

2. stress and pressure, especially time and budget

3. cultural and organisational influences

4. inadequate management and leadership skills

5. business challenges and failures, such as financial challenges and new problems

6. lack of external control or monitoring

These backgrounds can occur individually or in combination. It is important to know that toxic behaviour not only reflects personal characteristics, but is often also caused by structural and cultural factors within the company or by external changes.

What fears can arise for you as the person affected?

As a person affected by toxic behaviour on the part of the company owner, various fears can arise that can put a strain on the working environment and affect the well-being of employees. Fears of:

1. retaliation: employees could become the target of retaliation if they criticise or expose wrongdoing in the company. As a result, employees no longer dare to address problems or make suggestions for improvement. The company effectively freezes.

2. job loss: This fear arises when employees do not meet the owner's expectations or when they defend themselves against unhealthy behaviour.

3. bullying and discrimination: Being the victim of bullying, harassment or discriminatory behaviour by the company owner fuels fears.

4. professional stagnation: Toxic behaviour can lead to employees not developing or improving their skills, as development opportunities are no longer offered or employees are even blocked in their development.

5. a hostile work environment: Employees may be afraid of working in a hostile work environment characterised by toxic behaviour from the company owner. This leads to stress, discomfort and a deterioration in mental wellbeing, resulting in increased sickness absence, burnout and more serious illness.

6. the loss of the company: In the long term, the company can be damaged and even lead to its failure, which would jeopardise job security.

These fears can prevent employees from realising their full potential, inhibit any kind of development or growth and place a heavy burden on the working environment. Companies therefore have a responsibility to take appropriate countermeasures to identify and address toxic behaviour and foster a supportive culture where employees feel safe to raise issues and suggest constructive changes.

But what opportunities does this precarious situation also offer you in case of doubt?

Despite the negative effects of the company owner's toxic behaviour, there are also opportunities and possibilities to bring about positive changes in these situations. Some of these opportunities could be

1. awareness and training: identifying and raising awareness of toxic behaviour is the first step in dealing with it. Training and workshops can educate about toxic behaviour and identify ways to manage and prevent it.

2. establish a feedback culture: An open and constructive feedback culture allows toxic behaviour to be identified and addressed at an early stage. Employees must be encouraged to raise concerns or complaints safely and without fear of retaliation.

3. promoting a positive corporate culture: A corporate culture based on respect, openness, transparency and empathy must be promoted in order to create and maintain a healthy working environment.

4. establishment of policies and procedures: Clear policies and procedures to address toxic behaviour must be developed, jointly agreed and implemented, for example by establishing a code of conduct, a grievance system and clear consequences for toxic behaviour.

5. leadership development: Invest in leadership development to ensure that the necessary skills and knowledge are in place to promote a safe, respectful and friendly working environment and avoid toxic behaviour.

6. strengthening employee rights: In particular, protection against discrimination, harassment and retaliation help to curb toxic behaviour and build employee trust.

7. compliance with ethical standards: A commitment to uphold ethical standards and take responsibility for one's actions should be made, particularly to build trust among employees, customers and the public.

Companies must take advantage of these development opportunities and proactively address toxic behaviour to create a safe and productive work environment that contributes to and ensures the long-term success of the company.

What are possible risks?

When dealing with toxic behaviour of the business owner, there may be various risks that need to be considered. Some of these risks could be:

1. retaliation and countermeasures

2. reputational damage

3. legal consequences

4. brain drain

5. business disruption:

6. financial impact

7. resistance and difficulties with change

These risks of actions to be taken need to be weighed up in order to identify and address toxic behaviour. It is important that an approach is taken that takes into account both the concerns of employees and the long-term health and performance of the organisation.

What can be done preventively?

Prevention of toxic behaviour by the company owner requires a proactive and comprehensive strategy that includes various measures, such as

1. Companies should promote a corporate culture based on respect, openness, transparency, trust and collaboration.

2. Regular training on toxic behaviour, its impact and prevention strategies will help to raise awareness of the issue and encourage employees to raise concerns early.

3. Policies and procedures to promote respectful and professional behaviour are developed and implemented, e.g. a code of conduct, a grievance system and clear consequences for violations

4. Employees are encouraged to raise concerns and issues without fear of retaliation. This can be achieved through regular feedback mechanisms, open door policies and regular employee surveys.

5. Managers must be strengthened in their role as role models and culture creators. This is of course difficult in a toxic environment, so it is imperative that this takes place on a regular preventative basis, for example through leadership development training, coaching and mentoring, and clear communication of expectations regarding their responsibility for creating a safe working environment.

6. The rights of employees must be strengthened and ensured so that they are protected against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The implementation of clear guidelines, training and the establishment of a supportive complaints system serve this purpose.

7. Regularly review and evaluate the effectiveness of preventive measures to ensure that they are appropriate and meet changing needs, developments, further insights and challenges.

Taking these preventive measures and fostering a culture of respect, openness and cooperation will essentially help to prevent toxic behaviour by the company owner and create a safe and productive working environment.

The following organisations can support you in your situation:

Particularly with regard to the owner, it is of course difficult to address the anomalies and issues appropriately, especially as often only a certain group of people have contact with these people, who tend to encourage, support and cover for them. The contact points are all similar and well known, but must be carefully examined against the aforementioned background in order to avoid jumping from the frying pan into the fire. For example, the following support centres may be considered:

1. HR department

2. managers

3. colleagues and support networks

4. external counselling or coaching

5. legal advice

6. trade unions

It is important to note that support may vary depending on the situation and the organisation. It's best to choose resources that fit your specific situation and don't hesitate to ask for help when it becomes necessary.

Conclusion and outlook

Overall, it is a very difficult and precarious situation, but it is not hopeless. In certain cases, the only solution will certainly be to change jobs, but there will also be enough cases, for example if you are not alone with your experiences, views and fears, where it is worth entering into discussion and open conflict.

It would really help if you had neutral, well-meaning support at your side who can also assess and evaluate the situation so that you feel more secure and continue to trust yourself and your perceptions.

Hang in there and accept the challenge! It's a wonderful situation to grow in!

Get help and see what potential you can realise and release.


Coaching offers ideal support here to either take the first steps in conflict management and analysing one's own reaction structures or to directly implement new skills that enable and empower all those involved to learn to deal well and confidently with corresponding situations in relationships. Another option is to act as a mediator or observer and outline a neutral picture of the prevailing relationship patterns in the department or company and use this to provide insights and recommendations for action to the decision-makers.

Trusting that the best possible solution will be allowed to develop and be implemented.


Coaching can provide you with targeted support in overcoming upcoming challenges at every stage - internally in the team or as a leader in the company. Let's work out together how I can provide you in your individual situation with optimal support and customised assistance.

Contact me to take your next steps

Nicole Dildei Coaching

+49 157 58 267 427

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