What makes a Bad Boss?

Does your boss motivate you? If you answered yes, then consider yourself to be one of the lucky few. Do you think your boss is arrogant, lazy, incompetent or plain useless? If this is your reality, you may find some consolation in knowing that unfortunately you are not alone. Having a bad boss is a major reason why many people leave their jobs.

We are all different and respond to a variety of stimuli and management styles. For this reason there will not be a general consensus on what constitutes a bad manger. There are of course many different types of bad bosses. So what makes a bad boss bad and what can you do about it? Following on from “How to Deal with Difficult Colleagues” here are the ABCs of dealing with Bad Bosses.

3 Generic Bad Boss Categories

1. Technically proficient but no management skills
People tend to respect this type of boss for their product, industry and technical knowledge even if they don’t agree with their management style. Most people are able to live with this type of boss as they are willing to forego an ideal manager as long as their own skill sets is improving.

2. Great people person but weak product knowledge
These managers can still be liked by their more technically skilled coordinates as long as they don’t interfere with their work.

3. Neither of the above
This is the sort of boss who makes their team wonder how on earth they got to a senior position. Regrettably, they are very common. If you fall into this category here are some tips to help you cope.

5 Bad Boss Profiles & Suggested Approaches for Each

Absent Boss Profile – As the name suggests the Absent Boss is never around, goes missing in action or is just too busy to deal with you.
Approach – Get on their radar and muscle your way into their diary. Establish a routine for communication and stick to it. Remind them of your meetings. Maximise the little face time you do have by being prepared. Imagine you have to communicate in the form of headlines and bullet points. This may require effort on your part but your boss will respect you for it.

Box Boss Profile – The Box has no original thought and is not open to change or new ideas.
Approach – Be prepared to have your well thought out and researched innovative idea shot down. Expect the Box not to be able to grasp new concepts let alone revolutionary ideas. You either wait for the next round of promotions/downsizing or escalate your idea above the Box.

Controlling Boss Profile – This person is a control freak. They will not allow you to be independent or proactive.
Approach – They expect you to ask for permission to go to the loo and so will not be happy to have you say or do anything original or creative. This person micro manages and wants to be in charge of every task. Try reassuring them by detailing the steps you have taken, what still needs to be addressed and any issues that may have arisen.

Delicate Boss Profile – A Delicate Boss avoids conflict at all cost, is vague in their approach and keeps changing goal posts.
Approach – They may want to avoid conflict as a way of being liked by everyone. If you need to confront them ensure you make them feel appreciated beforehand. If they are not providing enough direction ask them to be clearer in what is expected.

Self Endorsing Profile – The Self Endorsing boss is a self promoter who has their own best interests at heart.
Approach – Think of them as a politician who can’t be trusted (no disrespect!). You will get their support by making them see what’s in it for them and emphasise how good they will look to their seniors. They may well be flaky so try to document any decisions. Expect them to have strategic pets so enjoy the ride and don’t take it personally when you are dropped for the next favourite.

6 Easy Steps to Help you Deal with a Bad Boss

1. Change your perspective. If you continue to think of your boss as an idiot that’s what they will remain. Think of your boss as your boss. Your own attitude may be causing stress and not your boss.
2. Manage your boss. Learn what they like and don’t like and adapt accordingly.
3. Accept that they will not change. If you change your approach with some luck they will follow suit.
4. You don’t have to like your boss. You don’t have to be best friends. You do need to maintain a professional working relationship.
5. Document everything. Better safe than sorry in case you need it at a later date.
6. You have the power. By controlling your attitude and actions you will be in a better position to manage any situation and make wise choices.

Remember that it is crucial to separate the behaviour from the person. It is possible that your manager is a great person and a bad boss. Whilst this of course serves no purpose it helps to humanise the relationship and demystify expectations. Your boss may have temporary stressful moments which are totally understandable and common, yet this is not an excuse to hide behind inadequate behaviour.

Do you suffer from Bad Boss syndrome? What bad bosses have you had to endure? I look forward to hearing about your bad boss tales.

Written by Ana Antunes da Silva.

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156 Responses to “What makes a Bad Boss?”

  1. Jem says:

    Great post. I'm shortly going to be a boss, and am now terrified I'll be a bad boss! Any tips for new bosses?

    • Congratulations!! That is very exciting!
      There is no magic formula for being a great manager there are however a few things you can keep in mind. One of them is that being a good boss is very different to being a good co-worker. As a manager people look up to you for advice and guidance. Think back to the bosses you’ve had and make bullet points of what you liked and disliked about them. This will help identify your management style.
      Secondly, gain control and a solid understanding of the work and projects that are going on rather than focusing immediately on managing the team. Knowing your product will give you authority and credibility. Above all, I think the main thing is to treat others like you would like to be treated. This is a simple premise that can take you a very long way.
      As I write, I realise this topic would make a great new blog. Thank you! You are already putting to use one of the most important characteristics of a good leader, the power to inspire others!

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    Heya from Greece! I have found your url on aol. Good content! Nancy D. Murphy x

    • Ana says:

      A big hello from London to Greece. Sorry it took so long to get there! I am thrilled you like this post. Have you read any of the other posts on here? It would be great to hear your thoughts.

  4. […] factors that can contribute to a downbeat environment at work. I have written about how to handle Bad Bosses and Difficult Colleagues and this time I am going to write all about you and how to keep yourself […]

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    • Ana says:

      Thank you for your comments Jaimie. I am delighted you enjoy reading my posts. If you think of a specific topic you would like to read about please do let me know.

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      I Aaron. Thanks for the heads up. Could you please let me know if the problem still persists? If so, what browser are you using? Hope you enjoy the posts!

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