Date of Conferral



Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)




John Nirenberg


An Exploration of Human Resource Personnel and Toxic Leadership


Sabrina Michele Maxwell

MA, Pepperdine University, 2006

MA, BIOLA University, 2003

BS, BIOLA University, 2001

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Walden University

May 2015


Toxic leaders are destructive of morale, productivity, and organizational effectiveness. Literature has reported the perspectives of followers, and sometimes how organizations address those toxic behaviors, but research has not examined the perspectives of human resource (HR) managers who must detect the existence of toxic behaviors and handle with the consequences of them. To address that gap, the purpose of this study was to determine how HR managers handle the destructive effects of toxic leaders. Schmidt's definition of toxic leadership guided this phenomenological study about the lived experiences of HR managers involving the presence of a toxic leader. The goal of this study was to discover the processes used by HR personnel to identify and manage the conflict created by the behavior of the toxic leader. With this knowledge HR may be more effective and toxicity may be managed at an earlier stage. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 9 HR managers who reported some experience with a toxic leader and who belonged to the Professionals in Human Resource Association. The results identified a process commonly used by HR for managing conflicts created by a toxic leader, and revealed a negative impact of managing the conflict on the HR managers themselves. Positive social change may occur within organizations by applying the process outlined in this study for identifying and reducing the negative effects of toxic leaders before significant damage to people and organizations can occur.