8 signs you’re a bad boss

No manager sets out to be the sort of boss who demoralizes their staff or makes people dread coming to work. And yet, given the number of people who report working for terrible managers, there are clearly loads of bad bosses out there.

Most bad bosses aren’t bad people. Rather, managing is a skill like any other, and too managers don’t take the time to develop that skill. But if you’re in charge of people at work, it’s crucial to take a look at what kind of boss you are. Here are eight signs that things aren’t going as well as you might have thought.

1. You hesitate to go on vacation because you worry that things will fall apart while you’re gone. If this rings true for you, one of the following is likely happening: you haven’t sufficiently trained your staff, you haven’t delegated a reasonable amount of responsibility to people, you don’t trust people be the competent professionals they presumably are, or you haven’t addressed performance problems on your team.

2. You take it personally when people quit. Employees move on from jobs; that’s a normal part of doing business. But some managers see resignations as personal betrayals and get angry or hurt when people leave. This is incredibly unsettling to other staff members who see it, and who then have to worry about the reaction they’ll get when it’s their turn to move on. Yes, it’s disappointing when a good employee leaves – which is why good bosses work to keep people on board before anyone quits – but the only appropriate response is to thank the person for her work and wish her well in their new job.

3. Sometimes you yell at your staff.Yelling at an employee is never okay. It’s demeaning to the employee (who, because of the power dynamics in the relationship, might feel they have to sit there and take it), it creates an environment of fear for everyone who witnesses it, and it will make good people not want to work for you. Ironically, it will also diminish your authority, because you’ll come across as out of control and not able to get things done any other way.

4. You often end up taking work over from your staff so that it gets done correctly. If you delegate work to a staff member, you should invest the time to ensure the person is set up to complete it successfully. That means thoroughly thinking through beforehandwhat the final product should look like so that you can convey that when assigning it, checking in along the way so that you can spot any needed course corrections, and coaching and giving feedback where you see that it’s needed. If you’re regularly taking work back from your staff because you don’t trust it will be done well enough otherwise, you’re either not doing those earlier steps well enough (or at all), or there’s a performance issue that you need to address.

5. You avoid giving critical feedback because you don’t want to make anyone feel bad. While this might stem from a well-intentioned place, it’s actually a huge disservice to your employees. People deserve to know how they could be doing their jobs better, especially if over time it could end up impacting their project assignments, raises, performance evaluations, or advancement opportunities – or even just their reputations. Plus it means that problems often fester, and eventually become so serious that the manager finally speaks up … at which point things have become much worse than if the manager had said something early on.

On the other end of that spectrum…

6. The last time you gave someone positive feedback was weeks ago. You should be giving positive feedback all the time – because if you have a team of strong performers, you should be seeing praise-worthy things from them on a regular basis. If your employees consistently do a good job but rarely hear about it, they’re likely to feel unappreciated and wonder why no one notices their achievements. And if you’re giving any critical feedback at all, good employees need to be hearing positive feedback to balance that out.

7. You boast about working around the clock and rarely taking a sick day. If that’s what you’re modeling for your team, they’re almost certainly picking up the message that you expect the same from them. And that’s not a good thing, because that will lead to burn-out, resentment, and good people leaving for more sustainable work environments.

8. You think people should be grateful to have a job. Managers who think this way generally use it as a reason to treat people poorly, and expect they should accept that without any push-back. But you’re not doing your employees a favor by employing them; you’re in a mutually beneficial business relationship. And if you have high performing staff members, they likely have plenty of other options – and will take them if you treat them without respect and appreciation.

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

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. Marillenbaum*

    Oh, dear. Several of these are my current boss, which is part of why I am being reassigned. Just a few more weeks!

  2. Imaginary Number*

    I really appreciate this because it’s not the obvious stuff: it’s the things many people think are signs of being a GOOD boss.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Not to derail, but the expressions on the faces of the coworkers being yelled at are priceless.

    1. Hermione*

      It took a second for the photo to load, and the img-title that was displayed read “Furious boss yelling at colleagues” haha.

    2. Stella's Mom*

      Having had a boss years ago that actually did do this type of yelling, etc – the image actually had me gritting my teeth a bit, remembering his towering over me, and others, and yelling. Ugh.

  4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    “You think people should be grateful to have a job.”

    Ugh, yes. I had a manager who was otherwise okay, but copped this attitude that we should all be awed by his munificence in bestowing upon us the miracle of employment. And it’s like, dude, this is a basic transactional relationship, you need labor and expertise, I’m selling it to you for a fair price, end of story.

    1. PB*

      My partner’s former company took this attitude, and liked to remind them of it at the holiday party and during team-building events. “You’re lucky to have a job! Merry Christmas!”

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        This is the sort of employer that hands out memberships for the Jelly of the Month Club instead of bonuses.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I’d be hoping they sold junk food of some sort. That’s so far from any of my interests.

          2. nonegiven*

            DH picked a plain pocketknife, just like the 5 others he already had, over a $50 basspro card at a trapshoot tournament.

        1. WildLandLover*

          I and another colleague got a pair of scissors for Christmas, at a Christmas dinner, where a couple of other employees were given trips and monetary bonuses. I worked for a series of weekly newspapers at the time and this was before software like Publisher, so we did all the column and ad layout by hand, using similar pairs of scissors . . . Thanks, boss, for giving me the gift of a work tool. Needless to say, I took the scissors home.

          Said boss was also a yeller and seemed to think the fact that he gave you a job should make you forever grateful (at minimum wage).

          He left a nasty note on my desk before I came in one day asking what I did with my time every day (this was after opening an additional office in a new location, which I staffed and did layout, took classified and other ads, handled money, managed subscriptions, and wrote articles and editorials).

          To extend the same courtesy to him, I replied in writing and stated exactly what I did and how my contributions had benefited his company over the previous 4 years in actual, measurable detail, and included my 2-weeks notice.

          He couldn’t understand how come I was so upset . . .

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I do think there is a line to be walked here.

      The boss shouldn’t act like no matter what he or the company asks of the workers, they shouldn’t complain and just be grateful to have a job.

      But.. the workers shouldn’t act like they are doing the boss a favor by just showing up either.

      Mutual respect is the ideal!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        The point is that no one is doing anyone a favor. It’s a transactional agreement.

        1. Koko*


          I am not at work to please my boss. I am at work to advance our organizational mission, which, if everything is running well on the inside, will please my boss.

          Likewise, my organization does not exist to provide me a job. It exists to advance our organizational mission, which, if everything is running well on the inside, will provide me with continued employment.

          Neither of us are indebted to the other. We are benefiting from each other as we work towards a shared goal.

          1. Stella's Mom*

            This concept – working for the org’s mission – is lost on a number of people in the world I have been in over the past (near) decade. I find most of the people I have worked with are working to advance their personal (and financial) goals and are not working toward the org goals, except at a very abstract level. It’s interesting – I have primarily worked on teams with folks from all over the world in all of my jobs, but the difference when working for US-mega-corp was the work culture strove to support the org and corp *that was the goal* and in recent roles, smaller orgs, and not so much. It has been eye opening.

