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The Dark Side of Coaching: The Toxic Coach

Coaching, when done right, can be a powerful tool for personal and professional development. However, like any influential practice, coaching has a dark side – the realm of toxic coaching. In this blog, we'll delve into the insidious nature of toxic coaching, exploring its characteristics, impact, and how individuals can navigate this challenging terrain. I have PTSD, anxiety, depression that stems from a traumatic event. I also have a degree in psychology and led hundreds in my 20 years in the Navy. I understand how power can be used for positive and for negative and the issues the negative use of power over individuals motivated to succeed is destructive.


Defining Toxic Coaching:


Toxic coaching is a detrimental approach that goes beyond constructive criticism and motivation. It involves harmful behaviors, such as constant belittling, intimidation, and manipulation, eroding the individual's self-esteem and confidence rather than building them up.


Characteristics of Toxic Coaching:


1. Authoritarian Leadership:


Toxic coaches often adopt an authoritarian leadership style, emphasizing control and dominance over collaboration and support.


2. Unrealistic Expectations:


Setting unattainable goals without considering an individual's capabilities is a hallmark of toxic coaching, fostering frustration and stress.


3. Lack of Empathy:


Empathy is a crucial element of effective coaching. Toxic coaches, however, exhibit a lack of empathy, dismissing personal challenges and focusing solely on results.


The Impact:


1. Deteriorating Mental Health:


Continuous exposure to toxic coaching can lead to anxiety, depression, and heightened stress levels, jeopardizing an individual's mental well-being.


2. Decreased Performance:


Rather than motivating improvement, toxic coaching tends to hinder performance, as individuals become demotivated and disengaged.


3. Strained Relationships:


Toxic coaching often results in strained relationships between coaches and their clients, colleagues, or team members, fostering a negative work environment.


Navigating This Relationship:


1. Recognizing the Signs:


Awareness is the first step. Individuals need to recognize signs of toxic coaching, such as constant criticism, humiliation, or an absence of constructive feedback.


2. Setting Boundaries:


Establishing clear boundaries is crucial. Individuals should communicate assertively when facing toxic coaching behaviors and express their need for respectful and constructive interactions.


3. Seeking Support:


Seeking support from colleagues, mentors, or HR professionals can provide individuals with the guidance and assistance needed to navigate and address toxic coaching situations.


Toxic coaching undermines the very essence of coaching, turning a constructive process into a destructive force. It is essential for individuals to be vigilant, recognize the signs, and take proactive steps to protect their well-being. By fostering a culture of positive coaching, organizations can ensure that individuals are empowered and supported on their journey of growth and development.


Here at TRC Performance Coaching, I emphasize an environment of collaboration and I am vigilant to all of life's stressors and their affect on my athletes. I am both an athlete and a coach and have had these kinds of coaches and I strive every day to make the experience as fun and family oriented, as possible.

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