Can bullying leaders change? 3 tips for increasing their chances

by Apr 27, 2022

As a coach specializing in coaching leaders who engage in toxic behavior, I’m often asked if these individuals can really change. 

The answer is YES! If the organization does their part. 

I speak from experience here as sometimes organizations hire me to single-handedly fix something they haven’t been able to fix for quite some time… years even. I appreciate the confidence in my skills, but I am not a miracle worker. 

If an organization really wants to see change, they must do the following three things in conjunction with coaching: 

Before coaching commences, deliver a clear message about their behavior and your expectations for change.

It’s natural to avoid having a direct conversation with someone about their abrasive behavior; they’re seen as valuable and you’re afraid they’ll quit. That never actually happens, so hopefully I can ease your fears. 

During this meeting, provide clear and specific information about how the leader’s communication is perceived and why they’re being asked to change, describe your expectations for behavior and exactly what they must change, and be clear about the consequences if change doesn’t occur. 

Over the course of coaching, check in regularly.  

Checking in with the leader as often as you can shows you’re invested in their success, and it allows you to monitor their participation. You should check in informally as often as you can.

After coaching, continue to check in with the leader and hold them accountable to your expectations. 

Coaching is a moment in time and designed to help bullying leaders develop new ways to communicate and get results. Keeping in mind that they’ve been engaging in the old, abrasive behavior for some time, breaking their old habits and engaging in these new ones will take time.

It’s important for you to continue to check in with the leader as often as needed for as long as needed. The moment you notice some hint of their old ways step in immediately to remind them this change is necessary and required. Accountability is key.


Over the years, we’ve had much success coaching leaders engaging in abrasive, toxic, disruptive, or bullying behaviors. We know in our heart of hearts that your partnership with us will make a world of difference in their success. 

Always feel free to reach out if you need support. We’re here to help. 

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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