8 signs you're a bad boss

By Robert Half on 11 August 2017

A manager has a wide range of responsibilities, from setting clear expectations, to making sure business goals are met or even exceeded. A good boss manages staff effectively and supports them so they perform to the best of their ability. They fix any issues and they establish a positive and productive working environment.

A bad boss on the other hand can cause a great deal of frustration and stress. Staff are immediately impacted which can lead to lower productivity, poor morale and higher staff turnover. This, along with missed objectives and increased costs, will ultimately affect all stakeholders and the overall success of the business.

To ensure you become a good manager and lead your team to success, make sure you avoid these nine common traits that a bad boss often has:

A bad boss has the inability to communicate

As a boss, you need to be able to communicate effectively, whether you’re simply getting to know your team better, giving instructions, sharing praise, setting deadlines or announcing news. You need to be comfortable addressing people on both a one-to-one basis and as part of a group. Without this quality, employees won’t have full confidence in you and may be less likely to follow your instructions, or execute projects the way you assigned them.

Remember also that communication is two-way, so your team should feel they can communicate openly with you too. As a boss, you’ll also be the first port of call for employees who have problems. You therefore need to be sensitive, empathetic and understanding with the way you communicate as a leader.

1. Hide behind a veil of secrecy

When you're the boss, there will be some instances when information needs to be kept private. However, if you’re not being transparent, it will be difficult for your team to trust and respect you.

Where possible, keep staff informed as to what is going on in the company, both within your team and the organisation. Employees will appreciate your openness and it reduces the likelihood of rumours spreading.

2. Make inconsistent decisions

Inconsistent decision making is a key sign of a bad boss. If you respond in a different way each time the same situation arises, employees will struggle to take you seriously or to predict the next steps.

Make sure you’re consistent and if you do make any decisions that are out of the usual, explain to your team why you have made that choice.

3. Take the credit and pass the buck

A classic sign of a bad boss is someone who takes all the credit when things go well for their team, but deflects criticism onto others when results are less positive. When you're in charge of a team, you are ultimately responsible for performance and so there can be no shifting blame.

At the same time, if you try to claim the glory when one of your team members makes a valuable contribution, this will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your workplace relationships going forward. Instead, make sure you give credit where credit is due and keep people motivated when things don’t work out as planned.

4. Micro-manage everything

There's nothing worse than a bad boss who watches over employees all day, scrutinising each move they make, whilst barking constant instructions. To get the best out of your employees, you need to give them autonomy in the workplace, especially if you’re the kind of leader who believes in fostering the career development of your staff.

If you're not confident in their ability to do the job to the required standard, then delegate the work to another team member, or invest in training.

5. Make unreasonable demands

A bad boss may expect employees to come into the office early, stay late, work through their lunch hour, or cancel their annual leave at short notice. This can be because of setting unrealistic deadlines or work piling up due to poor management. However, pushing staff to their limits will inevitably sour relations and make it difficult to maximise productivity going forward. As a boss, you should avoid asking your employees to do anything you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.

Whilst unreasonable demands may come from even higher powers, as a good boss, try to push back and encourage more realistic expectations. If that doesn’t work and your team needs to work late to meet a deadline, don’t just leave them to it, whilst you pack up to go home. Show your appreciation by staying and helping. It will not only earn their respect, but it will also help the work get done quicker.

6. Love 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.

There is a fine line between generating a positive workplace environment and being irritating. It takes a degree of self-awareness as a leader to stay on the right side of professionalism in the workplace.

7. Pick favourites

A bad boss likes to pick favourites and treats team members differently in the workplace. However, this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to undermine your own authority.

Instead, you must be seen to treat everybody as equal. Your job is to manage everyone effectively, not to pick favourites.

8. Shout to get heard

As a boss, not everything will always go your way. When this happens, you can’t snap at employees, or storm out of the office. You also can’t shout to ensure everyone hears your opinion.

Employees will quickly learn to avoid you, have less respect for you, lose interest in their role and may even end up looking for a new job altogether. As a manager, it’s important to be able to control your emotions, whilst expressing your views in a clear, controlled, effective and professional manner.

If you’re a manager, or aspire to be a boss one day, we hope these nine signs of poor leadership will help you to become the best boss you can be. It’s also important to remind yourself of this list when times are tough or stressful.

Often, it’s these kinds of situations that can bring out the worst in people, so sometimes you may need a little reminder, to set yourself back on the right track.

Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide and as one of the leading Melbourne recruitment agencies, Robert Half can provide you with assistance where and when you need it.

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