10 signs of a bad boss or manager

During this article we discuss 10 signs of a bad boss or manager. It highlights key indicators to identify ineffective leadership and offers insights into fostering a positive work environment.

Good managers support their staff and nurture their growth. Bad bosses or managers often belittle their staff and make work unpleasant – regardless of the consequences this generally has!

But are you or do you have a bad manager? This article discusses the Top 10 telltale signs!

But what are the consequences of poor leadership? Copied

Having or being a bad manager has many negative consequences. First and foremost, the age-old adage, ‘People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.’ An American survey of a thousand employees revealed that poor leadership was the reason for 44% to quit a job.

Read our article, ‘High staff turnover? Here’s why and how to solve it’, for more information.

What’s more, mental health and productivity deteriorate significantly as a result of a poor manager. And according to another study, rising absenteeism levels. Enough reasons to do something about poor management once and for all.

So, what are the signs of a bad boss or manager? Copied

Are you or do you have a bad boss? If so, you may well recognize one or more of the telltale signs below:

1. Gives no recognition or praise

For many employees, praise and recognition are even more important than salary. A Gallup study showed that around 30% of employees quit their jobs if they don’t receive the appreciation they deserve or expect.

And worse still if a boss or manager takes the credit instead. The above-mentioned American study also revealed that 57% of respondents deemed this unacceptable behavior.

2. Screams, shouts, and bullies

There are really only two occasions on which a boss or manager should shout – if it’s really noisy and staff wouldn’t understand them otherwise or if a life-threatening situation were about to arise. Otherwise, there really is no excuse for shouting or screaming.

Worse still is the situation in which screaming and shouting turn to bullying, prompting a culture of fear and anxiety. A prime example is publicly snapping someone’s head off in a meeting. This type of behavior has never been and never will be motivating or team-building.

3. Gives zero guidance or constructive feedback

To achieve a common goal, employees expect guidance from their boss or manager. However, bad managers expect their staff to read their minds or work things out for themselves – only to criticize the results when they’re not what they expected. Highly ineffective and irritating!

Especially new or inexperienced employees need extra guidance and feedback. They’re eager to learn and often look to their boss or manager for this support.

4. Doesn’t own up to their mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes – even managers! Good managers will always admit their own mistakes and apologize if called for. Bad managers worm their way out of any accountability for their own mistakes.

5. Never says thank you

Everyone appreciates a pat on the back or a heartfelt thank you when they’ve performed above and beyond, for example pulling in a prestigious new client or working overtime to finish a job. You’d certainly expect some gratitude or appreciation from your boss, right? Bad managers take this for granted and see no value in making any such effort.

6. Plans poorly

Good planning is the best way to spread workloads evenly and fairly and to meet targets and deadlines. Bad managers simply throw a week’s worth of work on your desk and expect you to finish it by tomorrow. Not exactly a smart way to work. This only forces staff to ‘fight fires’ – rushing work without giving it their full focus and attention. Naturally, quality and morale deteriorate rapidly as a result.

7. Focuses on what went wrong

A telltale sign of a bad manager is only pointing out the mistakes and never mentioning anything that goes right. Often, they think that nitpicking and highlighting failures make them look better. But what they forget is that this only leads to risk aversion and ultimately to mediocre or poor results across the board. And managers, after all, are supposed to be responsible for the results their teams achieve, right?

8. Sets no clear expectations

There’s a huge difference between autonomy and uncertainty. Do your employees know exactly what they should be doing and how? Or do they seem to only vaguely grasp what they’re supposed to be doing? Chances are that both these scenarios correlate directly to their managers’ ability or inability to communicate. Always make clear what needs to be done when, where, why, and how. And what constitutes successful completion!

9. Micro-manages

Good managers set clear targets, deadlines, and expectations and then let their teams get on with the work by themselves. Managers who get involved with every tiny detail never give their staff the opportunity to learn and grow.

Read our article, ‘6 telltale signs you might just be a micromanager’, for more information.

10. Plays favorites

Last, but by no means least, bad bosses are prone to playing favorites. They give the staff they like the plum jobs, instead of those most qualified or able to get the job done. But someone who shares your interests and who you like chatting with isn’t necessarily the right person for the job.

Bad boss

But how do I become a better boss or manager? Copied

OK, so we’ve familiarized ourselves with the Top 10 traits of a bad manager, but what are the characteristics of a good manager?

  • acts helpfully and positively – never shouting at or undermining staff
  • gives praise and recognition – not only with bonuses, but also with compliments
  • explains expectations clearly and concisely
  • gives individuals the credit they deserve for high performance, rather than claiming it for themself
  • anticipates and plans workloads realistically and fairly
  • encourages growth and learning and accepts that this involves making mistakes


Managing objectively and transparently Copied

Nowadays, smart managers know that they can’t rely on intuition or a gut feel to manage their staff. Luckily, a whole plethora of smart tools is available to help managers remain objective and transparent when planning, monitoring, and managing their projects.

One of these tools is the skills matrix – a schematic overview of your team members’ skills, competences, and qualifications. At a single glance, you can see who can do what and who can’t and make better decisions based on objective data, for example working out who’s most qualified or able to perform a certain task.

Download our Excel skills matrix template for free to start experimenting.

Chances are that after a while you’ll want to take this to the next level, which is where you’ll need skills management software!

Find out how AG5’s software can help you become a better manager or schedule a live demo.


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Original version | March 16, 2021

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