If you are questioning whether you are a bad boss, take a look at this list. Here are 25 signs of a bad boss.
1. An Arrogant Air
By far, one of the more common signs that you have a bad boss is an aura or air of arrogance. Bosses that think they are above all of their employees or are the most important part of an organization are usually extremely frustrating to be around. Similarly, bosses that think they are superior to their employees will often have additional bad boss signs and may even be emotionally or verbally abusive. Arrogance kills teamwork and respect for a superior like a few other qualities.
Similarly, bosses that can’t stand up for their teammates to customers for their superiors will quickly lose the respect of their underlings. Bosses often need to go to bat for their employees and represent their entire team. Those who can’t summon the courage to stand up for their employees when they need it most will find it difficult to get the respect of their workers and will also inspire cowardice in those around them.
3. A Bad Communicator
One of the chief responsibilities of any boss is to communicate with their employees and customers. But poor communication skills means that this main aspect of management will probably go unfulfilled. It may even be accompanied by verbal abuse, and it can cause miscommunications within the office and beyond. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to discern what a boss wants because they can’t communicate properly or communicate their frustration in an unconstructive manner.
4. Verbally Abusive
Speaking of verbal abuse, this is also a surefire sign that you have a bad boss. Managers and bosses of all stations and statures are supposed to inspire their teammates and cause their employees to look forward to going to work. Being verbally abusive does the opposite of both of these effects and causes employees to not only lose respect for their superiors but for their company as a whole. It’s also incredibly emotionally damaging to anyone on the receiving end: a moral negative through and through.
5. Won’t Connect
Bosses are supposed to be the linchpins that hold a company or team together. But ones that don’t bother to get to know their team members are terrible bosses right off the bat. This can be something small like not knowing what a person’s favorite sports team is or something more egregious like not even knowing the names of their teammates. Either way, it’s bad for morale and for respect.
6. Breaks Own Rules
It’s a normal responsibility for bosses to lay down the law and come up with rules that everyone is supposed to follow. But when they don’t follow those rules, it inspires disobedience in their employees and makes them seem like total jerks. It’s usually accompanied by arrogance and is likely to increase rule breaking rather than the opposite. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not a viable strategy for most bosses.
7. Can’t Admit Mistakes
Bosses that can’t admit when they are wrong show their fragile egos and prevents people from feeling like they can make mistakes, too. This might cause mistakes to go unreported, which can eventually lead to greater catastrophes or issues within an organization. Being able to admit that you’re wrong shows humility and the right amount of confidence, so bosses that can’t do this probably lack both.
8. Expect Everyone to Be Like Them
Bosses need to be able to forge a team out of a select number of individuals, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Bad bosses try to make everyone exactly like them, especially if they think that the way they do things is the only viable path forward. This is a problem for lots of reasons, but especially because it stifles creativity and exposes a company to vulnerability to the same kinds of mistakes as the boss is liable to make.
9. Makes Inappropriate Comments
Good bosses will foster an aura of respect and comfort for their employees and the workplace. But those who make inappropriate comments, whether they are of a sexual or racist nature, have no business managing other people. This makes their employees feel uncomfortable and causes everyone to lose respect, except for those bad employees that share the inappropriate views of the boss. If a boss makes inappropriate comments, the only thing to do is to report them to HR.
10. Doesn’t Trust Employees
Successful managers and bosses don’t micromanage their employees. They trust them within reason. Bad bosses can’t trust anyone, which creates an environment of disrespect and mistrust between both them and their employees. Not only is this bad for interpersonal cohesion, but it slows down the pace of work and prevents the company from being as efficient as it could possibly become. It’s usually related to their inability to trust themselves, but employees don’t always know that.
11. Expect 24/7 Work
Some bosses are workaholics, and that might even be the reason why they got a managerial position in the first place. But not every worker wants to be constantly on call. If a boss violates this and expects employees to constantly be at their beck and call, they are a bad manager. It’s difficult for many employees to set appropriate boundaries, as they might fear repercussions if they don’t acquiesce to the boss’ demands.
Bosses that frequently overpromise are ones that should be avoided or replaced. A great example of this is a boss that constantly tells an employee that they’ll promote them or give them a raise, but never ends up going through with it. It’s always better to have a boss that is blunt but sometimes gives disappointing news than one who constantly lies to their employees. Eventually, employees catch on and lose respect for the manager and the company.
Related to not trusting employees is micromanaging, in which a boss constantly handles all the fine details of what is supposed to be their employees’ work. This subconsciously tells employees that they aren’t trusted to do their job properly, which lowers their confidence. It also slows down productivity across the company and creates an environment where people don’t think the boss has faith in them. For some employees, nothing is more deflating than this.
