It’s often said that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers, and it’s true that one of the major effects of poor management is high turnover. So considering that the Work Institute’s 2017 retention report estimates the cost of replacing each departed worker in the United States is 33 percent of an employee’s annual salary, being a bad boss will directly impact your business’ bottom line.
But how do you spot a bad boss before it’s too late? We asked the experts to share their tips in order to find out.
Here are the top 15 signs of a bad boss.
1. You Micromanage Your Staff
Anastasios Koutsogiannis, Content Marketing Manager, GenieBelt
Micromanagement can be a strong sign that your boss has poor leadership skills. The lack of trust of the employees is nothing more than the lack of trust of your own abilities as a manager. Having a micromanaging boss can be really frustrating, as you are deprived of the opportunity to be creative and to develop in the professional space. A way to work around such a boss is to become very detail-oriented yourself, in the hope that you can prove your value and make him/her understand that you deserve more responsibilities and less supervision.
2. You’re Unable to Find a Balanced Management Style
Tom Knight, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Sauder School of Business, The University of British Columbia
We often think of “bad” bosses as being abusive ogres. While such people are often poor leaders, from a functional perspective the issue is more one of striking an appropriate balance between providing direction and encouraging independent decision-making and initiative by team members. Over-managing often takes the form of a suffocating continuous monitoring and checking on the subordinate’s work—regardless of their ability and desire to perform. Under-managing is basically neglect of team members’ needs for guidance and encouragement. Individual team members have varying needs for direction and support depending on their experience and abilities: the “good” boss is able to differentiate between team members and provide the best balance in their leadership styles.
A boss who chronically over- or under-manages reports may undermine the team members’ ability and motivation to perform. On the other hand, applying a balance of direction and support appropriate to individual team members encourages employee development and performance while conserving leader time and energy—not to mention creating a healthier working environment.
3. You Fail to Build a Trusting Relationship with Your Team
Patrick West, Founder, Be the Machine
All good leaders, whether it be in sports or business or even a church group, need to show strong support for their staff and “get their backs.” Employees want to feel that their boss will defend them and fight for them when times get tough. Bad bosses avoid confrontations if it means they can’t emerge perfectly clean. Workers need to ask themselves: “Is my boss willing to fight to protect my job? Do I think my boss is going to push back on the client to support me? Will my boss tell the other department head they better not cross me again?”
4. You’re Focused on Self-Preservation
Gabriella Ribeiro, Serial Entrepreneur and Owner, The Mogul Mom
A bad boss is one who is afraid—and by that I mean afraid of being outshined, outdone and overshadowed. The mark of a great leader is one who surrounds themselves with people who they feel are smarter than them, more innovative in one way or another, and motivated to grow. Many are terrified of this because they feel they will lose their place. However, if the leader is strong, and develops a strong team, they can only all grow and elevate together, thus elevating the status and position of the boss to possibly even greater things. Build a team that is loyal, that is inspired and motivated, and that has initiative. Know where you personally want to go when you are a boss as well, and design a strategy that can help everyone achieve their own personal goals by everyone working together with you at the helm to strive further.
5. You Ignore the Importance of Performance Tracking for Employees
Gavin Graham, Editor, Fit Small Business
If you’re not doing performance tracking, you’re not giving constructive feedback. This means the boss fails to recognize accomplishments and award merits based on data. Zoho allows you to do performance tracking by letting your team get reviewed by their peers throughout the year. Its performance management system also allows you to set goals for your team and monitor their progress easily. Start using Zoho and try their free version today.
6. You Avoid Taking Responsibility of Issues at All Cost
Remy Kouffman, Co-Founder and CEO, Knockout AI
A great leader leads by example and leads from the front. They aren’t afraid to admit their failures or weaknesses, as long as they consistently work to improve them, and remain transparent with the team about their progress and commitment.
Therefore, signs of a bad manager usually start with placing blame and failed deadlines on other people. They fail to take responsibility for the team they lead and allow in-fighting and the blame game to take center stage instead of pulling up their sleeves and working together to solve the common goal. They also fail to communicate both success and failure effectively to the team, which leaves everyone in the dark and morale low.
7. You’re Resistant to Change
Anthony Gaenzle, VP Sales and Marketing, SE Healthcare
Unfortunately, there are far fewer effective leaders than bad ones. One of the most glaring signs that you’re stuck with a bad boss is resistance to change and new ideas. Good leaders will hire team members who bring great ideas to the table to drive innovation within an organization. Bad ones will shoot down any new idea, opting instead to do things the way they’ve always been done. They fear change, and thus they fear empowering their employees. This leads to stagnant growth and high turnover, neither of which is frequently (read: never) listed as goals companies aspire to achieve.
8. You’re Quick to Fault New Ideas
Sophie Miles, CEO and Co-Founder, CalculatorBuddy
“But” it is a word that *destroys ideas and possibilities very easily*. I hate when I go back in my steps just to realize what it could have been if I had not said “but” so quickly. Sometimes when we are talking with a coworker, we rush into finding something we do not like or see potential weaknesses first.
