30 Things You Do That Make You a Terrible Boss

Meeting with the boss.
Photo by Photographee.eu – Shutterstock.com

Let’s get one thing out of the way. We don’t think anyone would want to be a horrible boss, but we do think there are people out there that set up certain rules or have certain standards which, in time, can lead them down a very dark path.

Well, maybe not for them, but it would certainly be a miserable time for their employees!

It’s time to review some of the things you may do at work, though we sincerely hope that most of these don’t resonate with you. If they do, then it’s probably time to rethink the way you approach your work life. It’s never too late to make personal or professional improvements!

Actually, if you’ve stumbled upon this by googling ‘am I a terrible boss?’ then we think you’re already on the ‘road to recovery’, so to speak.

So let’s get into it. Here are 31 signs that you might be a dreadful boss.

1. You Give Your Subordinates Little to No Guidance

If you do this you may be the type of boss that expects your workers to execute commands without question. Do you think this is a sign of loyalty? Perhaps for some people, it is… Truth is, though, that most employees need and want more guidance no matter what project you throw their way.

If your decisions come up in the spur of the moment, rest assured that your team is not as excited about those light bulb moments as you are.

Try to focus on long term planning which will inevitably offer your employees a bit more structure in their daily operations.

2. You Deliberately Skip Performance Reviews

If you think performance reviews are a waste of time for you or your employees, we’ve got bad news for you. If you keep putting them off by a few months your team might be glad when HR finally forces your hand…

But then you go and do another blunder. You don’t give them any constructive information!

This is a bad boss move, as workers generally want to know what they should improve and how. Remember, you might think that there’s no point in them and that your employees are better off focusing on their tasks, but the truth is that performance reviews can be extremely motivational for some people, especially if they’ve worked hard!

3. You Like to Bully Your Workforce

If you bully the people under you plenty of things could happen. Firstly you might encourage a toxic working environment which will cause others to bully their coworkers, following your lead.

Secondly, those who won’t follow your example will end up losing respect for you. They might think you’re jealous of a subordinate.

Plenty of bosses want to take people down a peg or two in order to put them in their place, likely because of some generational gap. Remember, such tactics will only make work dreadful for those around you. Try to foster a friendlier work environment instead!

4. You Care More About Your Own Promotion Than Your Team’s Efforts

Playing office politics can seriously harm your team’s output. If you’re an absent boss that would rather focus on getting another promotion then that means your employees will be left to fend for themselves. Remember, an unfocused team could lead to greater and greater losses over time.

And don’t even think about saying ‘but that’s why I have people working for me!’

You’re a leader, and if you can’t lead your current team then how do you think you’re going to handle the next one, and the next one, and the next one as you climb the ladder. Brown-nosing can only take you so far. You also have to show off your leadership skills in order to get ahead.

5. You Take Credit for Other People’s Work

No, no, no!

Just because someone works for you does not mean that what is theirs is yours. You can’t just steal someone else’s ideas and expect them to be OK with it.

Some employees might be too scared or shy to speak up, but just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they approve of what you’ve done. Oh, and if you somehow managed to get away with this by doing it behind their backs you should expect major fallout if and when they find out about your shady tactics.

6. You Prefer Running a Tight Ship

If you’re the type of boss that hates it when your teammates bask in their success then you’re probably the type of person that likes putting them down.

How often do you publicly shame your employees when they make mistakes, big or small? Bad managers ensure that everyone is well aware of every blunder so that they’ll get the message.

Don’t screw up or you’re next!’

Do you know what kind of thing this sort of intimidation leads to? Your team will be less likely to come to you if they have any questions which will in turn lead to more mistakes, all of which you could have avoided with just a little more compassion!

7. You’ve Never Been Wrong About Anything

Even if you’ve been in the industry all your life you have to accept the fact that nobody is perfect, not even you. That’s because improvements and cleverer ways to deal with issues spring up on the daily. Hey, you might have missed some yourself!

