Ah, bad bosses – the people we love to hate. There are movies, comic strips, television shows, blogs and countless therapy sessions devoted to these people. A bad boss has the power to ruin a day, week or even more. Stress about a bullying boss can impact health and relationships. What is more amazing than how terrible some bad bosses can be is why so many people tolerate them. Part of the reason is that people have been inundated with information about how bad the economy is and how high the unemployment rates are. This mentality of scarcity breeds fear and people feel they have no choice but to stay where they are regardless of how abusive their boss is.
Having been in the Human Resources field for nearly two decades, I have certainly run into my share of bad bosses, so-so bosses and great bosses. I have also run into my share of bad employees. One interesting note is that bad employees never, ever think any boss is good. Usually because the boss has the nerve to ‘harass’ them about things like showing up on time or not submitting reports with typos. But that’s another story. The fact is that there are generally bad bosses. Here are some things I have observed that typify bad bosses:
• Bosses who exaggerate or lie in order to coerce employees to change their behavior
• Bosses who gossip about other employees in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with their subordinates
• Bosses who are perfectionists. Nothing is ever good enough for them and it is obvious to everyone.
• Bosses who lose their temper and yell at employees. There is a window of grace on employees’ part for isolated incidents but this is pretty much a three strikes you’re out kind of thing
• Bosses who are chronically unprepared for one-on-ones or meetings or who text or IM during your time with them
• Bosses who use the word “I” incessantly and would rather talk about themselves than their employees
• Bosses who take the credit of their employees’ work
• Bosses who are threatened by their employees’ success
• Bosses who never say thank you
• Bosses who think it’s a good thing to be completely impersonal with their employees
• Bosses who are afraid of conflict.
Now yes, bosses are only human and of course they are going to have bad days and slip up. It’s not reasonable to expect anything less. But if you are working for a bully, or a narcissist, you unfortunately are going to have to accept that nothing is going to change this person, and decide whether or not the security of a paycheck is worth it. If you are a bad boss, you would do well to realize that your career is going to be much less successful and fulfilling than it could be. If you have psychological issues, address them. If you are afraid of conflict, deal with it and if you are a perfectionist (which is usually most of the problem) start recovering. There is no room for that in leadership and the sooner you realize it, the better off everyone will be.