17 signs of a bad boss that should raise the alarm

March 05, 2021

Signs of bad boss

Dealing with a bad boss in the workplace is not just a challenge for the employees but it affects the entire organisation. So knowing how to recognise the signs of a bad boss is necessary in order to avoid a major disaster. 

There are two possible outcomes of seeing the signs of a weak manager and raising the flag:

  • It will be taken seriously, inspected and dealt with, or
  • Your claims will be dismissed and eventually, you’ll have to part ways.

Healthy organisations will recognise the threat that lies in having a bad boss and will take action to help them polish their leadership skills or show them the door. On the other hand, companies with a toxic culture will continue as if nothing happened and only make things worse. If you’re a mere employee, you better steer clear from such companies.

17 apparent signs of a bad boss

We already know the traits that make a good boss and business owner, but let’s take a look now at the indicator signs of a weak manager.

Not appreciative of employee feedback

One of the warning signs of a bad boss is that they don’t appreciate employee feedback. If an organization has no policy for employees to give anonymous suggestions or feedback to the highest on the pole then it is a clear sign that the management isn’t interested in it.

When employees ignore policies enforced by the management this implies that they’re in disagreement with the policies and apparently don’t respect the CEO or upper management.

Frequent turnover may indicate a problem with the management. If the salary is above average for the position and still the turnover is beyond the industry standard for that position you reasonably have a problem with the management.

Daniel Foley, CEO of Daniel Foley Marketing Agency

Having a lack of clarity

An alarming sign of a weak manager – lack of clarity. Clarity of purpose, mission, strategy and personal management philosophies are critical for success. A leader who lacks clarity, one who either changes his/her mind too frequently, one who is confused or lacks the fortitude to stick with the direction, will lead the company into the ground. Clarity of purpose and the strength to stick with it are indicators of sustained success.

Ravi Kathuria, Founder of Cohegic Corporation

Publicly criticising employees

One sign of a bad boss is when they give public criticism of their employees. While public praise can make an employee feel valued and respected, public criticism is just cruel. Constructive feedback should be shared in a private space, even if it’s something as small as a correction on email formatting. Keeping criticisms private shows respect for your employees as people, and will motivate them to improve.

Yuvi Alpert, Founder of Noémie

Excluding team members from meetings

A critical sign of a bad boss is that they exclude certain members of the team from meetings that are important for that person’s performance and to do their job to the best of their ability. The root of such behavior is insecurity. The person they are excluding is often perceived as a threat to the boss’ position, so they will intentionally make decisions that will sabotage the excluded team member’s success. They will also limit access to tools, information and even people in an attempt to sabotage the employee.

Michelle Horlbogen, CEO of The Gentlewoman Boss

Unhappy employees

The first sign of bad management can be seen through the reactions of the employees. If workers aren’t happy, this means that something is wrong with the management. When people constantly leave and resign, this is another red flag. No one wants to stay in a company that treats people badly. Also, when a company constantly gets in trouble, it means that they’re making the wrong decisions. This affects the employees as well since bad decisions can lead to a company closing in a blink of an eye.

Michael Humphreys, Founder and CEO of Z Grills Australia

Constantly micromanaging

In 2019, we lost close to $500K in revenue, which was attributed to lack of delegation. I used to follow up with each employee instead of allowing them to display their potentials and own the process. When I hired an independent HR to audit what was going on, my employees were not happy with my management style. And since we changed this, we have realized double-digit growth.

Today, we only set the overall company objectives and each employee is required to set their own targets and goals based on the company objectives. In this way, they own the process and feel proud of their achievements.

Ronnie Teja, CEO at Branzio

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Bad task dissemination

An alarming sign of a bad boss is when he doesn’t know how to effectively manage his subordinates in terms of task dissemination. As a leader, you have to learn how to delegate tasks fairly and make sure that all employees comply with their assignments. An unfair workload may result in employees quitting their jobs and maybe resulting in burnout.

William Taylor, Senior Recruitment Advisor at VelvetJobs

Not respecting time off

When it comes to signs of bad management, as an employee, you should be alarmed if they don’t respect your time off.

To have your work done with the highest quality, the employee should organize their time efficiently. When they work in the office, they need to concentrate on their company tasks. However, each of us needs to maintain a proper life balance and keep track of our time off. Managers should respect that and make sure their personnel is healthy and well-rested. If they start calling you during the weekend and ask for some reports, that might be a sign that it’s time to quit.

