Reversing the Toxic Work Culture
Left by a Former Manager

Individuals who have struggled in a toxic environment can heal in multiple ways. This article was written to address the challenges new managers face when they inherit employees who worked under a toxic predecessor, sometimes for many years.

Be A Good Listener

Good listening and observation skills can help improve work culture, even for people most adversely affected by toxicity. According to Gitnux’s 2024 market data report, people spend 45% of the time they communicate listening. More than two-thirds of managers believe communication skills can help improve their subordinates’ satisfaction levels, and it’s true: managers who underwent active listening training achieved 30% higher employee satisfaction. Even sales are impacted; active listening can improve sales by 8%.

Use Technology To Implement Change

Introduce time tracking for employees to identify which team members are contributing the most value to the organization. Be patient and supportive as you implement this technology. People respond much better to positive than negative reinforcement, and employees recovering from a toxic manager rarely expect things to improve with the new leader. Most have resigned themselves to being miserable at work. It takes time and consistency to tear down that wall and change default expectations.

Work on the most valuable team members first, as it will set the whole group’s default expectations. It’s also easier – more challenging employees will take more effort to cope with.

Ignore Useless Information

When a new manager takes over an organization or a department, there is often lots of information about which employees are reliable, where to go for special help, etc. That’s not the only kind of information available, though. There is lots of gossip, personal information, and other information you don’t need. An effective manager knows to leave this information alone. If it continues to circulate in the workplace, it will perpetuate the toxicity. Let everyone start with a clean slate, assuming each team member has something valuable to contribute.

Be Trustworthy And Respectful

According to a recent UK study on 1,000 employees, 66-69% believe the most important qualities for a manager are being trustworthy and respectful and treating everyone fairly. 60-62% value honesty, authenticity, a positive attitude, reliability, and consistency the most. 58% think the manager should be warm and friendly. 56% appreciate compassionate and supportive managers, and the same percentage believe the manager should lead by example. 54% think they should be a team player who encourages collaboration.


New leaders want to change the status quo, improve productivity, and generally just make everything better. When you inherit a team that is detoxing, you’ll face serious resistance. They’ve heard promises and seen smiling new faces before and were let down. Many of them spent years devising ways to stay under the toxic manager’s radar, and these habits die hard. A manager who’s interested in genuine change must understand this and be patient.

Find Common Ground

Finding common ground with and between employees can speed up the above process. If you’re at a loss, you could introduce teambuilding activities. Employees who are isolated from each other are 21% less productivity, and communication between ones who socialize improves by over 50%. Women with close friends at work are 63% more engaged, and almost 50% of job seekers prioritize company culture.

Don’t Give Up

Managers who want a long and successful tenure in leadership should never, ever give up. Change is difficult. It takes commitment, persistence, and continued self-reflection.


How does a toxic work environment affect someone?
Excessive criticism, bullying, and harassment are typical of a toxic workplace environment. They lead to stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression among employees.

How does one survive a toxic work environment?
If it is severely toxic, looking for a new job might be the only option. Other avenues include finding a support group, looking for ways to unwind outside work hours, meditating, or simply trying to remain positive.

How do you change a toxic work culture?
Building a more positive work environment starts with leading by example, engaging with employees positively, and creating a safe space for people to interact constructively.