Why Bad Bosses Suck: The Effects of Poor Management

Boss yelling at employee

Horrible Bosses had them. Office Space had one. The Devil Wears Prada had (albeit a very well-dressed) one. And chances are you had one, too, at some point in your professional life (if you haven’t, don’t worry: there’s still time). I am, of course, talking about bosses who are the very epitome of WTF – and, yes, they really do exist outside of Hollywood.

We all know that they suck, but just how much do they suck exactly? How damaging are they really to an organisation’s health and reputation, as well as the wellbeing and productivity of its employees?

Here are the most serious negative effects of poor management in the workplace.

1. High Employee Turnover

It’s true: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.

Exhibit A: B2B marketplace Approved Index surveyed 1,374 employees in the UK in 2015 and found that 42% of them have left a job because of their very own Miranda Priestly.

But that’s not the worst of it. A high turnover rate deters jobseekers from applying for the recently vacated positions you want to fill as the company earns a reputation of being a bad employer – and then you’ve got reviews from disgruntled former employees on sites like Glassdoor to worry about. Even if you miraculously manage to fill those vacancies, it can take as long as two years for replacements to reach the same level of productivity as an existing employee.

And when you consider the costs associated with employee turnover (including interviewing, hiring, training and lost productivity), well, you’re screwed. It costs between 30% and 50% of entry-level employees’ annual salary to replace them, more than 150% for mid-level employees and a whopping 400% for senior-level employees. To put that into perspective, replacing a senior-level employee with an average salary of $200,000 (£151,148) will end up costing you a staggering $800,000 (£604,594)! In other words, poor management isn’t just bad for business; it’s expensive, too.

Check out our guide on how to write a resignation letter, if you’re thinking about leaving your job because of a bad boss.

2. Poor Employee Health

There’s been a wealth of scientific research on the impact bad bosses have on employees’ mental and physical well-being, and their findings all agree: bad bosses are bad for your health. Like, really bad. Basically, you could die.

One study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine in 2008 analysed data on 3,239 men compiled between 1992 and 1995, and found that the lower they rated their bosses, the greater their risk of developing heart disease. In fact, there were 74 reported cases of fatal and non-fatal heart disease events such as heart attack, cardiac arrest and unstable angina when the researchers followed up with the subjects almost a decade later. (Women aren’t safe from heart problems, either, with one study concluding that women with high job strain were 38% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event over a decade than women with low job strain.)

Working for a bad boss, meanwhile, can lead to other serious health problems, like high blood pressure, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, overeating and sleep deprivation. Another study also found that workplace stress caused by an incompetent, aggressive or micromanaging boss makes it harder for your body to keep allergies or asthma under control and can even be responsible for the common cold.

Perhaps it’s time companies started thinking about issuing health warnings for bad bosses!

3. Decreased Productivity

A great man once said: ‘People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.’ That man was none other than former US president Theodore Roosevelt, and he was definitely onto something there. After all, he was a great leader himself (and is regarded as one of the best presidents the US has ever had – perhaps the polar opposite of a certain Donald Trump, but I digress). The keyword here is ‘leader’. Had Mr Roosevelt decided to ‘drive’ people, as he so eloquently put it, perhaps public opinion would not be so favourable toward him.

In modern times, scientific research (as well as our daily experience) confirms this. Effective leadership, and particularly psychological and team empowerment, is positively associated with task performance, as well as job satisfaction, innovation, organisational commitment and more. (Check out our guide on how to increase employee productivity.)

Antithetically, poor management – whether that’s belittling staff, bullying, throwing temper tantrums, dismissing ideas, setting unreasonable expectations or generally failing to lead by example – has very serious consequences in terms of employee productivity. Their work performance takes a toll which, in turn, negatively impacts an organisation’s financial health. One study even found that workers who were exposed to rude behaviour were less creative during a brainstorming task.

Another study, this time from the US Army, found that toxic leaders decrease soldiers’ effectiveness. Specifically, it concluded that poor leadership leads to a 48% decrease in team effort and a 38% decrease in work quality.

4. Damaged Company Reputation

As briefly touched upon earlier, poor management isn’t just bad for employees; it’s also bad for an organisation’s health and overall reputation – something it depends on to survive. And that is kind of a big deal.

As a company’s reputation for being a bad employer starts to spread across the internet (thanks to review sites like Glassdoor), it doesn’t just lose potential candidates’ interest but also consumers’ trust. Beyond employee turnover, a bad manager will also contribute to a drop in company profits. In fact, a Gallup poll of more than one million US workers found that poorly managed work groups were less profitable than well-managed groups.

Poor management can also affect coffers directly, if company funds are mismanaged or budgets are overextended in comparison with revenues. Before long, an organisation will close its doors for good, if steps aren’t taken to turn the situation around.

5. Reduced Morale

Poor management doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a racist or sexist boss; it can take the form of a supervisor who is incompetent, inexperienced or who simply has a God complex.

For example, they could continually ignore the input of staff, which typically results in a feeling of worthlessness. Similarly, employees who aren’t praised and recognised for their performance and achievements begin to feel unappreciated and unwilling to perform to a high level. They can sometimes even begin to display a passive-aggressive attitude.

Before long, a toxic workplace has been created and the reduction of morale is quickly spread around the office like a virus. Even if a manager’s behaviour doesn’t directly affect an employee, the effects their behaviour has had on others will be noticed eventually and could lead them to up and leave.

Have you ever had to work under poor management? How did you handle the situation? Do you think that a bad boss is a good reason to quit your job? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!

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