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Kindness Was Part of a Toxic Pattern

Written By: Lauren Howard

I once had a leader who was toxically kind.

It has taken me a lot of years to understand, well, that.

At the time, it felt like I was so lucky to be cared for. Sometimes.

But the reality was, that kindness was weaponized to keep me on the hook for the things that were happening that weren’t so great.

I’m sure this sounds bizarre and full of entitlement. I had a boss who was too nice to me!

But rewards can be used as yet another tool in a toxic repertoire and cycle, and I think it’s important to recognize that even kind people can be part of an abusive cycle.

The pattern is clear now. It was not then.

Something would happen. Usually, someone in leadership would cross a line or do something that required damage control. Sometimes, it was a project that was scoped incorrectly that had people working overtime, or a decision that was made poorly that created a fire that I had to put out.

It was always something that could have been avoided if a systemic problem had been dealt with.

Instead, they addressed the symptoms, and that usually meant placating the upset person or putting out the fire, but doing nothing to make sure that it didn’t happen again.

He would always get involved on my behalf. He would bandaid the situation. He would buy me time, agree when I said it was a problem, and validate my concerns. Sometimes, he would send thank you gifts, check in just to check in, encourage us to take time off, and ask what he could do to help.

And all of that sounds GREAT on paper. It sounds like exactly what you want.

But the reality is that if you’re doing nice things reactively rather than addressing the problem, you’re just ensuring that there will be more stress, more toxic behavior, and more unmanageable situations because the bandaid is not leadership. It’s a stopgap.

Fix the problem and you don't have to do the nice things.

The tokens were enough to make everyone feel heard and draw them back in, just to end up in the exact same spot a few weeks later.

Kindness was part of a toxic pattern. Every time, it made me believe that this would be the last time.

It was never the last time.

It perpetuated a toxic rollercoaster that made me physically ill over time.

Good intentions are not solutions. Systemic issues don’t get fixed without actually addressing them, and your staff are the casualty of those decisions. You can’t fix culture with parties or days off if your staff members are still returning to the same environment afterward.


Founder & CEO at elletwo


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