But if you think you’re never wrong then you probably berate your employees when they try to point out when something is wrong. All this will lead to is a stagnant workforce that will lack innovation.

8. There’s Constant Turnover in Your Group

Even the people that have only just started working know that a high turnover rate is not a good sign for a company or a department.

Do you think new people will come with new perspectives? Do you consider that those who left your team weren’t up to the challenge? Do you think it takes special people to be able to work under your supervision?

If you answered yes then your department has a big problem. First off, you’re not building loyalty with any of your employees, so they probably won’t feel motivated enough to come up with new and exciting ideas. Secondly, you’re probably making everyone question their job stability so they’ve got one foot out the door already!

Either way, you’ll be losing a lot of good people along the way and you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

9. You Have a Fall Gal or Fall Guy

If something goes wrong and you already know who to blame without even looking at the issue it means you’ve already picked a fall gal or a gall guy.

No matter what they do, you always find a way to call them out even if they were minimally involved in the project at hand. Worse, if you think they should have paid more attention it puts undue pressure on them.

Here’s a thought! If you want this person to supervise projects in order for them to turn out right, why not just promote them to that position?!

10. You’re the King or Queen of Micromanaging

You might fully believe that your micromanaging capabilities are what got you to where you’re standing. If you always fall back on the fact that you’re detail-oriented then you should know that what other people hear is that you’re a constant nag.

No employee likes a boss that’s breathing down their neck or ominously hovering over their shoulder. It doesn’t prove that you’re good at your job at all! It just proves you don’t trust them.

The majority of employers think the exact opposite too, that micromanaging bosses aren’t good enough at their jobs so they have to check in every half an hour to compensate.

11. You’ve Raised Your Voice More Than Once in the Past Month

Did you know that most bosses who raise their voices claim that this is how they grew up and that it’s just natural when taking control of a situation?

Some employees might even call you abusive behind your back. Is that the sort of badge of honor you want to unknowingly carry around?

If you raise your voice then it’s probably because you want to get your point across. But everyone would prefer it and would respect you more if you actually explained everything in a calm, professional manner instead.

12. You Lie

Some bosses lie outright and have no problem admitting this to themselves. Other bosses claim these are just little white lies that don’t hurt anyone.

They not only hurt your team, but they will also tarnish your reputation when the truth comes out. Everyone around you will immediately start second-guessing everything you say. Not very pleasant, is it?

It’s better to be upfront, especially when it comes to making mistakes. Everyone appreciates managers who can own up to something they’ve done wrong so there’s really no use for a cover-up!

13. You Excel at Sucking Up

Here we’re talking about those managers that overly compliment both those above and those below them.

If you’re constantly trying to rub shoulders with people higher in rank, your subordinates will see this as desperation, as will the very same people you’re trying to impress.

Bosses who back-slap those under them can come off as cringy and insecure, especially if their compliments are way off base. Nothing wrong with congratulating them on the work they do and some of their personal achievements, but doing so on the regular can make the workspace a tad bit uncomfortable.

14. You Check Out Regularly and You Make Sure People Know

Traveling for work is something a lot of workers would love to do, so rubbing your traveling opportunities in their faces constantly is a bad and unprofessional move. Mentioning a few things that you’ve seen or done while away is not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t brag about all the amazing opportunities they’ve missed.

Furthermore, if you prioritize having fun while you’re away it means that your team will be left to work alone. During these periods, their stress levels may rise, and wouldn’t you want to help them out rather than remind them of what great of a life you’re living?

15. You’d Rather Defer Than Make a Decision

Imagine you’re a hardworking employee and you’re just about ready to submit your latest task. Now imagine that your boss, for the umpteenth time, cannot make up their mind.

Pretty infuriating, right? Your employees have worked hard on their tasks and they most certainly will feel ignored and put down if you keep deferring. You’re the boss! If you need to make a decision, make it!

