Are You a Bad Boss? Twelve Reasons Your Employees Want to Quit

I’ve been surprised at how many younger friends in finance are seeking new jobs, after only brief stints with their firms. Many cited issues with their bosses as key drivers in their decisions.

With the New Year right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a deeper look at one of the most popular of resolutions – Getting a Better Job. In fact, some polls estimate that as many as 77% of all Americans are unhappy with some aspect of their work – salary, hours, co-workers or the seemingly cliché Bad Boss.

Employees tolerate a lot of Bad Boss behavior. Many bosses are untrained, uncaring, and largely unaccountable for their interactions with employees. Some were promoted to jobs above their competence. Bad management practices factor greatly in whether employees dream of a new job. Employee turnover is your problem – it hurts your company’s image – and your own.

I’m willing to bet that most employees can tell us, if asked, whether they have a Bad Boss. But can a Bad Boss self-identify? If any of the practices below describe your managerial style, your employees are likely making that ever-popular New Year’s resolution right now.

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

Are you competent at your job? This is the first consideration when your employees look at your work. Do you provide them with the leadership they need to succeed? Are you managing in a way that shows you know what is going on in the organization? Good management begins with transparency – a frightening concept to someone who is attempting to mask ignorance. The worst manifestation of not knowing what you’re doing is to give employees the wrong information and then dissemble when faced with the facts. You also demonstrate incompetence when you present wrong information or interpret incorrectly when talking to your staff. Your employees will almost always know when you fake knowledge you don’t have, or withhold information to burnish your image at their expense. Working from a position of ignorance and attempting to mask it is the first sign you are a Bad Boss.

You Treat Them Disrespectfully

When you demonstrate a lack of respect for employees, you injure their feelings, their self-confidence, and their self-esteem. Furthermore, if you treat them disrespectfully, you will never get their respect. Employees are humans and are feelings-oriented, much like tiny sensors constantly monitoring the work environment. When you talk over them, cut off the conversation, belittle their ideas, ignore their input, and criticize them unfairly, they feel disrespected. Calling last minute meetings with no regard for their prior commitments, refusing to okay vacation time that was appropriately requested, staging mini-tantrums when they fail to cancel obligations to suit your schedule, and failing to commit needed resources in a timely manner are hallmarks of disrespectful behavior. Employees know when they are not respected and they will see you as a Bad Boss.

It’s All About You

Do you believe you are the center of the employees’ world? Does everything begin and end with you – at least in your own mind? Do you formulate expectations for employees based on whether their outcomes will make you look good? Do you chastise employees or become anxious for fear your employees might make you look bad? Employees have to be able to see that your department’s goals are part of something bigger and that they participate in that forward momentum. That’s called motivation; and without generating it -- when everything is about the manager -- you will be branded as a Bad Boss.

You're a Jerk

Are you unreasonable, selfish or manipulative in your behavior toward your staff -- a prima donna that requires their constant attention and approval? Do you think about their feelings or the impact of your decisions on their work? Do you talk behind one employee’s back in front of yet another employee? Do you play one employee against another? Think about a time when you thought of another individual (perhaps a past boss of your own) as a jerk. Was she a lot like you? If so, you should understand that your employees see you as a Bad Boss.

You Over-Manage

Even well-meaning managers can make an incorrect assessment about how much managing an employee needs. When you trust your employees and let them figure out how to accomplish their job, you inspire. If you micromanage and nitpick their ideas, their work and even their work habits, you will never tap their enthusiasm or creativity – on the contrary, you will dampen any sparks of motivation. Naturally new employees, employees in training, and employees who change jobs or acquire new responsibilities need more guidance. But, if your need to hover does not lessen over time, you are the problem. Micromanage good employees and they will run as far as possible and as quickly as they can because you are a Bad Boss.

You’re Ignorant of What They Do Each Day

You don’t have to know every employee’s job to be a good manager -- yet you do have to know enough about their work to guide them. You need to communicate with the employee often enough to understand his/her progress and any challenges he/she experiences. If you make decisions about his work, you must know more than the minimum about the project or job. If you find yourself telling your employee what to do, you are a Bad Boss.

