10 signs you have a bad boss

Everyone likes to complain about their boss now and then, but here are 10 signs that you have a truly bad boss, the kind worth getting away from. And if you’re a manager and recognize yourself in any of the below, it’s time to immediately send yourself to manager rehab!

1. Yelling. Managers who yell actually diminish their own authority because they look out of control. After all, a manager confident in her own authority doesn’t need to yell because she has far more effective tools available to her. Don’t yell, and don’t worker for yellers.

2. Fuzzy expectations. If your manager doesn’t communicate clear, concrete goals for your work, and convey to you what success in your position would look like, she’s falling down on one of her most important jobs. A good test: If you and your manager were both asked what’s most important for you to achieve this year, would your answers match?

3. Unreliability. She says she’ll review your report by Tuesday, but it doesn’t happen. He promises to join you for your important meeting but doesn’t make it. She says she’ll forward you a client’s contact info and it never arrives. You need to be able to rely on your manager to do what she says she’s going to do, just as she needs to rely on you for the same.

4. Unwillingness to make decisions. This often takes the form of managers neglecting to address performance problems or not firing low performers. But it surfaces in other ways too, like not taking responsibility for moving work forward or punting in favor of trying to reach consensus.

5. Unreasonable demands. Holding staffers to a high standard is a good thing. But insisting that people work over the weekend to complete a project that isn’t time-sensitive, or demanding that an employee do the truly impossible is the mark of a tyrant.

6. Indirectness. When a manager sugarcoats to the point that their message is missed, or presents requirements as mere suggestions, staffers end up confused about expectations, and managers end up frustrated that their “suggestions” weren’t acted upon.

7. Ruling by fear. Managers who rule through rigid control, negativity, and a climate of anxiety and fear don’t trust that they can get things done any other way. Of course, it backfires in the end because fearful employees won’t bring up new ideas for fear of being attacked and won’t be honest about problems … and very few great people with options are going to want to work for a fear-based manager.

8. Defensiveness. Managers who respond defensively when their decisions are questioned end up squashing dissent and making employees less likely to suggest new and different ways of doing things. Managers who are secure in their authority aren’t threatened by dissent and recognize that others’ ideas are sometimes better than their own.

9. Dramatic. A good manager minimizes drama, rather than causing it. If everything is a crisis around your manager, she’s probably what’s at the center of the problem.

10. Fear of conflict. If your manager avoids conflict and tough conversations, chances are high that employees don’t hear much feedback and problems don’t get addressed.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    *Raises hand like a know-it-all kid in class and does the know-it-all dance* My boss is so #10!!! A couple of my coworkers have walked into a “you’re so fired” territory with tardiness only to leave early, faking sick to go out drinking (yes they admitted to it), and taking as many days off as they desired —– all of that without any repercussions! WTF? I know my boss is fearful of confrontation; he turns red when he has to deal with problematic clients. But sheesh, he should not be a manager if he can’t manage these coworkers and lay down the law!

    Now maybe he has confronted them on these issues, but I highly doubt it. They haven’t done anything to correct the behavior.

  2. Anonymous*

    Sadly, this list is dead on. I currently suffer from a boss who suffers from 2, 3, 4, and 6. My last boss was guilty of 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. It’s sad that I see the current boss as a tolerable improvement.

  3. Sabrina*

    What about a boss who is just a chode? I mean I understand being frustrated by people who aren’t doing their job well when you have to fix their mistakes, but it’s not our fault that we were poorly trained, and now he sends these snotty emails all the time. I’m about ready to sit him down about the proper way to speak to people.

  4. Anonymous*

    and this is why I am interviewing for a new position right now… sadly mine is all of the above and even admits it!

      1. Anonymous*

        My supervisor talks to me about issues he finds frustrating – issues he should be nipping in the bud at first sight. It’s strange, but really, he is finally seeing what I have been seeing for a long time now. I just hope he puts his foot down now he is awake!

  5. Marie*

    Most bad bosses are guilty of #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9. So many irrational tyrants in the workplace – very disturbing.

  6. K*

    One of my managers shows a few of these traits, but what’s more frustrating is the disrespect towards employee’s time. We’re expected to work over hours, yet he constantly shows up an hour or two late and leaves on time or early each day. We still can’t figure out what he actually does for the company, yet higher managers seem to love him. I think the top sign of a bad manager is unanimous disapproval from the floor.

  7. Anonymous*

    I have a boss that assumes you are the problem with a work situation without hearing in this case my side of the story before passing judgement. He automatically thinks i’m the problem.

Comments are closed.