Having to work under a tyrannical boss can drive anyone insane. You dread coming to work; you lose your breathing space to your boss’ breathing down your neck the whole day, you’re always in defence mode because you could be attacked any second without warning…
The good news? According to a recent University of Central Florida study, people who’ve worked under horrible bosses are also likelier to be good bosses when they receive leadership opportunities.
With that in mind, whether you’re already in a managerial position or are eyeing one in the future, you need to know what makes a bad boss bad. Here are the six worst traits of bad managers that’ll drive just anyone up the wall.
P.S. Be the kind of boss you wish you had: learn how to manage yourself, guide others, and lead with empathy with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on applying emotional competence to manage self and others in a business context!
Bad managers don’t realise that they’re bad. In 2018, a study by The Predictive Index found that most problematic management habits are rooted in a lack of self-awareness.
This is telling; self-awareness is a huge component of emotional intelligence (EQ), which suggests that bad managers generally have low EQ.
It makes sense; so many other crucial leadership traits, such as empathy, hinge upon self-awareness. If you’re unaware of your own thoughts and feelings, you won’t be aware of others’ either, much less be able to manage them well.
Bad managers are self-serving. Instead of putting the needs of the team front and centre at all times, bad managers prioritise their own needs above everyone else’s.
A 2012 study by Stockholm University has shown that self-serving leaders have significant adverse effects on employees mental health, including symptoms of depression.
These are the managers who take credit for other people’s work, behave as though they’re above reproach, and lead by force instead of by example.
It comes down to having the wrong attitude and mindset about leadership. Treating it as a right instead of a duty breeds arrogant and self-centred management.
Bad managers always think they know best. As a consequence of being self-absorbed, they’re uninterested in listening to their employees’ opinions or feedback.
They also tend to be unwilling to empathise with their people. To them, what need is there to listen and understand when all that’s left to do is “do as I say”?
When managers turn a deaf ear to their employees’, they fail to meet their needs and spur employee disengagement. If you feel that your needs as an employee are being neglected and that your input has very little value, you won’t feel valued, motivated, or engaged at work.
Bad managers gossip about their employees. Nothing creates an atmosphere of distrust at work like finding out that your boss has been badmouthing you to another co-worker.
Often unhesitant about playing favourites in the office, these kinds of managers worsen office politics by intentionally pitting employees against one another.
Worst of all, managers who do this destroy any sense of psychological safety at work. By putting their employees in a state of perpetual self-defensiveness, they also kill collaboration and severely weaken team spirit.
Bad managers can’t relinquish control and delegate authority to their employees. Back in 2008, Google’s Project Oxygen found that micromanagement was one of the biggest reasons for pushback against management.
When people feel don’t feel autonomous at work, they get the sense that they’re not being trusted or respected enough to do their job well. This, in turn, puts a major dampener on morale and engagement.
Unlike the previous items on the list, though, micromanagement is less rooted in toxic beliefs. According to a 2017 Forbes article, 48% of leaders micromanage because they fear feeling unneeded and irrelevant.
Hence, they turn to micromanaging to feel justified in their leadership roles instead of sharpening their leadership skills.
Bad managers don’t communicate well with their people. Specifically, they either don’t give enough feedback, or they give too much of it.
The same study by The Predictive Index mentioned above also found that the lowest-rated managers were those who didn’t give feedback at all and those who gave too much of it.
This is understandable; too little feedback conveys relative apathy about employee development, but too much of it is suffocating and overbearing.
The best employees know how to appreciate constructive criticism; waiting until the yearly performance review to give it isn’t going to sit well with them.