Date of Conferral



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




Donna Brown


Toxic leaders affect nearly half of the U.S. employee base and create environments in which followers, peers, and staff might be less effective due to stress, devaluation, and potential job loss. A multiple case study approach was used to understand what coping strategies employees use to reduce the negative effects of toxic leadership on themselves, other employees, and the overall workplace; and to understand the behaviors that result from these strategies. The purposeful and snowball sample consisted of 29 participants within the United States, ages 30 to 65, who worked within two or more organizations and who either directly experienced a toxic leader or observed someone who did. The theoretical framework was based on betrayal trauma theory, conservation of resources theory, and the cognitive theory of trauma. Research questions focused on how affected employees coped during and after the toxic event and any coping differences between sample groups. Data were collected via one-on-one telephone interviews. Data were analyzed via data organization, acquaintance, classification, coding, and interpretation. The major themes that emerged were emotional reaction, coping strategies used, effects at work and home, and resulting health issues for both person and family. Seeking resource help was identified as the most effective coping strategy when dealing with a toxic leader. Toxic leadership can have lasting negative effects on both organizations and employees that can extend beyond the workplace. Organizations have an organizational and social responsibility to address toxic leader behaviors and provide resources to employees to counteract toxic leadership to create a more positive work environment where employees can find work rewarding and fulfilling.