Peter Glick, Ph.D.

Henry Merritt Wriston Professor at Lawrence University and a Senior Scientist with the Neuroleadership Institute

Playing a Toxic Game: Organizational Culture as a Masculinity Contest

Reputations are easily lost and difficult to repair. Misconduct, such as sexual harassment or illegal behavior (e.g., Uber, CBS, Nike, Wells Fargo) creates lasting damage to individuals and organizations. How can leaders prevent scandals and bad behavior? Attempts to weed out the “bad apples” are insufficient. Leaders must also commit to reforming organizational cultures that permit, encourage, and even reward bad behavior.

New research reveals how to diagnose and treat toxic organizational cultures to diminish misconduct, improve organizational effectiveness, and create a better work environment. Toxic organizational cultures turn the workplace into a competition for individual dominance – achieved by displaying “macho” behavior – at the expense of achieving organizational goals. Toxic Masculinity Contest Cultures tend to produce toxic leaders and have high rates of bullying, sexual harassment, and ethnic harassment – in other words, they are rife with misconduct that can generate reputation-damaging scandals. Such organizations are also less likely to have female leaders. Finally, individuals experience poor outcomes in these organizations, with higher burnout, stress, and turnover, as well as lower organizational dedication. Importantly, these negative effects occur for men as well as women.

Learn about the new research and best practices for reputation management and leading a successful cultural change movement.