      2. Mike C.*

        There is a power imbalance at play that makes one of these much worse than the opposite.

      3. LQ*

        Bosses can fire employees for doing that though and take away their lively hood…even if I quit without notice my boss won’t lose his house because of it.

      4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Of course mutual respect is the ideal. I think that a) it’s a lot more common for bosses to adopt that attitude than workers, b) there’s an inherent power imbalance that makes the practical effects of that attitude more toxic when it comes from the boss, and c) in general it’s really problematic for an employer to personalize and emotionalize what is basically an important transactional relationship.

        1. Naruto*

          Yeah, I think it’s rare for the employee to have the attitude problem that says “you should be grateful I showed up to work today.” Mostly because the employer can manage around that: tell them to cut it out, discipline them, and/or fire them if they don’t have a professional attitude at work. Or if the problem is that they’re indisipensible and they know it, still, the employer can build in more redundancy so that someone else can handle their job, too (i.e. planning for the “hit by a bus” scenario).

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I worked at a small company where the owners felt that they were gods for granting jobs to some poor mortals. They really believed that employees should constantly grovel and thank them for blessing them with a job. It was wack-a-do.

      1. Anony Anon*

        That was my last job- they were abusive and yet you were expected to act like it was the happiest place on earth… Umm…NO!!

      2. Chickaletta*

        Sounds the boss I had where, after laying me off, told me to thank her for giving me the opportunity to work there. Even before I was layed off she acted like I was a community service project that she should be awarded for. If it hadn’t been my first job out of college and known better…

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I had a job in that pay range that boasted about “frequent raises!” and expected us to put on this whole show of gratitude when we got one. Raises averaged $0.05-0.20/hr. F that noise.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          “Here’s a $0.05 raise! Don’t spend it all in one place, little feller.”

            1. SideshowStarlet*

              Now I’m picturing the newest bestselling children’s book: “If You Give a Mouse a Nickel.” If you give a mouse a nickel, they’ll want a change purse to carry it in. If you give a mouse a change purse, they’ll want matching shoes. If you give a mouse matching shoes, they’ll want a new dress. If you buy a mouse a new dress, they’ll want underwear that hasn’t been approved by their boss. If you give a mouse the freedom to buy underwear of their choosing, they’ll need money and probably ask for ANOTHER nickel.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                If you give a mouse a nickel, she’ll have cheese for a day. If you teach her how to make more nickels, you’ll trap her in a never-ending cycle of wage slavery and capitalist hegemony.

                ….that got heavy.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @SideshowStarlet: Well, I meant more the day’s posts as a whole. This subthread did escalate quickly, though.

                2. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

                  This. Just, all of this. The AAM community is a unique haven of wit, sarcasm, and caring that only Alison could foster.

        2. BananaPants*

          My husband just got a $0.13 per hour raise. His manager expected him to be much more enthusiastic and grateful. “Oooh, thank you so much for the additional $270 per year!”

        3. Anon again*

          This was similar to a job I had. It was only part-time, but the boss would be like, “You got a raise!” and it was only by 20 cents or something and then he would laugh! It was pathetic.

          1. Chaordic One*

            I have a friend who claims that when she offered a pathetically inadequate raise like that, she refused to accept it and refused to sign her updated contract. She claimed she told her (bad) boss that if the company was doing so badly that it couldn’t afford to give her at least an inflation-adjusted cost-of-living raise they shouldn’t be giving out raises at all. She says she never received a raise and that she started a job search and quit about a month or so later.

            I wonder how that would work as a negotiating tactic at a formal salary review?

    4. BRR*

      I always want to respond to this type of person that they should be grateful to have a job too since they’re not good at their’s.

    5. Koko*

      Small business?

      I’ll never work for a founder again. They can’t separate their business from themselves. Which is understandable, but comes with a bevy of problems I am not interested in dealing with.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        My parents founded and owned a small business. My mom in particular is a hugely forceful personality who basically willed the business forward, and while I think she was fair, she was probably insanely difficult to work for.

      2. BananaPants*

        My dad works for a small business where the owner is a longtime close friend. While he’s grateful to have a job after being laid off in his 60s, he is extremely careful to separate friendship from work and learned that you do not openly disagree with what the owner or his sons decide, even if it makes no business sense. Plus it makes things weird to have “the boss” screaming at all of his employees and then a half hour later, dude’s in “friend” mode asking about the grandkids. Dad will be happy when he retires and goes back to just being in “friend” mode again.

    6. Anon For Right Now*

      I worked for one of these bosses. I left but am still friendly with some people who work there. One person told me about how she tried to push back on some unreasonable expectations once and was told, “if you don’t like it, go work somewhere else.” and then went on to say she wouldn’t make the same amount of money doing a similar job elsewhere. It makes me sad for her because it’s not nice to treat employees (or anyone, really) this way.

    7. Troutwaxer*

      Oh Glorious Boss, thank you for saving me from one of the other 199 million jobs in America. Thank you for saving me from the 5 million help-wanted ads posted every year. Your stellar, visionary wisdom in allowing me to work for you is the only thing I live for! Gladly would I sacrifice my children and spouse on the altar of your desk to save the company 23 cents if only you would request it of me! Praise the Glorious Boss!

  5. ann perkins*

    My last boss was terrible because he let everyone else blame me for all of their mistakes and held no one else accountable. One of the worst bosses I’ve ever had, if not the worst.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Quite. Actually, I think that would have become basically constant.

      1. ann perkins*

        Oh it did – the problems was that I was in operations but reporting to sales (never a good idea). If sales sold something we didn’t have, and I couldn’t magically create it, it was my problem and not theirs. Luckily (I mean this sincerely), I got fired, and am much better off now. But it is so hard to work for someone who says, “okay, we just sold 1000 oranges, go get them from one of our apple trees.”

  6. Future Homesteader*

    As a new manager (to student employees, but it’s still been a learning curve for me), I was terrified I was going to see a lot of myself in here. Thankfully, I did not. Although 4 and 5 are definitely things I’ve been working on.

    Is there *ever* a point where it’s okay to take work back? A tight deadline? Or what about tightening things up before sending it on? Especially because the people I manage are only here a few hours a week and just lack a certain institutional knowledge, I feel like there are projects where, at some point, it makes sense for me to make some final edits. If it’s info I want them to learn, I make sure to make changes and send it back to them. But sometimes they won’t be in again for a few days, and I can make ten minutes’ worth of quick changes about nitpicky things and send it on. Is there a way to do that without sending the wrong message?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As the manager, you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring success in the realms you oversee, so yes, sometimes you might need to take work back to ensure that happens. The key is that you address why that happened, and work to ensure it won’t happen again (whether that means getting better at being clearer up-front, or coaching someone on performance, or even letting someone go if it’s a pattern).

      In your specific scenario: It sounds like there you’re just talking about doing the final polish of a project, and it’s not unreasonable for that to be part of your role. I wouldn’t call that taking over a project.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I have done it a few times, with two different people who’d made a complete hash of a time-sensitive project that needed to get done right, right then.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Sit with them and make the changes together?

