Are You a Bad Boss? Here’s How to Know

If reading articles about how to be a good (or great or exceptional) boss were all it took to be one, there wouldn’t be so many articles about how to survive a bad (or difficult or horrible) boss. Yet, there are an awful lot of these articles.

It could be that it’s the good bosses who read these articles to learn where they’re falling short so they can strive to improve. The trouble is that the bad bosses usually don’t know they’re bad. But if you’re a bad boss, there are clues.

Things happen when you’re a bad boss that wouldn’t happen if you were a good boss. For example, if you’re a bad boss, people go silent when you enter the room because they’re afraid of how you’ll react—or they know how you’ll react and don’t want to deal with it.

If you’re a bad boss, you’re likely to have a less-than-stellar team reporting to you because the best performers leave. As has often been pointed out, people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. I’ve known people who could say nothing positive about their companies, but they stayed with their jobs because they loved their bosses. Of course, if such a boss leaves the company or starts taking stupid pills, then all bets are off.

Bad bosses exhibit specific behaviors. You’re a bad boss if you constantly change your mind, reject feedback from the team, or have the attitude that right or wrong, you’re always right. Needless to say, you’ll be seen as a loser if you micromanage, take credit for the team’s efforts, see every glass as half empty, or communicate badly—if you bother to communicate at all.

Other things that define bad bosses? You lie, criticize in public, suck up, put people down, or excel at blaming, fault-finding, and finger-pointing. And there’s more. If you think you’re safely on the side of the good bosses because you fall short on only three or four of these things, think again. It takes a lot to be a good boss, and one or two strikes against you can be your undoing.

Management isn’t easy. People who’ve never been managers don’t have a clue about what a challenge it is. When you’re new at it, it takes some time and possibly doing a lot of things wrong before you get the hang of it. When you’ve been at it a while, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of doing things a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done them.

If there’s a possibility you may qualify as a bad boss, you might want to rethink your attitudes and behaviors. There are plenty of articles out there to help you get started.

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