School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Russell G. Yocum


lived experience, leadership, toxic, response, organization, toxic culture, organizational culture, change, toxic leadership, positive leadership, abuse, empathy, impact, adversely impacted, mental health, emotional health, physical health, flight, fight, freeze, management, toxic management, culture, leadership theory, harassment, bullying, trust, targeting, narcissism


Human Resources Management | Leadership Studies


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the lived experience of personnel adversely impacted by toxic leadership. This topic is important to study because the harassment, bullying, and narcissistic behavior exhibited by toxic leaders and negative environments have severe adverse implications for personnel, such as reduced accomplishments, mental health, lack of trust, and overall wellbeing. In order to further understand the phenomenon, the following research questions guided the study: (a) What is the lived experience of personnel adversely impacted by toxic leadership? (b) How were the personnel impacted by the change in the culture and environment? (c) What was each person’s response to the change? (d) What was each person’s response to the toxic environment? The theory guiding this study was Weber’s leadership theory, which is where leaders can both positively and negatively impact subordinates. Social constructivism will be used to understand the participants’ lived experiences. The snowball sampling technique was used and resulted in 1,129 people completing the online survey and 29 people completing a semi-structured interview and submitting written statements of who they were before and after the lived. Pattern, theme, and content analysis was conducted to analyze the data. The research revealed that leadership, or what was defined as toxic leadership, was identified and prevalent in organizations by almost every single respondent. The narcissistic, harmful, and bullying behavior was normally followed by no response at all or support of the toxic manager by the organization. This resulted in further targeting by the toxic managers or followers and adversely impacted personnel’s short- and long-term mental, physical, and emotional health.