      It will save you time in the long run if they learn what to do differently.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        That’s the ideal, but sometimes that’s a luxury, unfortunately.

    4. LKW*

      Always good to make sure you’re happy with the materials, especially when you have reports that are new or inexperienced. Or if they may not have all of the information that is relevant. The wrong message is “you did it wrong so I had to do it for you.” the message you want to send is “I made some changes to improve the overall product. Let’s quickly review them and give you an opportunity to ask questions.”

      Collaboration is beneficial.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        This. I’m the final eye on everything that goes out, but I always review changes I made with people.

        It’s been really helpful in terms of voice/style changes.

    5. Jen*

      I think it’s totally understandable with student employees. I work on a college campus and some students are fantastic and have a genuine interest in my area. Others merely had to get a job somewhere on campus and this fits with their schedule but they couldn’t care less about the work. With those folks I tend to give them rather basic tasks and I’m firm about deadlines and I frequently need to polish things up for them.

    6. Chaordic One*

      I would imagine that sometimes it is hard to figure out if things are not getting done because you did not adequately explain how to do the work, because the report is doing everything they can and doesn’t have enough time, or because they are lazy.

    7. Geoffrey B*

      I struggle with #4. I’m a perfectionist and I’m very good at the technical side of things, so delegating means that the job almost certainly won’t be done to the standards that I’d set for myself.

      I have to remind myself that part of my job involves teaching others (which means letting them make their own mistakes) and that “not perfect” can still be good enough. It’s still tough figuring out how much intervention is the right amount.

  7. Cookie*

    Feedback, both good and bad, is so important. In theory I was supposed to get a review at 6 months (the end of my probationary period), but it never happened. So I asked directly when we would discuss that and my boss said, “In a few weeks.” Still never happened and I’m 9 months in, but I went up a pay step, so I guess that’s good news?

    Also, not only do I want to know how I’m doing, but I’d love for him to say something to the woman who sits in the cube in front of me and complains all day about the job while threatening to quit. It’s extremely demoralizing to have someone do that in an open office where there’s no escape.

    1. Former Usher*

      I had that problem at my old job. No review at 6 months or at 12 months, despite assuring me in a meeting with the HR director that he would complete my review. This manager didn’t hold 1:1 or team meetings. He liked to show up at the kickoff meetings for projects but otherwise blocked off his calendar and stayed in his office.

      Sadly, I think the case could be made that he was still better than my next manager at that dysfunctional workplace.

      1. Cookie*

        I feel bad complaining because my supervisor is so nice (he brings us food all the time and is super friendly), but I’m probably not going to grow here. So that’s not good.

    2. Anne (with an "e")*

      So true. I have not had any reviews in two years. It’s driving me nuts. I am a retired public school teacher. Now I work for a private school. In the public school system where I worked there was feedback, observation, teacher reviews, etc. However, in the private school where I work I have never once been observed. No one has told me if I am doing a good job, a so-so job, or what. I assume that all is well because they renewed my contract for a third year. However, I wish someone would say that my hard work has been noticed and is appreciated.

  8. Anne*

    “4. You often end up taking work over from your staff so that it gets done correctly.”

    Tell that to the ED of my entire org, who line-edits everything from donor reports to facebook posts for at least two rounds of edits every time.

    1. Jaydee*

      Do we work together? :-)

      Unfortunately, while I’m sure both of our EDs have much more important things to do than line-edit everything, this is a habit that is probably impossible to break them of. The best you can do is turn in good quality work while leaving enough time to accommodate the ED’s editing process. And don’t stress out too much over trying to preempt it. In my experience, every extra half-hour you spend trying to catch all the things the ED might want to change will save you *maybe* 10 minutes of revisions after the ED has taken a red pen to your work. There will still be revisions. There will always be revisions.

      1. Anne*

        Hahahaaaa, yep, I’ve definitely gotten to that point.

        Some of the things she asks for are actually very reasonable (extra information from a remote office that’s relevant to a project), and over time I’ve learned how to anticipate most of those things beforehand and take care of them first… but imo, even when her edits are good she is spending hours bringing things from at worst a B to an A, and sometimes (usually when it’s communications-related) from an A to a C (because she’s too deep in the technical, inside-baseball parts of our industry to grok how to communicate our work to lay people).

    2. Koko*

      I can beat that. I worked at a place where the President of the Board line-edited every email we sent to our members.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Ugh, we’ve got one of those too. I used to take it personally until I realized he did it to *everyone*. He’s the type who would’ve sent the 10 commandments back to God for revisions, honestly.

    4. Stella's Mom*

      I have had this ED … who would edit (and write) things that were incorrect and unprofessional (if the reader was a donor, some of the phrasing would scream “what?” to them). “It’s” was used everywhere when “its” was correct…passive voice, mixed tenses, non-professional wording choices in their end-of-annual-report wrap up that included things like, “as you can see from this lovely photo of our happy little team…” and also word things in a way that misrepresented what actually happened. Am glad I have moved on.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It has been. I might start smuggling my own from home. :/

        The worst part is that just before that happened, a foozball table appeared in the break room. So it’s like… I would have preferred that money be spent on stuff we need.

        1. Banana Sandwich*

          Oh that would make me furious! Good grief!

          I worked at a company previously who, in the middle of major layoffs and a hiring freeze, decided it would be a really great use of money to buy people these random t-shirts for no apparent reason.

          Probably could have saved a job or 2 instead of buy those but, WHATEVER!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I remember when my kids were small enough to be in daycare, a meeting about turnover and one of the teachers pointed out that More Money would be a good way to attract and retain people, and the director pointed out that they had all been given free logo’ed tote bags last month.

    1. Shishimai*

      #9.5: You take away the office facial tissue stash, because nothing says “we care about our employees” like “try not to sneeze on company time.”

      1. paul*

        I gave in and bring my own; but then my hayfever is bad enough that even with drugs I can go through a box in 2-3 days. We stock some but not *that* much. And it isn’t like I can call in sick the entire spring (though I wish I could!)

      2. Saturnine*

        Our company gave us a little pack of pocket tissues on our first day, but as far as I know, there aren’t ANY other tissues in the office. I’ve been bringing my own from home, but it sucks to have to go for paper towels once I run out during allergy season…

        1. Koko*

          I don’t know why this is so funny to me. Like instead of just not providing tissues, they were like, “Here are 12 tissues for the duration of your employment here. Use them wisely!”

          1. Amarzing*

            I can’t stop laughing, that IS a funny scenario. I think it’s because, like, tissues didn’t just entirely escape their notice, they had to think, “Should we supply boxes to offices at regular intervals or when they run out? Hmm. That seems pretty traditional. I want to disrupt the traditional tissue-supply process.”

            “Welcome to the company! Here is your computer, your phone, some post-its and your tissues. We will NOT be replacing or updating any of these items, so keep the ones you have nice!”

          2. Amber Rose*

            Now I’m imagining an employee carefully rationing out half a tissue, because they have to make them last. And I can’t stop laughing.

