8 signs you're a bad boss

By Robert Half on 12th September 2017

There's plenty of examples of great managers in business – inspirational leaders who can motivate and organise their teams, and make the right decisions under pressure. These individuals are the glue that holds the workforce together, ensuring employees perform to the best of their ability for the benefit of the organisation.

But there are also managers at the other end of the spectrum – the David Brents of this world. They are the hapless flappers, the deluded self-promoters and the power-crazy autocrats of the UK workplace. And like Ricky Gervais' character in 'The Office', they cause mayhem at every turn. Far too often, organisations promote staff to a rank and status beyond their level of ability. Sadly, new research revealed that four in 10 UK employees feel that they not well managed in their current role, and as such they could deem there manager as a 'bad boss'. New research from Monster has found very similar results, 32% of employees say they have a "horrible" boss, while only 15% say they have an 'excellent' one.

Bad bosses can come in many shapes and sizes. In some cases, these managers aren't acting as leaders, but instead of culprits of micromanagement, indecision, and other common business management and leaderships mistakes.

Related10 mistakes every great leader avoids

How bad bosses can negatively impact employee happiness

In a joint research project between Robert Half and Happiness Works, it was determined that employee happiness is the equal responsibility between employees and employers. Only one in seven said their happiness at work is solely their responsibility. 

As no two employees have the same needs, goals, preferences and personalities, it requires the skills of an effective manager to ensure their respective employees are receiving the support, guidance and appreciation to be happy and productive at work. There are, however, some universal factors that directly affect employee happiness. Understanding those factors and being able to adapt your leadership approach to address them won’t just increase employee engagement, it will also boost the quality of your team’s work and significantly aid your recruitment and retention efforts.

Without being able to do so, a bad boss may find themselves harming the relationship between themselves and their teams, and negatively influencing their employees happiness.

8 signs you might be considered a bad boss

1. Inability to communicate

If you can't communicate effectively with your staff, you can't be the boss. It's as simple as that really. You need to be comfortable addressing people on a one-on-one basis, and as part of a group. Unless you're suitably assured as a communicator, employees won't have full confidence in you – and this means they'll be less likely to take instruction and go that extra mile to help you out.

To avoid being a bad boss, ensure you are empathetic and strong interpersonal skills, for example, be sensitive when dealing with personal matters. As the leader, you are the first port of call for employees who have concerns and problems – whether at work or at home. You need to be understanding of your employees job satisfaction and their overall happiness, and be able to provide effective to support to individuals who are experiencing a difficult time.

2. 'Cloak and dagger'

When you're the boss, there will be some information you are party to which is confidential and cannot be shared with other staff members. But if you are seen to hide too much behind a veil of secrecy, it will be difficult for team members to trust and respect you. There is often the expectation with new leaders that they need to have all the answers to be an effective manager, however learning the power of saying "I don't know" can be just as effective – especially if you communicate how to plan to find the answer or solution needed. It is this communication and transparency that builds trust with your employees and the organisation as a whole. 

3. Same situation, different decision

Inconsistent decision making is a sign of a bad boss. If you respond in a different way whenever the same situation arises – according to your mood, or simply a whim – employees will struggle to take you seriously. They want to be treated the same, and see that there is some sense of structure to your management. You should have set policies and processes in place which you stick to, to ensure fair treatment. Of course, if a particular action produces a negative result, change it – but at least explain to your team members why you have done so.

4. Take the credit, pass the buck

A classic sign of a bad boss is someone who takes the credit when things go well for their team, but deflects criticism onto others when results are not so positive. When you're in charge of a team, you have to take the rough with the smooth. You are ultimately responsible for the performance – individual and collective – of the people working under you, so there can be no passing the buck.

If you try to claim the glory when one of your team members makes a valuable contribution, you'll quickly find yourself on shaky ground. Employees will view you as a 'snake in the grass', knowing what sort of contribution you made to the task. And this may have a negative impact on your workplace relationships going forward.

5. Penchant for micro-management

If you give an employee a job, and they have the necessary skills and resources to perform, then let them get on with it. There's nothing worse than a bad boss who watches over employees all day, scrutinising each move they make while barking constant instructions.

You have to give employees some autonomy in the workplace, in order to get the best out of them. If you're not confident in their ability to do the job to the required standard, then give the work to someone else, be a macro-manager rather than a micro-manager. Better still, don't hire them in the first place.

6. Make unreasonable requests

To avoid being a bad boss, set realistic terms of what you expect employees to do. You can't order workers to come in to the office early and stay late, and work through their lunch hour. Nor can you cancel their annual leave at short notice – it will almost inevitably sour relations, making it more difficult to maximise productivity going forwards. As the boss, you can't ask employees to do anything you wouldn't have been prepared to do yourself, in the same situation.

7. Hog the limelight

You may think employees love your showmanship in the office, enjoy your quirky emails about irrelevant topics, and look forward to your bad jokes. But the chances are, they don't – nobody respects a fool. There is a fine line between generating a positive workplace environment and being an irritant – and it takes a degree of self-awareness to stay on the right side.

8. Pick your favourites

A bad boss has a penchant for favouritism, even nepotism at times, and treat team members differently in the workplace. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to undermine your own authority. Come what may, you must be seen to treat everybody as equal, and give them fair opportunity to do their best in the workplace. Inevitably, there will be some employees you prefer to others, but your job is to manage them effectively, not make friends.

This article has been updated with new content.


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