13 Characteristics Of Bad Bosses

are you a bad boss managerBy Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo

If you're a manager, you've probably experienced the sensation of people not liking you -- but does that mean you are a bad boss? Not necessarily.

Your goal, after all, is to implement the company's vision on the front-lines of the battle. If you're going to be, as one famous manager once quipped, "The Decider," people will resent you, no doubt. But as a boss you also have to do your job, and we all know that sometimes means doing things your subordinates don't like.

So let us help you out. Here are 13 ways of knowing whether you're a bad boss:
1. People are afraid of you.

In some workplaces, managers are feared even by employees who don't know them - because their reputations precede them. If this is you, there's a high probability that you suck: no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

2. You micromanage.

Good managers manage, bad managers micromanage. If you're not able to persuade or convince people of a vision and instead regularly have to crack a whip to achieve results, either the team is rotten to the core or you have failed to properly motivate. (These ideas are not necessarily mutually exclusive).

True discipline, as the saying goes, must come through liberty. If you fear that your team doesn't function without you looking over their shoulders, the problem may not be them: Maybe it's you.

3. Stress controls you; you don't control stress.

There is some truth to the saying that there are no stressful situations, only stressful reactions to situations. Nevertheless, it's normal for all of us to react somehow to stress and for our emotions to manifest themselves.

The difference between a good manager and a bad manager, however, is that a bad manager sends signals that the stressful circumstances are controlling him or her and not the inverse. This isn't to say that a good manager need exude the emotional output of a Scandinavian fisherman; instead, good managers maintain control and don't allow stress to dictate their behavior. Bad managers do the opposite.

4. You create real and perceived distance between yourself and your team.

Humans detest hierarchies and those at the bottom resent being reminded of their place within them. The best managers sit with their teams in a symbolic gesture of solidarity and their behavior demonstrates genuine solidarity. The worst managers sit in solitary offices, usually with doors closed, and behave accordingly.

5. You're unavailable.

A celebrated CEO once told me, "A good manager does his work at home. (S)he should never bring his/her work to the office." What he was getting at was that good managers are available to their reports at a moment's notice. If you're unavailable and inaccessible to your reports then you suck, regardless of how much you are appreciated by your superiors.

6. You don't know your reports.

A good proxy question to ask yourself about a report is: "If he/she could have any job in the world, what would it be?" Knowing this answer means you understand the person's passions, dreams and ambitions. If you can't answer that, in England they'd call you a "hoover."

7. You have no investment your reports' futures.

Even if your report isn't working out and you have to remove him/her from the position, your primary concern should be for the person's well being. If someone is unhappy, it's usually bad for the team and bad for the individual; letting the individual go is likely in his or her best interest.

If you find yourself simply wishing someone off your team because they're an obstacle to achieve your goals, you should probably question whether or not what the problem is a result of a skill-set mismatch, personality conflict or proper motivation. Only two of those three are solvable.

8. You manage down more than you manage up.

Front-line managers often have the unfortunate task of mediating the tension between senior management's wishes and the demands of the front-line employees. Senior level managers operate on the assumption that they know better because they have access to more information. Front-line employees often feel they know better because they deal with the products and clients on a regular basis and receive feedback in real-time.

Average managers simply take what's passed down to them and implement at all cost. Good managers collect data, build arguments and attempt to influence the decision makers. In addition, good managers find clever means by which to represent their team's interests as the best interests of the senior managers. If you find yourself as a facilitator of one-way communication, it may be that you're not stepping up to the challenge.

9. You don't deliver tough messages.

One way to avoid being a bad boss is to try to be loved, but being loved is not the same as being respected. Good managers deliver tough messages -- but they do so within the context of a relationship built on trust.

Without trust, tough messages are in the worst case misinterpreted as open hostility and in the best case, simply ignored. When delivered with trust, tough messages have a higher likelihood of hitting the mark.

10. You throw others under the bus.

If you're a manager, the buck must stop with you. Whether you're explaining why your sales team didn't hit its targets, or you're justifying a decision by upper-management to change an incentive plan, the best managers accept responsibility for what happens on their watch.

In the short term, it may bring relief to blame people or circumstances for your short-comings, but in the long run, avoiding responsibility will hurt your credibility on both ends of the totem poll. If the idea of accepting responsibility terrifies you, remember that how you react to a crisis is often more telling than the fact that the crisis occurred. Reacting to mishaps is the good manager's chance to shine.

