Top 10 tell-tale signs of a bad boss

Good managers praise publicly, criticize privately (and constructively), and do all they can to help others succeed. Then there are these oafs. Read it and wince.

We have all experienced bad bosses.

There are the ones who bully, the ones who only care about themselves and their own career, the cowards who hide behind others, or the ones who drive you mad by trying to tell you how to do your job in minute detail.

Seeing bad bosses in action can be hilarious, but if you are bearing the brunt of a bad boss it is no laughing matter. Bad bosses induce unnecessary stress in the workplace and are a major cause of reduced productivity and performance.

We are often not fully aware why we get stressed out by our bosses; they just make us feel uncomfortable or, worse, completely burnt out. You can spot bad bosses within seconds by what they say, how they say it, and how they and their team behave.

Here are my top 10 signs of a bad boss:

1. The ego-tripper—an arrogant boss who shows off at any opportunity and is in constant need of boosting his or her ego.

2. The coward—a boss who takes on no accountability and often hides behind others.

3. The micromanager—a boss who believes he knows how others should do their jobs, who can’t trust people to just get on with their jobs, and nitpicks everything they do.

4. The incapable—a boss who has been promoted beyond his or her capabilities, has no clue how to do the job, and has lost all respect from subordinates and co-workers.

5. The over-friendly mate—a boss who inappropriately wants to be your best friend.

6. The bad communicator—a boss who is unable to communicate anything effectively, be it the corporate strategy or individual performance feedback.

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7. The plagiarizer—a boss who takes credit for other people’s efforts or ideas and passes them off as his own (especially to his own boss).

8. The negative—a boss who just can’t say anything positive and instead turns everything into doom and gloom.

9. The egocentric—a boss who doesn’t care about the people who work for him and is not interested in helping, coaching, and developing anyone else.

10. The criticizer—a boss who is quick to harp on others’ mistakes without providing constructive feedback.

When you get a boss with one or maybe two of these signs, you can usually work around them (not ideal but doable). Really problematic is when your boss displays several of these symptoms, in which case: Good luck.

Do you agree with the list? Are there other tell-tale signs you would add?

Bernard Marr is a bestselling business author. You can connect with him via Twitter, Facebook and The Advanced Performance Institute. A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.

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This article first appeared on in Nov. 2014.

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