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Are You A Bad Boss? Here Are 5 Signs...

By Dr. Darla Shaw, SPHR, MBA, MLS, PhD.


I don't think there's anyone out there who goes into a managerial role with the intention of being a bad boss. Most of the leaders I've worked with think they are doing a wonderful job, and the truth is, most people have strengths and weaknesses and are never "all bad" or "always good".


That being said, there are just some signs out there that you have a serious problem with your leadership skills, and so here are 5 signs that, if taken together, indicate you might be a "bad boss".


  1. Clueless Employees - Are you constantly wondering why no one seems to understand or meet your expectations? Did you specifically give what you thought were clear directions, only to have no one pay any attention or do it totally wrong? You may be tempted to think your employees are simply lazy or ignoring you, but the truth is, it's probably your fault. Setting clear expectations and communicating that in a way that people understand sounds simple, but the truth is communication is the number one problem bad leaders have. Are your expectations in writing? When those expectations change, who do you communicate it to, and how? Did you give people the chance to offer feedback on those expectations (in other words, are they even realistic?). If you have this problem, I suggest asking for feedback from your employees. Shutting up and listening is often the best communication strategy.

  2. Your Employees Throw Each Other Under The Bus - One of the greatest frustrations I hear from a lot of managers is "lack of accountability". They hate it when an employee does something wrong and doesn't own up to it, but rather passes the buck. While this is certainly a problem with some people, if the majority of your employees are doing this, then you need to ask yourself some questions, the first one being: What are they afraid of? Good leaders make it easy for employees to make mistakes and then learn from them. Bad leaders penalize people for being human and create a "fear organization", where no one wants to own up to anything. So again, if this is one or two of your employees, you probably just have a performance issue. If it's the majority though, take a look at your culture.... and yourself.

  3. No One Tells You Anything - Are you the last to know about things? Do employees hush when you come into the room? Chances are your employees are keeping things from you for a reason, and don't feel like speaking freely in front of you. This could be for many reasons, but the most likely is that they don't trust you. Are you a gossip? Do you have a bad temper? Time for a self-evaluation.

  4. You Don't Trust Your People - This is a big one, and only you can really decide if it's true or not. A good test would be to ask yourself if you could leave the office for a month and trust that everything would be done exactly as it should be without your input. If the answer is yes, congratulations! You trust your people. If the answer is no.... This can take many forms; arbitrary rules that make no sense, micromanagement, a desire to be consulted on everything.... Bosses who don't trust their people make life harder for everyone, but also themselves. If you don't trust your people, why did you hire them? You are the one who hired them after all, so if they can't be trusted, you know where to point the finger.

  5. High Turnover - Some industries are just notorious for this; retail, manufacturing, fast food to name a few! There could be a lot of reasons for high turnover like low wages, poor advancement or just horribly monotonous job duties, but in most cases all of these hurdles can be overcome if they are made up for by a good work culture and a good boss. So the question is, if your department has high turnover, is it really because of those factors, or is there another reason? What do you do to make employees want to work for you? How do you show your appreciation for the workers who stayed? A lot of employees turn in their resignation and cite money as the reason, but when they say "it's not you, it's me", they're lying. It really is you.

Did I miss any other signs of a bad boss? What was your worst boss like and how many of these 5 did they display? Comments and feedback are welcome!




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