11. You don't read about management.

Your MBA is not a black-belt, and your education is never finished. Good management is an art in which a teacher never stops being a student. No matter how long you've been in the game, your skill-set still needs to be constantly refined and your assumptions need to be questioned.

12. You genuinely seek feedback.

And you create a culture where giving that feedback to you is acceptable, even encouraged. A senior Google executive once said, "Feedback is a gift: sometimes it is a gift we're fortunate to give, and other times it's a gift we're fortunate to receive."

You don't have to accept all feedback at face value, but if you haven't been made to feel uncomfortable through introspection lately, you may be a Hootie and the Blowfish Album away from being pure suckage.

13. You eschew vulnerability.

Managers send signals about how willing they are to connect, and they are most open when they allow themselves to be vulnerable. Vulnerability, it should be noted, does not equate self-doubt or a lack of confidence. Instead, vulnerability is exposing the most basic elements of the human condition.

If you're not allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then you're preventing the formation of connections with those who work closest to you. Bad managers abhor vulnerability for fear of appearing weak, while good managers use vulnerability as a tool to build trust and meaningful relationships.

Managing a sales team is not the same as managing a boiler room; good management is necessarily context dependent. Nevertheless, one final truism is that bad managers (enforcers) have reports who work for them, while good managers (enablers) work for their reports.

The question now becomes what type of manager are you?

Matthew Carpenter-Arévalo works for an international organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He blogs at carpenterarevalo.com.

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Faisal Shamali

Hello all,
I will be brief telling you about one of my boss's very weak and shaky character and ill managed. He favored people to others which is unfair in ant academic institutes and teaching contexts. Once he was reported by some employees to the one in a higher position. He tried his best to resurrect old hag laws showing us more weaknesses and mal treatment. Too many rules will spoil the relationships between the boss and team. Mutual trust will not be there any longer.

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January 09 2013 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony Deblauwe

The best bosses practice transparency and authenticity. Looking for the strengths in the skills of employees and aligning their work accordingly is always easier than micromanagement or indifference.

July 20 2012 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harry Hurt

I had a bad boss once. I squealed on him to the DEA, got him drug-tested, and ZIP, out he went. Problem solved.

May 27 2012 at 7:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know that I sound like a traitor to my female gender, but some of the worst managers I've known have been women. I have always preferred male managers because they tend to be more reasonable and flexible. They do not seem as prone to the vicious insecurity that plagues so many female managers.

April 18 2012 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Using the noun "reports" to describe workers who answer to a manager is offensively cold.

That said, I lost my job 8 years ago, thanks to a witchy manager who was disliked by everyone on her team, as well as by many others in our department. Karma ruled, however, and 15 months after my dismissal she was let go.

I tried without luck to get a permanent job, doing meaningless temp jobs to earn a bit of money. Then, almost three years to the date of my firing, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I am no longer able to work or drive, due to the complications of MS.

April 17 2012 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was forced from a nice enjoyable department with people I liked working with for over 10 years into a "new" department with a woman that was a total bitch but was brown nosing the manager (who conveniently shifted people to make two new departments with her favorites as supervisors, both who had never been supervisors) Then after 3 months of barely any training (because the work was so demanding) and trying to ask questions she was never around barely, then with a chip on her shoulder she would talk to me like a little child in front of other people I was so frustrated. I tried to talk with her but she never listened. She quickly after a few months gave me my first warning, then a month or two later gave me my final warning (thus skipping a seconding warning) so I made a formal complaint against her and not to soon later they found a reason to let me go. I believe she made up my errors to show I wasn't improving and I worked for that company so many years to have it blow up with one psycho bitch supervisor. Now I've been looking for almost a year for full time work but because of the economy all I can do is work a crappy part time job with partial unemployment. The two things that have held me together is that during my time with all that stress working there with that bad boss I maintained myself professionally and know that I did all that I could to try to stay and the believe in karma for someone who personally and vindictively screwed with my livelihood.

April 17 2012 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debi Roemmich


April 17 2012 at 1:18 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Debi Roemmich's comment

Debi, honey...it's just a single rating on a single article. It means nothing. Let it go. Really.

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1 reply to timberwolf51972's comment
Debi Roemmich

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February 19 2013 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

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