Cristina Moraru, Digital Marketing Assistant at Media Training

Overpromising and underdelivering

One sign of a bad boss is overpromising and under-delivering. A good leader is fully aware of what is and isn’t possible and they do not make statements for the sake of manipulating, coercing or smothering their reports. Overpromising and not delivering creates mistrust and toxic work culture in which people normalize things like not meeting deadlines, unaccountability, and lying.

Paul French, Managing Director at Intrinsic Search

Focusing on the negative

A prolonged focus on the negative is one sure sign of bad management. These types of managers only focus on what’s not working instead of what is. By consistently focusing on the negative, these managers affect employee morale and tend to dismiss new ideas, thereby stifling growth. They tend to be dismissive of their staff and never offer warm or encouraging words of praise, often putting employees in their place. As negativity is their predominant attitude, they might also end up being sarcastic (which is not conducive for productive meetings) and might even engage in rude and insulting behaviour.

Donna Atanasova, Marketing Specialist at myPOS

Not listening to reports

When managers have too much pride and won’t listen to their direct reports, the lagging indicator is usually bottom line. Early indicators are volatile or rocky team meetings, especially if there are tensions boiling around seemingly innocuous discussions or simple decision-making processes. When employees find themselves in a situation with a manager who is unwilling to listen to feedback, regardless of where it comes from or whether this is positive or negative, it’s a sign of bad management as opposed to a reflection on the employee themselves.“

Markus Goess Saurau, Co-Founder of Sönd

Inability to motivate the team

One alarming sign of bad management is not being able to motivate the team. Often this happens from not having clear goals. The tram is wandering without purpose like in a swamp, not knowing where they are, where they want to go and what needs to happen to get there.

If the team isn’t excited about the product/service they create, about the process that leads to production, how are they going to motivate buyers and users? High-performance team is fired up. Not knowing how to fire up your team is a sign of lack of management skills.

Natalie Luneva, SaaS growth and team performance coach at Natalie Luneva

Low emotional intelligence

When a leader has low emotional intelligence i.e. is out of touch with themselves and the world around them, they aren’t an effective leader, but instead, a bad boss. This lack of self and social-awareness, curiosity, and self-confidence can be seen in their inability to listen, control their emotions, embrace humility over authority, and guide and empower their team and people through asking insightful (non-leading) questions.

Brittney-Nichole Connor-Savarda, Founder of Catalyst 4 Change

Unreached company goals

If the business is not reaching its goals most likely the management is faltering. There are a lot of moving parts with varying degrees of responsibilities and importance with goals and deadlines. If the team is experiencing so many drawbacks, this is likely trickling down from management.

Daniel Shapiro, Founder and CEO of Fourlaps

Not taking ownership of issues

The most common sign of a bad boss, in my experience: They blame others instead of taking ownership of issues.

As a manager, your job is to make sure the team functions successfully, and take steps to fix the problem when it’s under-performing. It may be productive to identify who caused an issue in the workplace, mostly so you can work with them and keep it from happening again, but it’s a red flag if the boss’ first impulse in response to a crisis is to point the finger instead of looking for solutions.

The real problem here is that the boss has the wrong mindset. They’re concerned with the appearance of success rather than doing the hard work of achieving it. Someone who wants the best for their team and company will do what it takes to improve it, and that means admitting their faults and owning up to their mistakes. Someone who gets defensive in response to criticism is more concerned with their own ego than the good of the team.

Matt Erhard, Managing Partner at Summit Search Group

Rejecting all ideas

You can tell you have a bad boss when they reject nearly all of your ideas. Dedicated team collaboration is the key to building something that lasts, and that collaboration is founded on great communication, mutual trust, and respect. If a boss refuses to consider any of their employees’ ideas, it shows that they lack the respect and trust necessary to build a strong team.

Vincent Bradley, CEO and Co-Founder of Proper Wild

Creates a toxic company culture

If your team just seems flat and uninterested in their work, that’s mostly because of the bad boss that creates a toxic company culture. When many businesses think of toxic cultures, they immediately assume it’s all about high staff turnover and high conflict. But in truth, many toxic cultures are actually flat and see teams just coast in their roles rather than take an active interest.

The low-energy toxic company culture can see teams with no enthusiasm about the product or service you provide, let alone your customers.

Lizzie Benton, Founder and Culture Consultant at Liberty Mind

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