A toxic organization is characterized by a narrow focus on bottom line profits and malicious or abusive behaviors go unnoticed or undisciplined (Kusy & Holloway, 2009; Macklem, 2005). It produces a toxic work environment where employees suffer emotional pain generated from damaging behaviors (Samuel, 2010). While some degree of toxicity is unavoidable, the unrelieved intensity of pressures over a prolonged period of time tends to wear people down (Bacal, 2000; Samuel, 2010) Much of the academic and popular literature addressing organizational toxicity focuses on bullying and dysfunctional behavior. This research shows that harmful behaviors are symptomatic of more complex systemic problems. The purpose of this study was to uncover the organizational antecedents of toxicity using Bolman and Deal's (2008) Four-Frame Model of holistic analysis addressing the role that structure, human resources management, political systems, and organizational culture in creating or perpetuating organizational toxicity. The study was guided by 4 research questions: 1. What role, if any, does the Structural Frame play in creating or perpetuating organizational toxicity? 2. What role, if any, does the Human Resources Frame play in creating or perpetuating organizational toxicity? 3. What role, if any, does the Political Frame play in creating or perpetuating organizational toxicity? 4. What role, if any, does the Cultural Frame play in creating or perpetuating organizational toxicity? The researcher used a phenomenological methodology and purposeful sampling strategy. Fifteen working professionals were interviewed to share stories of their experiences working in a toxic organization. Data extracted from the stories were synthesized through a holistic framework to identify the systemic sources of toxicity. The results revealed dysfunctions with organizational hierarchies, strategies, goals, policies, rules, standards, technology; failures in human resources management and political power sources; and the impact of leadership, values, and norms on organizational culture. These dysfunctions culminate in a toxic work environment. This study was intended to provide leaders, students, and victims of toxicity with information for early and accurate identification of organizational toxicity. It concludes with suggestions for understanding the organizational antecedents of toxicity and provides a strategy for managing within, and emotional release from, the toxic work environment.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Organizational effectiveness; Corporate culture; Organizational behavior; Personnel management
Date of Award
Graduate School of Education and Psychology
Carlock, Deirdre H., "Beyong bullying: a holistic exploration of the organizational toxicity phenomenon" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 323.