I’ve heard many people say “I love my job but ….,” “is a good person but ….,” “I’m going to do it but ….,” “I would accept it but ….” How many times have we focused only on the weaknesses when someone brings us a work proposal, an innovative idea, or in a simple talk with our coworkers or boss. Many times, we do it because of fear of leaving our comfort zone. I included myself in that because I was also one of those people who, to believe in something, had to defeat it first. Let me tell you that nothing good comes from that.
9. You Encourage Dishonesty
Nancy Cramer, President, Correct Course Consulting, LLC
Bad bosses tell their subordinates to lie to their customers. In many industries, lying has become business-as-usual. This behavior, while oftentimes convenient, causes long-term damage to the reputation of the business and the individual. In today’s age of rapid information sharing, it can be lethal to a small business.
10. You Fail to Define Expectations and Set Unrealistic Goals
Holly G. Green, CEO, The Human Factor
When a boss or manager is unable to define excellence or expectations up front, you are being set up to fail. You are basically expected to read his/her mind and deliver an unknown. The myriad of paths can be numerous and you have to guess not only the path, but the destination as well. More often than not, the “bad boss” has a clear notion of excellence in his/her own head and is unable, for whatever reason, to articulate it. These are particularly dangerous bosses because they usually don’t hesitate to tell you what you’ve done wrong or why your deliverable is lacking AFTER you’ve spent time and energy trying to deliver the secret.
Ask clarifying questions up front. Work to get a picture of winning before you dive in. When a boss can’t define the win up front, be very cautious about diving in to play a game that might have you on the wrong field.
11. You Lack Accountability for Your Team’s Performance
Shawn Breyer, Owner, Breyer Home Buyers
Having a manager who passes down new policies to their team, but then allows individual team members to still go against that policy, will prove to the team that the boss can’t be respected and that the company policies and processes aren’t enforced. This creates a culture of employees performing their jobs how they see fit vs. how the company needs them to perform their tasks.
12. You Display Negative Behavior Stemming from Lack of Self-Confidence
Dan Paulson, CEO and Founder, InVision Development International
There are several signs of a bad manager or boss. These managers often lack personal confidence, which materializes in a number of ways. For example, they often put others down to elevate themselves. Praise is very rare while criticism flows abundantly. When I was working in a large manufacturing firm, my boss remembered every mistake I ever made in great detail. Even three years after the incident happened, the feedback would still appear on my annual review. She used this as a method of maintaining control over my professional growth as well as any merit increases. Virtually every conversation started out with what was wrong and where there was a problem. The experience was demoralizing and demotivating.
These actions destroyed trust within her management team and in many ways, promoted an adversarial relationship.
13. You Criticize Your Team in Public
Val Grubb, Principal, TONE Networks
There’s an old HR saying: “praise in public, criticize in private.” If your boss ignores this golden rule and points out problems or things you didn’t do well in public, run to find a new boss, as the criticism can affect your confidence and make you wary of presenting in front of others (something that can help you get promoted). It can also put negative thoughts about you or your performance in other executive’s minds (which is also not good). Not giving praise (even when things go spectacularly well) typically accompanies a bad boss who criticizes in public.
14. You Create a Culture of Inequity
Robin Schwartz, PHR, HR Director, Career Igniter
Some signs will be more obvious than others that you have a bad boss. If your boss clearly favors certain team members and creates a culture of inequity or unfairness, he/she isn’t a good boss. Managers need to ensure they create a culture of equality. Furthermore, if your boss chooses to ignore workplace procedures and policies (or follow them for some but not others), you should consider moving on. It doesn’t take overtly inappropriate behaviors to make a bad boss, and bosses who won’t take the time to help you develop new skills and abilities are bad for your career.
15. Your Team Doesn’t Feel Safe to Make Mistakes
Halelly Azulay, Founder and CEO, TalentGrow LLC
Bad bosses don’t discuss development goals beyond the once-a-year review. They don’t take the time to teach new skills, share knowledge, or look for non-training ways to develop their employees. They use the “throw people off the cliff” approach to development. And they don’t create opportunities for cross-training within the team. They don’t tolerate failure, and criticize or punish mistakes. Or, they try to “save” people from mistakes and don’t allow them to learn and experience consequences. They don’t provide a safety net for failure.
To fix or avoid this mistake, bosses should develop people and make it safe to make mistakes. Discuss development throughout the year. Take the time to teach new skills, share knowledge, and look for non-training ways to develop employees. Tolerate failure and avoid criticizing or punishing mistakes. And don’t try to “save” people from mistakes—allow them to learn and experience the consequences.
BONUS: Taking Team Members for Granted
Giles Thomas, CEO, Whole Design Studios
As a CEO of a 100% remote business being a boss is tough. Common signs you’re a bad boss normally entail complaining when people are 1 min late, choosing office favorites and being passive-aggressive to staff. As we don’t have an office, most of those signs are not relevant. I can’t complain if people are staring at Instagram all day or Facebook. But there are still many things you can and sometimes do get wrong.
Once a position is filled (say customer service) and your business is running smoothly, it is easy to treat that person like a cog in the wheel, taking them for granted. Well, before you know if they have quit. To avoid this I do monthly check in with all 45+ team members to make sure they are taken seriously and their future and personal career goals are set and met.
Over to You
The overall effect of poor leadership can cause significant damage to your business if left unchecked. Watch out for these 15 signs and keep your business free from bad managers.
Have more tips to identify a bad boss? Share them in the comments!