1st Edition

Toxic Organizational Cultures and Leadership How to Build and Sustain a Healthy Workplace

By Susan Hetrick Copyright 2023
    278 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    278 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Toxic organizational cultures and leadership have led to major reputational failures, with the greatest impact felt by the people who dedicate their careers to working for these organizations. And yet organizations do not become toxic overnight. They do not consciously set out to break rules and regulations, nor do they actively seek wrongdoing. This book defines toxic culture, explains how toxic cultures emerge over time, and provides practical approaches supported by in-depth research for overcoming a toxic culture at the individual, team, and organizational level.

    Pragmatic and applicable, the book provides a call to action that can be applied in any type of organization. While the role of leadership in toxic cultures is acknowledged, the book sets out four distinct stages to embedding toxic cultures and draws on examples from leading organizations and companies to illustrate each stage. The book then identifies interventions and levers that can be implemented by executives, boards, and HR practitioners to prevent toxicity and to change toxic cultures back to healthy, positive workplaces. Drawing on research and interviews with senior HR leaders and executives, the book provides:

    • An understanding of the four stages of toxic cultures and the impact of performance pressures in driving toxicity
    • An appreciation of the role of senior leadership and personality traits
    • Practical tools and guidance on interventions for practitioners to build and sustain a healthy and positive workplace

    Senior executives, HR, and organizational development practitioners in local and global organizations spanning a range of industry sectors will find this book invaluable. The book is also highly relevant to consultants working in the field of corporate culture and change.

    Part I: The Four Stages of Toxicity  1. Why Culture Matters  2. The First Driver of Toxic Culture – The Normalization of Deviance  3. The Second Driver of Toxic Culture – Cognitive Dissonance  4. The Four Stages of a Toxic Culture  Part II: The Toxic Triangle  5. Toxic Leadership  6. Susceptible Followers  7. Conducive Environments  Part III: How to Build and Sustain a Healthy Workplace Culture  8. How to Build and Sustain a Healthy Workplace Culture  9. A Framework for Action


    Susan Hetrick is the founder of Zuhra, an HR consultancy. She has held senior HR leadership roles and worked with executive teams for a number of organizations, including the World Bank Group, Arab Banking Corporation, the NatWest Group, Aegon, HSBC, and Deloitte. Susan is a published author and speaker on corporate culture in global organizations and holds a Doctorate from City University Business School and a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations from Warwick University.

    "Dr Susan Hetrick has produced a very timely, well-researched, and highly practical book on one of the most important topics in the field of management – organizational culture and its relationship with leadership. Her focus on ‘the dark side’ is refreshing in differing from many of the practitioner playbooks in this field which begin from the premise that strong culture and leadership are typically positive. Instead, she argues that you can have ‘too-much-of-a-good-thing’ – that so-called strong cultures and leadership can often turn toxic and we can learn more from these kind of cases than those that characterise the ‘culture-excellence’ literature. In my work as a researcher, consultant, and non-executive board member, this book will be high on my list of recommended reading to students, clients, and colleagues as a source of useful theory and ideas on how to analyse key organizational problems and build healthy workplaces."

    Graeme Martin, Professor of Management, University of Dundee and Vice-Chair, NHS Tayside

    "Dr Hetrick makes a highly valuable contribution with this work by showing us how organizations can identify and address toxic work cultures. The practical interventions presented are tools any organization can utilize to prevent toxicity, ensure positive leadership, and when necessary, restore a healthy work environment."

    Kathryn Wagner Hill, Ph.D., Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, Johns Hopkins University

    "With employee engagement waning and the Great Resignation upon us, this book is a timely exploration of how harmful workplace cultures can take hold and be facilitated, either wittingly or unwittingly, by organisations or individuals. In combining extensive research with pragmatic recommendations, this book offers both an engaging diagnosis and workable remedies to bolster cultural health in the workplace."

    Richard Fulham, HR Director