            1. Handy nickname*

              At a job interview;
              Interviewer: Why are you looking for a new job?
              You: Well, I ran out of tissues…

      3. Jesmlet*

        This would be a nightmare. So grateful I manage office supplies and my boss never asks about what I’m buying unless it comes from somewhere unexpected.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Same – this makes me so glad that my boss is the “do you need it to work most effectively? Cool, go get it.” type.

      4. LabTech*

        Yup, had to fight to get tissues for my office. And a printer. And office supplies – including paper for the printer. Even my computer took a month to order. (I’m suppose to do quality assurance in addition to my lab duties, so binders and a 3-hole punch isn’t exactly a stretch.)

      5. AMT*

        Cutting small comforts is a bad, bad sign. It either means “we are in deep financial doo-doo” or “we think taking away low-cost perks is going to help our budget more than it hurts morale and increases turnover.” Or both.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Either way, it’s totally deluded, because either way, it’s not going to significantly move the needle as far as budget goes.

          1. Pippa*

            My last hospital cut the free coffee on the floors and the various departments.

            Now, I know this did cost, probably several hundred thou a year across the entire organization, but the amount they would have had to increase folks’ pay to make up for it (and prevent the further demoralization of the troops) was a lot more than they saved.

            Of course we didn’t get a raise. And after all the deductions, my next annual raise didn’t cover it. And I’m pretty sure that upper management really had no clue that this sort of nickle and diming was part of why the peasants were revolting (and unionizing).

      6. another person*

        Interesting… I’ve never worked somewhere tissues were provided, so I’m used to just bringing my own. But I can see how TAKING IT AWAY would be so much worse than just not ever having it to begin with.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          We had to stop buying them for a time, because they would disappear. In an office of 4 people it was noticeable. But everything not nailed down disappeared, until one certain employee did. My office supply costs were half the following year…It was so strange. Monday, new package of 30 band-aids, Wednesday, 10 left. WTF?

      7. otherworldling*

        Lol this. “Sorry, the little paper cups for water and the boxes of tissue on the tables are for the clients’ use only,” was what we got.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      This is one of those things that just needs to be slapped into people.

    3. Jen*

      I once worked at a newsroom in a small down and we had budget cuts and they cut the coffee. We had a coffee pot but we had to bring our own coffee. This is a station where the average employee made $15,000 but the general manager had an in-ground swimming pool and a McMansion. We posted a sign-up sheet and took turns bringing in a container of coffee and powdered creamer and sugar. But I remember always thinking that it would have been such a small drop in the bucket for the station to pay for a canister of Folgers every week. Or hell, the GM (who drank the coffee) could have signed up for a few weeks.

      1. Robin B*

        We not only bring our own coffee, but our own water for the coffeemaker (or drinking in general.) Oh and also I provide bathroom spray for the uni-bathroom on our floor. And my tissues. A new box every month.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        That’s another one of those foolish exercises in false economy that dumb bosses indulge themselves in. You’re almost never at the point where the business is so precarious that you can’t bring in a Costco-size canister of Folger’s once a month for your employees, and if you are, you need to be considering much more dramatic cuts (like, your own salary, say) than a pissant $200 a year in coffee. Same with the trivial difference between the prison-grade bumwad and the regular stuff.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          You get the situation in government jobs, though, where they are legally not allowed to give you free coffee, because you shouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on making employees happy. I have literally seen offices where the formally free coffee was taken away, because someone saw it and complained higher up the chain. In my office, the instant coffee is free, but brewed costs money. Filtered drinking water (hot and cold) is provided, but they are officially not allowed to provide any food for internal events – so they can’t even buy doughnuts for a meeting unless it involves people from outside the institute.

          I’ve seen this dynamic play out in at least four different countries with wildly different cultures.

          1. Geoffrey B*

            Oh, the drama we had over whether we were allowed to provide a bowl of sweets for people in training courses.

      3. paul*

        we lease our building and the landlords only supply single ply. It literally chaps my butt.

    4. Floridanon*

      As the person in charge of ordering sanitation supplies, a case of 1-ply for the front office restroom was my parting gift when I left that place.

  9. Daisy May*

    I’ve talked about having a pretty decent relationship with my boss, despite having next to no clue about what my standing is in the department given that I was passed over for promotion without any constructive feedback. (I’m doing a great job, there’s nothing I need to change ….. except I just got passed over for promotion, so that can’t be true) Anyway, I read this and my boss is not a yeller or a bully or unappreciative, but she does not delegate well, she doesn’t give feedback well (obv), and she doesn’t manage her time well with vacations/days off/etc (which may not be all her fault, given the amount of stuff on her plate.) But as she just inserted herself into one of my projects and contradicted something that everyone knew I was doing, this is particularly timely. And you know what? I’m not mad about it, I’m just really sad that this is the situation we’re both in. I feel badly for her and I feel badly for me, because neither of us is getting the best out of this situation. And I think the only resolution is my leaving (hopefully via transfer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if down the road this situation kicks me in the ass and I end up downsized because of it)

    1. Arduino*

      Client vendor is different then employee manager. As a client I expect your work to meet the agreed upon contract terms and do not have the time or inclination to coach the vendor into high performance.

    2. LKW*

      Agreed – but if you tell me months down the road “I was unhappy with your performance” I can’t make things better. If you don’t share information that is relevant to the project, I can’t feed that in and accommodate those items. If you shout at my consultants because they are not meeting unspoken or unrealistic expectations instead of sitting down with me and discussing it like a professional – it makes it very difficult on the overall relationship not to mention the outcomes of the project.

      I’ll get the right people in to do the work, or supplement my existing team, but neither me nor my consultants have a skill set that includes ESP.

  10. Lizabeth*

    #100 You know you’re a bad boss when…you put your fingers in your ears, head in the sand and go lalallalalalallalala because you don’t want to deal with anything.

  11. CatCat (was LawCat)*

    “You take it personally when people quit.”

    Ugh, yes. It was super fun having this ex-boss when I made a lateral move internally. (And even MORE fun when ex-boss became Acting Big Boss in the department for a time.)

    1. Anon Anon*

      I dread quitting my current job when the time comes, because I really feel as if it will be treated as an act of betrayal, rather than someone moving on.

      1. Banana Sandwich*


        My company has a policy to never re-hire anyone who has left the company under any circumstances. I suspect this is the reason why…

  12. Is it Friday Yet?*

    All of these. My least favorite trait from Old Bad Boss was that she was incredibly indecisive and inconsistent. She was a people pleaser that wanted to make everyone happy.

  13. Anon Anon*

    I’m guilty of a couple of these. Not providing critical feedback is a big one.

    I want to be open enough that my staff will share with me how I can better help manage them better, but sometimes I feel if I try to provide critical feedback I get a response about my weaknesses and how they have contributed to the situation. And I am sure that my own failings do contribute to situations, and so I welcome the opportunity to course correct when I can, but I also don’t know when it’s being used as a way to emotionally manipulate me (which I fear one of my employees is doing).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Redirect them: “Right now I want to talk about what I want you to do differently in the future, so let’s keep the focus there for now. I need you to do X — can you do that going forward?”

