20 Most Common Signs of a Bad Boss

bad boss shouting at two employees

Bad bosses can make you dread getting out of bed in the morning, and will affect not only your working life but your personal one too. We’ve all heard dreadful stories of bosses contacting employees at any odd hour in the night and asking them to run errands which clearly aren’t in their job description, making us feel grateful for our working environment. Whether you are the one running tasks or not, spending too long in a toxic environment can make you rethink your career path and have a long-term effect on your health.

To avoid being stuck in a rut at work, here are 20 warning signs of a terrible manager:

1. Plays Favourites

Workplace favouritism can cause animosity amongst employees. The boss lets Jane take an hour and a half lunch and allows her to leave early because she “works late” but doesn’t notice that it’s taking her longer to perform her normal duties. This type of preference can get on any employee’s nerves and turn the office into an open battlefield.

2. Lack of Flexibility

It’s only natural that emergencies will happen where employees may need some flexibility to go to a doctor’s appointment, their child’s ballet recital or to fix their broken down car. If you work hard and your boss isn’t giving you the freedom to take some time out when you really need it, then it’s probably a huge sign to start looking for employment elsewhere.

3. Micromanagement

Micromanaging bosses are like that annoying fly that’s stuck in your car that you can’t seem to shake. They have poor leadership skills and think that the only way to be a good manager is to check on their employees every move, not giving them any freedom to take charge of their task. If you’re faced with a micromanaging boss, you can soothe them by providing detailed notes on every meeting, call and frequent updates on a project; giving them the allusion that they’re in control and on top of things.

4. Verbal Abuse

Yelling at employees is never okay, especially when it’s in front of other workers. If you find that your boss is shouting at you for any reason whatsoever, know that you don’t have to sit there and take it. Avoid fighting back, and rise above this bad behaviour; you can have a private chat with your boss about it afterwards and let them know that you didn’t appreciate it (sometimes managers are so overworked that they don’t realise how they are acting). Obviously, if they disregard you and continue to behave this way you may need to rethink your options.

5. Criticism in Public

Public criticism is up there on the list of bad boss characteristics; any decent manager knows that constructive feedback should be given in private. Whether it’s a performance review, a note about a mistake or a personal chat, discretion should be key. Public criticism can only lead to you feeling disrespected and may knock your confidence, giving you reason to pack up and move on to bigger and better things.

6. No Praise

Bad management will never give you praise; they’ll assume that you are doing your job and won’t need to give any feedback, unless it’s negative. This is where they go wrong, all employees need to feel valued and respected. If you’re unsure of your performance, simply ask your manager, this will give them a nudge to giving you some well-deserved recognition.

7. Lack of Vision

A trait of a good manager is vision and direction; they constantly think of innovative ideas to drive the team and business forward for continued success. This also gives you as an employee a clear indication of what you should be working towards and how you can progress within the company. If you find that your boss is constantly pinching ideas off the team instead of offering them, you may be dealing with a bad manager.

8. No Critical Feedback

Similar to not receiving any praise is critical feedback. Some bosses fear giving bad comments in case their employees don’t like them or lose respect for them. In this instance, they are actually causing a vicious circle of bad employees. Without constructive feedback, employees can’t improve and progress. If you notice that you’ve made a mistake, asks your boss for some feedback, breaking the ice can lead the way to a more honest relationship where you can grow and climb up the career ladder. 

9. Takes Resignations Personally

Employees move on from jobs for a number of reasons that don’t necessarily have to do with management. But, every time someone resigns from your team, your boss takes it personally, feels betrayed and gets in a mood about it. This then leaves everyone else fearing to hand in their notice in case they too receive this hostile treatment.

10. Hovers Like a Helicopter

Have you got a boss that hovers over you and tells you what to do every step of the way (even though you’ve completed the same task 10 times before)?  CEO and president of GrowBiz Media told Glamour that: “It’s not about you telling staffers how to do something, but establishing the end point and letting them create the best process to get there.”

11. Overpromises

An overpromising boss is an untrustworthy one. At first, they seem like the best boss in the world, telling you that you’ll receive a great pay rise after Christmas. Only to find out that you received an increase of 1.5%. You’re then told you’ll be chosen for the next business trip, when in fact your colleague Bob was chosen. Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert said: "It's often helpful to get to the truth through emails if one-on-one discussions are getting you nowhere. If the responses aren't coming via email, or at all, be wary."

12. Expects 24/7 Employees

Some bosses expect you to be at their beck and call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because they are a workaholic, they have no concept of personal time and days off. If you’re stuck in this kind of situation, you need to set boundaries early on. Let your boss know that you have handled XYZ before the weekend and will look into any amendments on Monday morning. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the trap of being your boss’s ‘left and right-hand man’.

13. Lack of Trust

If you don’t trust your boss and it’s clear that she doesn’t trust you either, you’re faced with a real problem. Employers and employees need to have each other’s back in the workplace knowing that they are both ‘safe’. Before you decide to jump ship, try and gain your boss’s trust. You could admit where you have made some mistakes and ask for advice on how to fix it. This should show maturity on your behalf that will be respected.

14. Inappropriate Comments

Some bosses are outright rude because they think they have the power. If you’re faced with a sexist boss that’s making inappropriate comments you must hold your ground and handle it in a cool and collected manner. If your manager is still acting as an a**se then you will have no choice but to report him to HR.

15. Expects Everyone to Be Like Them

Most people like others who are similar to them but good bosses know that different types of personalities can improve their team. If your boss is constantly trying to make you act like Jennifer, try to follow one or two of their suggestions that can actually benefit you and thank them for the rest. Show that you value your boss’s suggestions without forgetting who you truly are.

16. Doesn’t Admit Mistakes

This might be the most annoying aspect of a terrible boss. They often tell you to do something a certain way, you then discover that it’s wrong after you’ve spent hours working on it and they don’t admit their mistake. They then try to pass the buck onto you in front of the big boss. Good bosses spread praise amongst team members during wins and accept the blame when things go wrong. So if you have a boss who has never, ever been wrong or mistaken about anything and also has avoided any blame for backfires, you might want to think about going somewhere else.

17. Breaks Their Own Rules

Is your boss a rule-breaker? Telling you not to use your mobile phones during work time, when she sits there playing candy crush for hours on end? She then insists that she only uses her personal phone for client-based reasons. Without any leadership strategy, this bad boss won’t be around for too long.

18. Neglect to Connect

Does your boss know what your children’s names are? Or, even that you have any children? A manager that neglects to make any personal connection with their employees is a bad one. How will you feel comfortable speaking to them about anything, work-related or personal, if they don’t even know who you are as a person?

19. Poor Communication Skills

A toxic boss rarely communicates effectively; they don’t give you a deadline for a project, then ask why it hasn’t been completed a day later. If you find your manager to be less than forthcoming, it's up to you to take the first steps. Ask as many questions as you can until you have covered all areas and have a clear indication of what you should be doing and when it will be expected. A face-to-face conversation is preferred over written communication, as sometimes things can get lost in transition.

20. Bodes an Air of Arrogance

If your boss makes you aware every single day that he is superior to you then you need to re-think about whether you can actually spend most of your life with this kind of person. You can try to find a shared passion to relate to them on a personal level, but if that fails, it might be wise to move to a new company.

Researchers from Harvard Business School found that “the stress bad bosses cause can be as damaging as secondhand smoke which may also be making you sad, lazy, and fat.” To combat these negative effects early on watch out for the major signs and how you can rationalise with a bad boss.

Do you have a bad boss? If so, let us know what they do and how you handle them in the comment section below…