But perhaps you feel insecure. If that’s the case, don’t be scared to ask for input from both your team and your higher-ups!

16. You’ve Got Turmoil in Your Personal Life

You may think you’ve got everything under wraps, but it’s blindingly obvious to most employees when bosses are having troubles at home. Most people, when they are in a position of authority, don’t work so hard in hiding this from those underneath them because, really, what are they gonna do about it?

You have to start seriously addressing your issues otherwise your work life will suffer just as much.

Plus, just as you shouldn’t be taking your work at home, you shouldn’t be taking your problems into the office.

17. You’re Bad at Figuring Out Someone’s Strengths or Weaknesses

Remember when we mentioned avoiding performance reviews? Do you push them off to the last second because you’re actually incapable of telling anything they might want to hear?

If you’re having a hard time remembering someone’s name then knowing what sort of feedback you should give them is out of the question. It gets worse if you can’t even recall what they’ve worked on or what part of the project they’ve had to deal with.

Remember, the people you’re working with are just that- people. It’s your responsibility to tell them apart!

18. You Don’t Like Being Outshined

Hate being outshined.
Photo by Patrizia Tilly – Shutterstock.com

Don’t go out of your way to hire C players just to avoid being outshined. If you lack confidence in yourself and prefer to surround yourself with workers that won’t impress your bosses then your team is probably functioning at a loss.

You probably do this so that your workers won’t even notice you’re probably unfit for the position you’re in, so instead of working harder on yourself you decide to bring down the rest of the team in order to make up for it.

19. You Always Say “I” And Never “We”

This is another common occurrence between bad bosses. They think that saying “I” is the same as saying “we” since the team is yours and, ultimately, you’re the one leading them and the company to the path of success.

By doing so you’re basically erasing everyone else’s accomplishments. We guarantee that people will be working with a lot less enthusiasm. Another thing we guarantee? We know that the type of boss who does this is also the sort of person that will point out individual blame.

So which way is it? Is it “I” only when your employees succeed and “you” when they fail?

20. You’re Vindictive

Bosses who hold long grudges will be remembered for it and you don’t want that to be the first thing people think of when they hear your name. You might think you’re sending them a message not to mess with you by being vindictive, but great bosses know how to win someone over by helping them and empowering them.

Other bosses are vindictive because they really want to send a message home. If someone makes a mistake and they’re proven to be wrong you don’t discuss it, you instead chose to really turn the knife in the wound.

Seriously, it’s not a good look. Your employees will be scared to speak up around you so you might miss important details by alienating them.

21. You Tolerate Bad Work

If you have people that have been working with you for a while despite underperforming, oftentimes severely, then you should know that’s a big problem!

You might think that having loyal, long term employees is better than building up an effective team. But that just means you’re playing favorites and you would rather your company fail than to let your ‘friends’ down.

If you want to keep these people on board then you have to at least correct their mistakes, and we don’t mean sending off newer members of the team to do it. You should probably retrain them, but if even then you let mistakes slide and they can’t get better at their jobs then it’s time for them to work elsewhere.

22. You Deliberately Keep Information From Your Employees

Keeping information from some members on your team will only result in a big chasm. Again, this is plain and simple favoritism.

If you operate on a need to know basis then you best believe that those who aren’t in the loop will underperform. Is that something you want?

Remember, you’re not running the Department of Defense and you should encourage everyone to work together and support each other with their individual skillsets. Otherwise, you’ll just breed resentment in your workspace.

23. You’re Working Less and Less

When a boss takes on fewer responsibilities it’s the team’s job to pick up the slack. Most bosses that do that think of everyone else as worker bees, yet that can be fatal to a company.

First of all, you should engage in daily operations to ensure that what needs to be done gets done properly. Without you, your employees will lose focus and will likely start to feel as though their work is redundant. Plus, nobody likes to feel like they’re working for someone who thinks they’re above it all.