    2. Boss Baby*

      I struggle with this too!! I talked to my grandboss (aka school principal) about this and she let me know that it was ok to have things in your management style that you are working on, it’s ok to share that you are working on them with your staff, but that that sort of feedback from employee -> boss is not necessarily appropriate in the context of you providing feedback to them. I like what Alison suggested and I am going to use that in the future.

    3. AllTheFiles*

      I like Allison’s comment but I would also add something to the effect of “if you have concerns to be addressed we can set aside time to discuss that” and then actually set aside time to discuss that. I would imagine this will weed out those who are just trying to manipulate you vs those who are frustrated and want to fix the issue.

      If the employee says “you did x, x, and y so that is why it didn’t work” you can discuss taking responsibility and leadership over issues. If the employee says “you tend to do x and it causes this issue for me, could we try y going forward” then you can work on a solution with an employee who is probably relieved.

  14. Boss Baby*

    So I manage a team of 6 people within a special education classroom. I am the classroom teacher and the team is composed of paraprofessionals and a probationary teacher. I have less experience than 4 of the people on my staff, and only a year or two more experience than the other two (though I also have a bachelor’s degree and teaching license, which they do not have). I really, really struggle with #4 and #5. I am horrible at delegating, because everything, overall, falls back to me. If a subject isn’t taught right or a student doesn’t meet their goals, even if a para was in charge of that topic, there is a chance that parents/guardians could sue me. Regardless of how well the para was trained. And two of the people I manage are easily prone to either 1) angrily storming out when given critical feedback, even about something as simple as “when you’re not here on time it is a safety concern due to student behaviors and lack of coverage” or 2) erupting into a volcano of tears and “you don’t care about X and Y in my personal life” and then taking the rest of the day to recompose themselves, leaving me short-staffed. I honestly don’t know how to frame my feedback. I did a feedback sharing session a couple weeks ago that seriously blew up into “You, Boss Baby, never listen to my concerns and don’t give me enough stuff to do and you’re terrible,” from the person who is typically the most reliable, in front of other staff members. It was rough. Things are better now, but how do I go about getting better at this without upending my entire team?!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You either have terribly unprofessional staff who need to be fired, or they’re raising valid issues about your management style. I can’t tell which it is, but I’d consider both possibilities with an open mind.

      But I will say that this makes me lean toward the first option:

      two of the people I manage are easily prone to either 1) angrily storming out when given critical feedback, even about something as simple as “when you’re not here on time it is a safety concern due to student behaviors and lack of coverage”

      1. Boss Baby*

        Yeah. Admittedly, I am not always focused 100% on my staff members if they bring something up. I’ve asked them to let me know when they need my full attention and they’re not just mentioning something in passing (because I don’t have a prep time where I can say “I’m blocked out now to work on lesson plans/IEPs/behavior plans/data tracking” – I just have to do that in the moments when I’m not teaching or dealing with the crisis-of-the-day), but they haven’t done that much, they just expect me to drop what I’m working on and give them my full attention. I just can’t do that for every passing comment. The issue is that it’s hard to fire someone in the district I work in. One long-term staff member quit during my first year immediately after being placed on her 10th (10th!!) PIP for outright refusing to do an assignment I had given her. She wasn’t fired even after PIPs 2-9!

        I’m really leaning toward trying to let the staff member who causes the most issues go, the other person is expecting a baby and won’t be returning after her maternity leave. I just hope it doesn’t take 10 PIPs…

        1. Critter*

          Ooh boy I see this all the time. I don’t manage people, but I see this kind of thing and it’s very difficult to fire people. Those contracts tend to be ironclad :(

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Yeah, it sounds like your employees are toxic. Like, double-bag biohazard toxic.

      2. neverjaunty*

        “Prone to” meaning they’ve done it more than once? Boss Baby, you need to replace those people yesterday.

        And if you’re worried about getting sued, imagine having to explain to a hostile lawyer that you tolerated an employee showing up late (and therefore putting students at risk) because they threw a tantrum when you brought it up.

        1. Boss Baby*

          Oh boy. I’ve never really thought of that… :| Yeah it’s happened a few times over the course of the 3 years I’ve been in this position. It’s not ever easy telling someone they need to improve or they’re in danger of being fired! I really just need to get in the mindset of “this is what is best for the students” and work it out that way.

          1. IvyGirl*

            But ostensibly you also have a teacher’s contract, correct? Are you and your support staff both in the same union or in different unions?

            I’d be having a long talk with your principal, the assistant principal, and the union reps. You don’t want to have a lawsuit or a grievance.

            Your dues are paid to the union for a reason – use their resources.

            1. Boss Baby*

              We can’t call it a union (thanks, Utah!) but yes, I do have a contract and a teachers’ association, which my staff are not a part of. I’m not in danger of being sued at this point, most parents are pretty happy with me, but it’s always in the back of my mind (thanks, special ed law conferences!).

    2. CAA*

      If a “feedback sharing session” is something you did as a group, that could be part of the problem. If you give critical feedback about an individual’s actions or behavior in front of a group of coworkers, or if you invite the coworkers to give critical feedback to each other, it can definitely lead to defensiveness, blaming and ganging up. That sounds like the reaction you got.

      When you have a group that works well as a team, you can do a retrospective session for a project or process where you answer “what can we do better next time”; but you still have to keep the focus on the project and guard against letting the meeting devolve into criticizing an individual in public.

      1. Boss Baby*

        I guess that was a bad way of phrasing what I did. I introduced the feedback idea in a staff meeting, asking staff to fill out their “How I Like to be Managed” preferences individually/privately (working from a written plan vs. playing by ear, etc.) and one person in particular chose to take that opening to tell me that I was a bad manager for them/not doing my job correctly in front of the rest of the staff. Had nothing to do with what I was saying to anyone else or anyone else giving other people feedback. In fact, I use a far-away conference room to give feedback because I don’t even like doing it in front of our non-verbal students, for dignity’s sake.

  15. BRR*

    I had a boss like #1. Everything ran smoother though when they were on vacation due to their chaotic working style. We all thought of it as time to catch up on everything.

    1. ZucchiniBikini*

      Are you me?? My chaotic boss used to complain about how her husband forced her to take a 4-week vacation every September so they could visit family in Europe (I’m in Australia, 4 weeks vacation time a year is normal, although it is not normal to be allowed to take it in a single block – she got special dispensation to do it). We used to all nod sympathetically and quietly do a little dance as the calendar rolled around to 31 August, heralding what we all called “the most wonderful time of the year”. Everything was so peaceful and productive in September.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    I would add: Not recognizing when your staff is working too much (understaffed/workload issues) or too little (one carrying all the weight while others skate).

    1. Anon Anon*

      As a boss I really struggle with this one. I think it can be very challenging to know what an appropriate workload is for the typical employee, especially when you work for an organization that has unrealistic expectations of what an appropriate workload is, and so you don’t know if your view is skewed by the culture of the organization or if your expectations are reasonable.

      1. Koko*

        For me this would be almost impossible to do without my employee’s help. She reports to me and about 40% of her work is within my field, but about 60% of her work is something I have no experience with where she is our resident expert. I have no idea how long things take in that part of her world.

