S7 Ep14: Dealing With Toxic Leaders

Dr Jaime Zuckerman

This week on The WarriorU Podcast, Trent and Bram are joined by Clinical Psychologist, Dr Jaime  Zuckerman, to discuss toxic managers in the workplace, and how to recognise toxic positivity and narcissistic characteristics in yourself and colleagues. By the end of the episode, you’ll understand why faking it until you make it actually works, and how simple changes to the way you think and behave can help you to develop productivity and work satisfaction in the people you lead.

A Glimpse of the Guest

Name: Dr Jamie Zuckerman

What she does: Dr. Jaime Zuckerman is a Philadelphia based licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Dr Zuckerman specialises in the treatment of adults with mood disorders, anxiety, relationship stress and psychological symptoms associated with medical illness. She is a frequent speaker on various mental health topics and media contributor to several online publications, TV, radio and podcasts.

Dr Zuckerman online: Dr Zuckerman’s website; Instagram; LinkedIn

Food for Thought:

[54:16] “If everyone just lives better and does better and stops focusing on feeling better all the time, I think there would be a domino effect.”

Top Tips from this episode

Dr Zuckerman’s definition of toxic management: [18:00] A toxic manager, according to Dr Zuckerman, usually presents in three ways:

  • They don’t value or care about the thoughts and opinions of their employees.
  • They aren’t willing to change how things are done, despite the potential for system improvement.
  • They fail to make their team feel safe.

Positivity vs toxic positivity: While searching for a silver lining in challenging situations is all well and good, being too positive can devalue the thoughts and feelings of others. Always being positive means you are actively avoiding a negative situation, says Dr Zuckerman. This can lead to your team feeling “shameful” about their negative emotions and prevent them from reaching out for advice and support when difficult events occur. Instead, Dr Zuckerman encourages leaders to acknowledge a negative event and associated emotions, and then find a way to move forward. [33:30] “Motivation is also letting them know that it’s alright that you feel bad right now because something bad happened, and validating those feelings for them.”

Episode Highlights

  • Why you should fake it until you make it: At [35:22], Dr Zuckerman explains why she is a big fan of faking it until you make it. Using an adult learning to swim as a springboard, Dr Zuckerman says that the only way to change how you feel about a situation is to actively seek it out, rather than avoiding it. “Being scared doesn’t stop a behaviour – you are making a choice to avoid it. So do it and at the exact same time be scared.” 
  • How to spot a narcissist: Dr Zuckerman opens the podcast by talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and how this differs from simply having narcissistic characteristics (which many leaders do) or being ‘a jerk’. By the end of the episode, you’ll understand how to spot the manipulative traits and patterns of a narcissist, be it in your workplace or in your personal life. [12:13] “Somebody with narcissist style have no empathy. They do not care if they hurt you. They don’t care if they manipulate you. Yes, they know what they are doing. No, they don’t care.”

Top quotes:

[31:04] “The more you avoid discomfort; the more you avoid the bad feelings you don’t want to feel; and the more you avoid bad thoughts – real or imagined – the larger they become and the more likely it will be that you aren’t going to engage in behaviours consistent to what you value.”

[36:08] “The more you avoid [a situation] you deprive yourself the opportunity to prove yourself wrong and therefore change your thoughts and feelings about it.”

[50:29] “When I think of a leader, I think of someone who wants the best for their team; who wants to have as much as productivity, and growth and value as possible.”


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