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  • Writer's pictureRyan Kenny

The quickest way to lose your top talent.

Do you know the quickest way to lose your top talent?

It’s allowing TOXIC WORKPLACE BEHAVIORS to go unchecked.

I know first hand just how destructive a toxic boss can be. It’s soul-crushing. Powerful enough to crush your dreams.

Many years ago, I landed my first dream job. With exaltation, I joined a small team of all-stars (bright, genuine, passionate, talented, highly empathetic folx) and we were united by a mission we cared deeply about.

Almost immediately – within days – it became apparent that there was something destructive about the CEO leading his faithful team.

His actions didn’t align whatsoever with the values he professed and on which he built his company around.

  • He fostered an internal divide – an US vs THEM team dynamic – that made us all feel unsafe.

  • We felt chronically undervalued.

  • His feedback was demeaning. We were ridiculed and belittled.

  • At times, he sabotaged our work.

  • The last straw was when he reneged on benefits he promised. Trust was completely obliterated.

I’ve never experienced as much anger and frustration with any work situation as I did then. My “dream job” became a nightmare. It was, to this day, the shortest stint of work I’ve ever had. In less than a year, the dream team had completely evaporated.

At the time, I thought my boss was evil – intentionally undermining us for some sick secondary gain.

In hindsight, I believe his failure to build and keep a thriving team was due to a lack of self-awareness. By many measures, he was successful. His revenue and profits grew steadily. But he had major blindspots he simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see and they eroded his ability to grow a thriving team. Ultimately, his company suffered because of it.

He, like many leaders today, are oblivious to their toxic behaviors. Most leaders believe they’re showing up in ways that truly support the wellbeing and performance of those they lead. They’re doing their best with the tools they have, but their blindspots compromise their good intentions.

The unfortunate truth is that EVERYONE HAS BLINDERS. We all have ingrained perceptions of who we are, how we operate, and how we lead that don’t match up with reality.

The good news is that we have all the resources we need to get out of this bind already within us. SELF-AWARENESS and CLARITY are muscles that can be grown. Just like focus. Just like compassion. They’re practices and skills that can be developed. Without them, the risk is great that our actions aren’t aligning with our deeper intentions, even if we think we’re on the right track.

If you haven’t read the 2022 McKinsey report on burnout (, I highly recommend it. It offers crucial insight into the root causes of burnout and the importance of taking a whole-systems approach to address them if you really want to see positive organizational change in this year ahead.


Written by Ryan Kenny, Pause Cofounder

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