        So every Monday she looks at her plate for the week and sends me an email with a list of projects she’s got planned for this week, and rates her workload as either Light (give me more work), Manageable (I’ve got enough to do but have room to take on more), Heavy Manageable (I can meet my deadlines currently but cannot take on anything else without sacrificing something), or Unmanageable (I have too much to do and need to know what to prioritize and what to sacrifice).

        It’s a simple thing but very effective and gives me exactly the information I need to manage her. After all, no one is better positioned to evaluate her workload than she is!

    2. LQ*

      I do think this is a place it is really important to be clear to your staff that you want to hear feedback. I know that my boss doesn’t know how much time somethings will take unless I tell him because it’s not his area of expertise. When I tell him something is a 6 hour fix or a 60 hour fix, he’s got to trust me, but I’ve also got to be honest with that number for him to help me out. Though the worst is when I don’t yet know, he doesn’t know and so we are both like..uh…no idea how long this is going to take. If I didn’t feel good about telling my boss that he’d have no way of knowing if my workload was too much. (Other than the stressed out pitch in my voice, which he can’t hear now anyway.)

    1. LKW*

      Years ago in graduate school we defined a maturity model that included yelling as an indicator of maturity/professionalism:

      Least mature: Yelling with no apology
      Mid-maturity: Yelling followed by apology
      Most mature: No yelling – constructive discussion.

    2. Koko*

      My very first job at the tender age of 15, I worked at a local sandwich shop. The owner told me once that her philosophy is never to tell. “When you yell, people don’t hear what you’re saying,” she told me. “They hear that you are yelling.”

    3. Sugar of lead*

      I hate getting yelled at. It makes me feel like a bug in a shadowbox with a pin through my chest. I’ve more than paid my dues and I think I deserve better. Every time I see an article like this that says it’s not okay to yell at your subordinates, or comments to the same effect, I glow a little inside.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Dan Savage says that he used to get questions about how to intersect unlikely geometry. Now people can look that up on the internet. What they can’t look up is why their relationship question doesn’t have the seemingly obvious answer seen over the decades. (Whether ‘dtmfa’ or ‘you are being unreasonable’ or ‘yeah, you seem really poorly suited and should break up.’)

      No matter how brilliant Alison’s advice, someone out there will advise a young person to demonstrate gumption while someone else reasons that one-ply toilet paper will turn the company fortunes around.

      (My favorite Dan Savage letter was from a lawyer disputing his dumping on the grounds that his girlfriend didn’t have good enough reasons to make them both go back to dating, because dating takes too much effort.)

  17. KellyK*

    But you’re not doing your employees a favor by employing them; you’re in a mutually beneficial business relationship.

    This was probably my favorite part of the article. It needs to be shouted far and wide, and possibly stitched on samplers.

  18. Always Anon*

    For me, one sure sign of a bad boss is someone that won’t provide prioritization. I had a boss that wouldn’t ever provide guidance for prioritization of the work – even when we directly asked for that. When I became a supervisor, I made sure that everyone knew the priority order of tasks or we would talk through any reshuffling of priorities as they may have been needed.

    1. LKW*

      I had a boss who would put everything at the top of the prioritization list despite telling her that we simply couldn’t make everything happen all at once. I had to take things into my own hands and actually go around her and talk to the initial requestors to ask how to prioritize their multiple requests.

      Honestly – I think she did it just to show people how she could snap her fingers and make impossible things happen. The straw that broke the camel’s back was going through herculean efforts to deliver something that normally took 2 weeks in three days and then it went untouched by the requestor for 3 weeks. Clearly it was her sense of urgency, not theirs.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Oh yes, this.

      My previous manager would say he needed something ‘yesterday’ without any other context for prioritization. And he’d say it about everything, when I asked for how he wanted me to prioritize and asked for clarification on things. Everything was ‘yesterday’. Not helpful, boss.

    3. Pippa*

      I had a supervisor who would give me one prioritization list on really busy days, and then yell at me because I couldn’t get to item Z (per her itemization), and I should have known that it was really more important than item B. I learned to listen to her “if you don’t have time, don’t bother with G” statements and make damn sure to do whatever it was she told me to ignore, she only did it so she could get me in trouble for not doing it inspite of her instructions to the contrary. HR had no interest in doing anything, and her supervisor was her best friend. HR just wondered why they could never keep anyone in my position for more than a year or so.

      It’s been over 20 years and I still have dreams of shoving that creature in front of a bus.

  19. Koko*

    The thing that stresses me out most about managing staff while still doing IC work is making sure I don’t slow them down with my own chaos. E.g. responding to their emails in a timely fashion and giving them inputs early enough that they have a reasonable amount of time to produce their outputs.

    Before becoming a manager, if some huge crisis arose in my IC work I would set everything else aside and make that top priority. Now that I’m a manager, I have to balance managing the crisis with managing my staff, and feel like both of them need to be my top priority.

    I’m just grateful that my report is good at managing up. She knows how to get my attention during a crisis, knows that I appreciate rather than resent her reminders about upcoming deadlines, and can get to the guts right away when she’s communicating with me so it doesn’t waste any time.

  20. Arduino*

    Yes so much to balancing good and bad. It’s not about the sandwich approach – it’s about ensuring if you have a top performer getting 99.9% of tasks right your feedback should not be 99% of time spent on the one thing we want you to improve with a token “You are great by the way” to finish.

  21. LQ*

    My current boss is pretty good. He doesn’t do much of this. And as much as it clearly makes him uncomfortable he’s doing a lot more praising. (Though I’m still looking for the critical feedback, it’s really rare so either I’m doing really well (which is what he tells me every time I ask) or he’s really afraid to give it to me (I don’t really think this is the case…but I feel like there’s no way I’m doing that well…))

    However his boss…depending on the staff person does every single one of these. And I might be getting a promotion at some point (soon?) to be working directly under him, which makes me so nervous. Though the other option of people I’d report to would be someone who doesn’t really do any of these (maybe taking it personally when someone quits) but she bases her entire judgement of people on if they are friendly with her enough. Like if you’re her BFF then you get all the good things, choice assignments etc. I’d almost rather the rare yelling that I know the other boss does than the requirement to be best friends with the boss.

  22. Starbuck*

    I am brand new to managing and currently supervise a team of four, so this was a helpful read. I’ve yet to have any training or professional development for management skills, and I’m pretty concerned because it’s been a tumultuous time at the organization I work for; one team member under my supervision quit not long after I started. I’m trying hard to not allow my insecurity stemming from my inexperience to cause me to take it personally- they didn’t note this as one of their reasons for leaving, but I have a strong feeling that it was at least partially due to my inability to provide the support they wanted for their projects and professional development, especially in comparison to the far more experienced manager they had before me. I like to think I handled it well on the outside, at least- I did wish them well and made it clear I appreciated their work and was sad to lose them, and completely avoided guilt-tripping them on how difficult things would be for the organization after they left (someone else apparently DID do this… yikes).

