Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Paul Spector, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Rick Will, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Solomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dana Parks, D.B.A.


Abusive, Behavior, Control, Destructive, Organizational


The current literature shows toxic leadership is surprisingly more prevalent than previously believed. This subset of organizational leadership studies revolves around leadership styles that poison the employee, the organization, or both. This study captures a common phenomenon for toxic leadership (symptoms) useful for diagnosing or addressing toxic leadership in organizations. My goal is to better understand toxic leadership to inform potential mitigation techniques that are applicable to business and military environments. My research suggests toxic leadership exists because senior leaders, those leaders above the toxic leader, allow it to exist, either unwittingly or knowingly. Furthermore, leaders can create toxic environments by their inaction or inability to make timely decisions. That inaction allows problems to develop, then fester and ultimately, creates a toxic environment. Also, non-toxic leaders can create toxic environments by not dealing with incompetent subordinates, like the senior leader who allows a toxic leader to continue to act out toxic behaviors. Incompetent subordinates generate problems that can contribute to a toxic environment due to their technical shortcomings or low EQ (emotional quotient). The most effective mitigation is confronting and reporting toxic leader behaviors when they occur.