You’re a Bully

Bullies reside in boss’s clothing more often than you’d ever think possible. Much like the bullying that begins in elementary school, bullying behavior from bosses encompasses verbal, physical and mental abuse. There are bosses who yell and curse at employees, intimidate employees by physical proximity, block employees from getting away either from their desk or the room. There are bosses who intimidate employees with words -- threatening employees with snide comments, cruel emails and direct complaints in front of others. There are even bosses who throw objects at employees. Bully bosses belittle employees, chipping away at self-confidence and self-esteem with criticism, name calling, and ridicule – sometimes subtle, but often less so. Bullies are condescending, demeaning and cruel. Think about a bully you’ve known. Are there similarities with your behavior? If so, you are a Bad Boss.

You Forget Your Employees Have a Life

You don’t need to know everything about the lives of your reporting staff, but you do need to recognize they have lives. Asking employees to work late, join you for lunch breaks, and assigning more work than they can do will stress out the employees. They want to do well at work, but they also have responsibilities with home, family, friends, volunteering, and so much more. Offering some flexibility and understanding will earn their respect. In fact, the youngest generation of employees often demands flexibility and free time to pursue myriad other interests. Raise unreasonable barriers and your most skilled, highly valued employees may head for the doors. If you make them feel guilty, object to what they need to do, or act as if you are put out every time they pursue their other priorities, your employees will dislike you, the best of them will leave, and you will be recognized as a Bad Boss.

You Over-Step Boundaries

In contrast to the boss who forgets their employees have lives of their own, is the boss who needs to know everything about and/or comment upon their employees personal lives. Asking employees about their family life, hair colorists, doctors, medications, therapists and/or child-rearing strategies, is intrusive and clearly crosses the line between professional and personal. If you find yourself extolling the virtues of anti-depressants or a favorite clothing line, then be aware that your employees probably consider you a Bad Boss.

You Don’t Give them Credit When Earned

Employees enjoy recognition for their accomplishments. They like having coworkers, bosses and the boss’ boss praise their work and think highly of them. Where managers mess up in this arena is by taking credit for their employees’ ideas and accomplishments or becoming threatened when a staff member is recognized by someone higher in the food chain. Allowing your staff to forge a relationship with those above you is generous. Prohibiting it or becoming threatened by those conversations makes you appear weak and foolish. Furthermore, taking credit for someone else’s work is a fatal error made by many a Bad Boss. You may think that you are currying favor from upper management, but your employees will find out. Perhaps a senior manager will mention your idea in an employee meeting and everyone else will know it wasn’t your idea. You’ll get credit for a job well done – a job done by your employees - but no one recognizes the team. Your employees won’t trust you and, when this happens repeatedly, they will see you as a Bad Boss.

You Don’t Have Their Backs

When you throw your employees under the bus, you might as well have gone under that bus yourself. You will never recover. The minute an employee knows that -- rather than supporting her and offering reasons why a project or timeline may have failed -- you blamed her, it’s all over. Even if you are disappointed in the employee’s performance, when you publicly blame them, your own position is weakened. Rather than earning the approbation of senior managers, you will be known as the manager who throws employees under the bus. And, those employees will recognize you for what you are -- a Bad Boss.

You Set a Bad Example

Do you feel entitled to arrive at work late, take long lunches with friends or leave early just because you’re the boss? Do you spend excessive amounts of time doing personal work at the office? Do you justify actions – or inaction – by saying “you’ve earned it over the years?” If so, enough said. Your employees know you’re a Bad Boss.

‘Tis the season to look back upon our successes and failures -- to make resolutions. We can all -- employees and bosses alike -- find ways to improve, that’s for sure. But if you’ve read these pointers and concluded you might just possibly be a Bad Boss, then instead of driving your employees to look for new positions, maybe it’s not too late to turn over a new leaf. Look hard in the mirror and ask yourself whether it might be time to begin an intervention … on yourself.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bea Rhodes January 04, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Great article Claire. I am very lucky that I don't work for anyone who is a bad boss. I am and always feel appreciated. And BTW the article applies to volunteer jobs as well, it may not be for pay, but the dynamics are similar.
Lisa Buchman January 04, 2013 at 01:55 AM
Bea—I've had similar great luck! Everyone I've ever worked for has never over-managed, a great quality when employees work really hard and do what they are supposed to do. I love a boss that gets out of the way! These are good for anyone at any level to read, thanks Claire.


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