    Realizing how little I know about what I’m doing, it’s a relief at least to recognize a few issues I can quickly and easily improve on, particularly 5 & 6, giving positive and negative feedback. I think one of the reasons this has been difficult for me is that the people I manage are barely younger than me, and I’m a recent graduate myself. They’re looking for the kind of development that will prepare them for graduate school or higher level jobs, and I don’t know how to provide that kind of support having never been there myself. I’m trying to avoid being a case study of the concept ‘just because you can to the work well, doesn’t mean you can manage people doing the work as well’ and so hopefully I will be able to get some training soon.

      1. Starbuck*

        Thank you! I am at a non-profit, so I’ll be glad to read it. Does it address ways to manage term-limited entry level staff? I’m sure most techniques are still relevant for people who you know will be out the door in a year, but that’s been my biggest gap so far in trying to find relevant advice. I get the impression that people see the positions I manage as stepping stones to something bigger, and I want to facilitate that as much as I can- but we also have a lot of work to get done, not all of which looks glamorous on a resume.

  23. Rat Racer*

    So I have managed to avoid the sins listed in the article, but I’m definitely not throwing my hat into the ring for “manager of the year.” There are so many things I need to work on as a manager – am confessing the worst of them here:

    1. Expressing annoyance/irritation about other colleagues. Some venting is OK, but griping about the incompetence of the XYZ department, or the flip-floppiness of upper management fosters a culture of negativity, which helps no one

    2. Overuse of self-deprecating humor: I am trying to get one of my direct reports to stop putting herself down, and trust in the value of her work and her opinion. If I constantly hedge or make fun of my own short-comings, I’m failing to model the behavior I’m looking for

    3. Failures of inclusion/transparency: so much of what I’ve learned on the job has been from sitting in meetings as a fly on the wall. Knowing when to bring my team to a meeting just so that they can hear executives think in real time is something I’m working on. It’s tricky, because I can’t bring my whole crew to every staff meeting. But there’s also the related question of what information to pass on and when/under what circumstances. This one is – I think – less of a character failure on my part, and more a by-product of working in a large, complex organization that re-organizes ever ten minutes.

    Great. Now I feel better/worse.

  24. JK*

    I would add to the list: Criticizing employees to other employees, and a need to place blame on someone else.

    My boss has criticized other employees in conversations with me from day 1. At first, I was flattered that she would take me into her confidence. But then I realized that she criticized EVERYONE to everyone else. It’s very demoralizing to hear her nit-pick every action, and wondering what she is saying about me to others.

    She also cannot accept responsibility for anything that goes awry, even though she is the Exec Director and the final say on everything. It’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault– she definitely does not subscribe to “the buck stops here” method of managing.

    This is an addition to the fact that she has trouble delegating meaningful work, would completely re-write Shakespeare if you sent it to her for a sign-off, and has yelled at several of us at various times, in front of others. She is very knowledgeable, excellent at the non-managerial aspects of her role, and deeply dedicated to our mission, but I can’t say I’m sad to see her retire next month.

    1. Stella's Mom*

      Wow, I am so sorry. Per my previous replies in this overall post, yes, this has happened too. I think only after a long period of time does one really see how bad things were, in roles where the management is like this. Gossiping about employees is just terrible behavior, as is the scapegoating of employees.

  25. Shadow*

    Every time I think about my worst boss the thing i remember most is that he had the gall to take away what he probably thought was an annoying expense-good coffee. I bet that move saved him maybe $100 bucks/mo and cost him about 100x that in productivity.

  26. Critter*

    It is really nice to hear positive feedback. I mean I know I’m valued, because we all work closely together, but it is really nice to hear. Especially from the public, too, since we’re also public-facing.

    1. LKW*

      I had to tell a boss once “I don’t need a raise, I need to hear thank you every once in a while.”

      That confused the crap out of her.

    2. Cassandra*

      It is THE BEST. The absolute best!

      I entirely stopped dreading annual reviews when it became clear that every time I went to one I would hear at least one clear, specific, truthful, substantive compliment about my work. (Some of them honestly surprise me, too — either it’s something I wasn’t aware of or something I didn’t think anybody else noticed!)

      After Toxic Ex-Job, which never gave feedback (formal or in-) in favor of holding everything they could think of against me forever without ever telling me so I could improve… yeah. Positive feedback is THE BEST.

  27. Wannabe Telecommuter*

    One thing about my boss’s communication style that drives me absolutely crazy is when I am trying to explain something that is a sticky situation and has ramifications for budget, staffing, technical expertise, etc. — I say “The situation is important because A,B and C.” — and his response is quick and off the cuff and indicates he actually mis-heard or misunderstood because he is focusing way too much on details X, Y and Z rather than on the core issues A, B and C. I try to repeat it and gently prod him on A,B and C but he keeps harping on X, Y and Z which are minor details at best. It is A,B and C which are the important things. In a couple of weeks when we actually start seeing consequences then he realizes about the importance of A, B and C and finally addresses the issue the way it should be addressed. Sheesh!

    1. AMT*

      I hate this. My current boss is a bit like this. It happens with managers who loooove to talk and have a way of derailing conversations so drastically that it’s almost more effort than it’s worth to get back to the point (because you know that whatever you say next will provoke another barrage of irrelevancies). You don’t know whether to lead them back or to give up and try again when they’re eating something chewy.

      Today he mentioned the old “you have two ears and only one mouth, so speak half as much as you listen!” truism today and I had to stifle a laugh. For every word anyone else says, he speaks 10+, and most of those are unfocused, meandering speeches about his wisdom. Gaaah.

  28. Seal*

    Thanks for this – I took over from a bad boss several years ago and this list describes them to a T.

  29. Stelmselms*

    I struggle with a boss who is a micro-manager workaholic who doesn’t do reviews with his staff likely because he is too busy and also doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. His boss told him point blank that he needs to start figuring out who can step up on his team to share the load because he is trying to do to much and not doing it well (I’m not sure the right people are on the bus to have that happen). It can be difficult working for this type of personality in trying to determine what tasks I can actually take on and assist with because of the control he wants over everything that happens.

  30. Argh!*


    My boss:

    #5 – gives vague & insulting critical feedback in order to hurt my feelings (it doesn’t hurt my feelings – it only hurts my respect for her)

    #6 – the last time she gave positive feedback was NEVER! She is such a negative and pessimistic person she even gives negative feedback before you even start on something. Doesn’t see opportunity only looming disasters.

    #8 – I should be grateful for whatever I get, even if it’s an insult.

    #9 – everyone on your team is either staying just because of their mortgage or looking for a way to escape.

  31. Jeanne*

    Bad bosses will not recognize themselves in lists like this. The worst bosses are the terrible ones who think they are fabulous. Anyone who looks at this and realizes they’re doing it wrong is good because they’re willing to improve.

    1. Stella's Mom*

      +1 for the note on self-awareness. This is also what makes people, overall, good. :) Lack of this is what makes people difficult to work with, live with, etc.

  32. MWKate*

    I think my biggest issue with managers works with #4, and has been micromanaging. To me it comes down to an issue of trust – if you can’t trust your employees to manage their own work why are they working for you?

    This goes along with things like wanting reasons for sick days, etc. If you can’t trust your employees to not abuse the sick leave policy, maybe they shouldn’t work there.