14. Takes Resignations as an Insult
Employees need to feel like they are free to come and go as they please or as new opportunities develop. But bosses that make employees feel guilty about leaving or who take resignations of personal insults should not be managing others. This can sometimes trap employees into a position that they desperately want to leave, causing them to produce unsatisfactory work and lowering the morale of an entire office or company.
15. Doesn’t Give Critical Feedback
Some bosses are softies and refused to give the right critical feedback to their employees. While it’s important not to be verbally abusive, employees can really only learn and grow if they are told about their shortcomings honestly while balancing their victories. Bosses are supposed to be mentors for their underlings, and those that do not perform this task aren’t really bosses at all.
16. Give Mean Feedback
On the flip side, there are plenty of bosses that give needlessly cruel or mean feedback to their employees. Crushing your employees by pointing out their flaws relentlessly is no way to motivate them to do better. If you have a boss that constantly gives overly negative feedback, it’s likely that there a bad manager in general and your work is not the actual issue. Bosses need to learn to balance critical feedback with negativity properly in order to be effective at this aspect of the job.
17. No Vision
In a team or company, bosses are the captains or visionaries that steer the ship and drive the company to newer and greater heights. But bad bosses don’t have any vision and are content with stagnating, dragging everyone down along with them. While not every boss needs to completely reinvent the wheel, it’s important that bosses have some idea about the long-term goals of the company or team and take real steps to achieve those goals.
18. Doesn’t Praise
While critical feedback is important, just as crucial is a tendency to provide good praise for the positive efforts of your employees. Many employees thrive when they are told what they do right, and employees that feel good about their work are ones who are more productive and more likely to stick with a position for much longer than their peers. It’s important not to go overboard with praise so you don’t make overconfident employees, but some praise is certainly necessary.
19. Criticizes in Public
This flaw is particularly egregious if the boss is in the customer service sphere. Feedback is critical, but any reprimands or critiques should be delivered in private away from the prying eyes of both the public and fellow employees. Receiving feedback on any mistake is embarrassing to most, but bad bosses don’t care about this. This can make an employee feel resentful of their superior and cause them to quit or produce subpar work in the future.
20. Can’t Adapt
Especially in the modern era, bosses need to be able to adapt to the changing times. Industries are constantly shifting and the needs and responsibilities of employees are changing as well. Bosses that can adapt are great, but far too many bosses are utterly inflexible. Inflexibility causes strife within an organization and causes employees to lose respect for their superior and may cause them to look for someone for a new company that can better work with their unique schedule and needs.
Some bosses have favored employees, and this isn’t a problem if it’s kept to themselves. But it becomes an issue when bosses blatantly show favoritism to certain employees by providing them extra perks or letting them off the hook for failures that would earn a reprimand for anyone else. This complete unfairness turns employees against one another and decreases respect for the boss. It’s a bad situation all around, and any favoritism is a sign of poor management, even if it’s favoritism for you.
22. Never Grateful
Many bad bosses expect their employees to do work and never praise them or express gratitude, particularly for outstanding performances. This is a mistake, as employees often bring their best work to the table in order to obtain gratitude from their superior. Bosses that can’t express gratitude or say thank you probably won’t have much luck getting employees to put a little extra effort forward on a particularly important assignment.
23. Allows Bullying
Some bad bosses don’t bully themselves but instead allow others to pull each other. In some interpersonal environments, bosses are supposed to be referees, preventing things from getting out of hand and stopping employees from abusing one another. This creates a safe environment, so bosses that don’t stop bullying in its tracks produce an unsafe environment that people will likely not want to stay in for long.
24. Doesn’t Encourage Growth
Stagnation for anyone is bad, but bosses that don’t encourage growth and their employees don’t deserve to be managers at all. As mentioned before, one of the key roles for a boss is to act as a mentor for their employees and help them reach new heights. Those who don’t drive their employees to greatness or who help them find their strength and double down on them aren’t really bosses; they’re just overseers watching the days go by and the work get done.
This sign is related to breaking their own rules, but many bosses are often late for work, citing their increased responsibilities or the same excuses employees will make. This is a terrible sign of a bad boss because it shows that they don’t respect the time of their employees as much as they care about their own. Bad bosses will routinely be late or will be irresponsible with the time of their workers, causing them to stay late at meetings or forgetting appointments that were scheduled weeks in advance.
Bad bosses do not inspire confidence or productivity in their workers, leading to burn-out and low retention rates. If you have any of these qualities though, it is never too late to take a step back and evaluate how you can change for the better.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.