Report: Legacy Toxicity in Formal Leader Low-Morale Experiences – Part 1 (February 2023)

For the past few years I’ve been considering something I call Legacy Toxicity:

the dysfunctional environment inherited by a person who assumes a leadership position in a toxic organization or group. Such toxicity may not be effectively mitigated due to the previous incumbent’s role in a) engaging in or perpetuating abuse/neglect, b) already exhausting avenues to eradicate it, and/or c) organizational, group, or individuals’ conscious or unconscious resistance to the new leader’s attempts to reduce or eradicate the source(s) of toxicity,

In September 2021, I created a survey to further explore the role of this impact factor. This inaugural report shares the first dataset of quantitative responses to this ongoing data collection project (n=53)

  • 75% are currently experiencing workplace abuse/neglect (low morale);
  • 41% indicate their low-morale experience has lasted between 1 -3 years; 31% more than three years
  • 66% are Caucasian; 11% are Black/African-American; 8%% are Hispanic; 8% are Multi-racial.
  • 93% are female; 8%are male; 2% are non-binary
  • 73% are currently dealing with Legacy Toxicity; 28% note that their experience of Legacy Toxicity happened in the past.
  • During their experience with Legacy Toxicity,
    • 47% were emerging formal leaders (0 – 3 years of formal leadership experience)
    • 32% were experienced formal leaders (6 years or more of formal leadership experience)
    • 21% were developing leaders (4-6 years of formal leadership experience)
  • During the experience, participants were employed at:
    • 51%: academic library
    • 49%: public library
  • Those involved with perpetuating the Legacy Toxicity are/were:
    • 59% Library managers or supervisors (e.g., Department/Unit Heads)
    • 59% Campus or library system executive leadership
    • 52%% Fellow campus or library system administrators (e.g., Deans, Assistant Directors)
    • 42% Direct reports
    • 32% Indirect reports
  • The primary cause of your Legacy Toxicity is/was:
    • 57% Organizational, group, or individuals’ (un)conscious resistance to your attempts to reduce or eradicate the source(s) of toxicity.
    • 37% The previous incumbent’s role in engaging in or perpetuating abuse/neglect
    • 6% The previous incumbent already exhausting formal or informal avenues to eradicate toxicity

Part 2 will share qualitative results. This survey remains open, and I will continue reporting results periodically. 


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