  33. The Southern Gothic*

    #11 – Mojito Boss.
    Mojito Boss is a nice guy who wants to be popular with his employees and ignores glaring interpersonal issues because he doesn’t want any problems.
    Mojito Boss is a dude – as long as you are pretty, as social as he is, and stroke his ego you can get away with being regularly AWOL (while co-workers pick up the slack). If you are good enough at ego-stroking while still being AWOL, he will promote you to a team leader position.
    Mojito Boss doesn’t believe “Mean Girl” bullying behavior exists because he’s a dude and doesn’t get the subtext of hostility underneath the superficial “niceness”. This goes for mean remarks made in front of everyone during the weekly staff meeting, and a clique where some team members are actively excluded.
    Mojito Boss likes to regale his reports with stories of epic drinking and weekend trips to Vegas for sporting events.
    Mojito Boss wants to be your friend and take all the perks of supervision without actually being in charge.

  34. Cookie*

    Incidentally, I had a boss I really liked who probably could’ve made it on to this list. He trusted his employees and gave us a good deal of autonomy allowing us to removal several layers of bureaucracy from our process. Which means he didn’t follow our agency’s policies, and that became apparent every time he went on vacation (maybe 4-6 times a year for a week or two each time) since we had to report to other supervisors during that period. Those were extremely stressful times.

  35. Gene*

    I would disagree with “Yelling at an employee is never OK.” as a categorical statement. My job could involve molten metal, hazardous chemicals, traffic, or a myriad other dangers. Somehow, “Um, Fergus. You might want to take a step back.” doesn’t convey the urgency that, “Fergus! BACK UP!!” does.

    It’s like I used to tell my sailing students before we left the dock the first time, “I won’t raise my voice. But if I do, do exactly what I tell you to do immediately. We’ll discuss it after it’s over.” Only had to do it once, to avoid collision with a Bayliner driver. And nobody was injured in the crash gybe.

    But as a categorical statement, nope.

    1. Stella's Mom*

      When I had a boos that yelled at his deputy all the time, in front of a large building full of staff… I decided that “The only time you yell should be a fire (or other emergency).” When I brought this up to global HR after boss yelled at me repeatedly in the mornings about some tasks I did, but he did not know I did… since he had not read email yet… I asked if HR had a tip for me to manage it, or a view on yelling in only emergencies vs denigrating staff. They had a policy of discipline, yes, but this was not considered dire enough. After deputy left on sick leave for 3 months, and after several other members left the org or went on stress leave… HR re-thought that policy.

    2. MommyMD*

      That’s situational and a safety issue. Yelling in the office is never, ever appropriate. I have to tell in my field at times during a life and death emergency but I would never yell at anyone to get my point across.

  36. MsMarvel8591*

    I would also add, that when the boss is having a bad day (not feeling well or is having personal issues) that they take it out on all of their employees. For instance my boss is not feeling well, and has decided to send all of us random emails about our performance and arguing with us if she doesn’t feel our reasoning is valid for something as small as missing one call log (I work in a call center). It really brings down morale and makes your employees not respect you if you cannot handle the odd day of not feeling well.

    Also managers who do not follow the rules but enforce them. For instance the same manager will face time at work at her desk and show us youtube videos but if she sees you with your phone out she will take it for the day until you clock out like at school. I am currently looking for a new job due to these types of circumstances as well as the other things on the list that Alison provided.

  37. smokey*

    I have been thanking my new boss for all the feedback he gives and trying to make it very clear I really appreciate it and want it to continue. I may even be overdoing that at this point, but my last boss gave NO feedback. It was horrible. I would ask to see what edits he made to reports I wrote and he would flatly refuse. One time I bugged him for a week until he finally gave in, but still refused to offer actual feedback, just literally showed me the edits. I feel like I almost completely stagnated professionally under him. Possibly even regressed, because he also had a tendency to just do the work himself, so from the job before that to the job under him I actually had less responsibilities. Feedback, especially constructive criticism, is absolutely critical!

  38. Mrs. Fenris*

    My first boss did every single one of these things. And he was actually a stellar person who would have never meant anyone harm. The last thing he would have wanted was to be a bad boss. And yet.

  39. ZucchiniBikini*

    My worst boss ever was a #1 – #3, #6 and #8 on this list. Resigning to her was a pretty rubbish experience … although not as bad as the 2.5 years I spent WORKING for her. I think the only reason she wasn’t a #4 or #7 was that she was fundamentally quite lazy about doing things other than for show. There was never any danger of her being a #5 … making people feel bad was a feature, not a bug, of her management style.

    That said, I owe her a debt of gratitude in one particular – it was her being *just that bad* which pushed me to leave without another job lined up and try my hand at freelancing, which I’ve been doing happily and successfully for almost 2 years now. Overall I’m much better off than I ever was working in a 9-5 office job. So, thanks for being crap enough to give me the boot I needed, Ex-Boss!

  40. Still Learning but Earnestly Trying*

    I admit I read this blog because I’ve felt I never had a good mentor for management skills. Thus, I ask in advance that no one chew my head off. My first manager kept telling me “you’ll understand when you’re older”. More recent ones have yelled at me for inconsequential things just because they’re having a bad day or compare their management style to Henry Blake of MASH (I still don’t understand that reference).

    That being said, I used to be guilty of #1 all the time. Now it’s more like I feel I can’t take time off because someone from my small staff is always out and they each have independent duties (trained in vastly different areas in school) There is some overlap between what they do, but I’m the only one who is cross-trained in all of their duties. They are all hourly, but it’s rare that any of them ever work a 40-hour week. I have done by best to address this individually, but my hands are tied by upper management. I know I should just declare that I’m taking off on such and such day and let whatever happens happen, but I need to learn better how to get over feeling the need to cover for everyone else.

    #4 is also something I do. I don’t do this with all of my staff, but I have one who always causes problems. This one constantly drops the ball. The inattentiveness to the job and its details has led to near-critical failures. This is after much coaching and multiple discussions over a multi-year period about what the job entails and what is expected of this person. To avoid catastrophes in some of these instances, I have had to either take over this person’s work or shadow them to make sure things are being done correctly. I have made the case several times that this person should be let go. Upper management realizes that this person is not doing a good job and refuses to improve, but refuses to terminate the employee.

  41. Michael*

    My last boss before I quit:

    1. Only took days off for family emergencies
    2.Took resignations too personally, but again I was the last person from her original department to quit, so she’s kind of working with a brand new department now
    3. Yells at someone within the department at least 1 or 2 times a week and the entire department can hear her
    4. Doesn’t take over the work but reassigns it to someone else.
    5. Doesn’t give feedback, but instead either yells at you or sends nasty emails
    6. Don’t think she ever gave me positive feedback. Can’t speak for anyone else.
    7. Like number one, she never took days off unless there’s an emergency
    8. Treats the entire department poorly. I was told 2 people got fired, 1 person quit, 1 person went into early retirement, and 2 people started actively looking for work since I left. I left a month and a half ago and the entire department consists 9 people plus an intern

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