Secondly, you may lose touch with your operations. A good boss finds improvements by paying attention to what’s going on in the office. If enough time passes and you forget how to do a certain task, how is anyone supposed to come to you for help?

24. You Care About Results More Than Other People’s Careers

Great mentors ensure that those under their wings go off to become great managers themselves. If you’re stopping someone’s career in its track because they have a good track record and you’d rather keep them on the team then you’re actively sabotaging them.

If you think your employees are happy to be doing whatever they’re doing without moving up the ladder then you’re just lying to yourself. Though they may be happy to do their jobs and do so with a smile on their face, nobody wants to get stuck.

25. You Make Your People Work Insane Hours and Never Inspire Them in Any Way

Do you often ‘inspire’ your employees to work insane hours and extra shifts by threatening to fire them if they don’t? Then you’re certainly unpleasant to work with.

You have to understand that employees are people first, no matter what anyone else says. They should be able to recharge their batteries and take some time off. After all, they’re not drones.

If you’re genuinely worried about losing money if they don’t work the solution is to hire more people, not terrorize those already on the team.

26. You Change Moods Like You Change Your Clothes

If people seem skittish around you all the time then it’s probably because you’ve put them on edge with your behavior. You’re a friendly boss one moment and a raging bull the next.

That doesn’t sit well with people so even when you’re happy, they’ll be afraid that something will set you off, especially if you’ve publicly berated someone for a mistake.

We suggest working on your temper otherwise your team will no longer trust you and are likely to hope they’ll be free from your mercurial personality

27. You Make People Wonder About How You Got Your Job

A good boss should never ever hide how they got their job. In some cases, you might be afraid of someone else being accused of nepotism, which is not OK, but we think your team should still be in the loop otherwise, they’ll come up with crazier and crazier explanations.

Why are you being so secretive? If you indeed climbed up the ladder fair and square and you’re still refusing to talk about it it’ll make your team think you’ve done something shady- something they should know better about copying.

Worst-case scenario they’ll just think you haven’t truly earned your stripes so they’ll start disrespecting your authority. Maybe not to your face, but in the back of their minds they’ll know better not to take you too seriously.

28. You’ve Never Read Anything About Becoming a Better Boss

Self help book.
Photo by Castleski – Shutterstock.com

True, some things you learn through experience and through careful observation, but at some point in your career, you need some outside perspective. If you just copy what Sarah from the other department does, you’re not really innovating, are you?

Do you think self help books and articles are a bunch of mumbo-jumbo? Then it means you’re probably not open to new ideas and perspectives. You may have a lot more to learn by just listening to people from different backgrounds with different voices.

This is much more important if you have a diverse team on your hand! You want to gain experience in that case, and if you can’t even spare some time to read a book then you’re doing a disservice to the people that work for you.

29. You Never Say Thanks

We’ve found that bosses who never say thanks tend to copy other jerk bosses- often highly successful ones that think they can get away with anything because they’re rich and well connected.

What, you think you’re going to be the next Steve Jobs?

Think about it another way. Do you want your employees to go home and moan about your attitude to their friends and family or would you rather they claim they want to become just like you?

If it’s the former then with every thanks you fail to give, you’ll be burning bridges.

30. You Just Don’t Understand Where People Are Coming From

If you’ve heard someone complain about you and you simply can’t wrap your head around why then it’s simple… it’s because you’re not listening. Has it happened more than once? Then they’re not the problem, you are!

Additionally, bosses who make up excuses and explain how other people are wrong are just the worst. You may feel compelled to protect your character but all you’re doing is digging yourself deeper.

Just listen, take constructive criticism, ask for how you can improve and, most importantly of all, make people hold you accountable for your actions!

Look, nobody said that being a good mentor is easy business, but being a terrible boss has got to be exhausting! Most people like managers who are friendly, focused but also laid back and trusting.

Want to know how you can improve? Here are 7 Ways to Ensure You’ll Be Everyone’s Favorite Boss!

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