We’ve all had bad bosses. I used to have a theory that there was a training camp for bad bosses, who were really just well-meaning people who were taught to act as horrendous as possible and then sprinkled throughout the job market just to teach us the hard lessons, toughen us up, and help us appreciate the good bosses who would come along later. The reality is, most bosses are well-meaning people (okay, some are probably just jerks) who don’t ever intend to become “bad” employers, and who might not even know they are.
So what exactly does a bad boss look like? Here’s a rundown of what it takes to be one, in the hopes that you’ll use this info to avoid going down the road of the loathed employer.
- Play favorites
We are certainly not advocating for a socialized workplace; rewards, recognition, and the competition they inspire not only keep work fun and interesting, they keep employees on their toes, striving to do their best. What we don’t recommend is showing preference to certain employees over others based on things like seniority or personal relationships. Just because someone has been with your company for 18 years doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve a bigger bonus at the end of the year. Neither does your husband’s niece just for being your husband’s niece. Hand out rewards, accolades, and bonuses based solely on merit. End of story.
- Be super controlling
Micro-management is the bread and butter of bad bosses. It’s one thing to be actively involved in every area of your company’s doings (you should be), but it’s entirely another thing to hover over employees’ shoulders, monitoring and criticizing every little task on their to-do list. This includes requesting to be copied on emails or included in conference calls and meetings that don’t directly involve you. Part of your job as head of your company or division is to find competent, amazing people to work with you. People you can trust to do a job. So if you’ve done your job correctly, you don’t have to watch like a hawk as they do theirs. It creates an utterly stressful work environment, devoid of the trust it takes to truly work as a team.
- Be totally absent
On the other hand, being too hands-off is another symptom of very bad bossing. Sure, you have your own job responsibilities to see to, but being present for your team and being involved in the day-to-day operations of your company are included in those responsibilities. Negligent bosses put “management” on their to-do list for the day; “Check in with employees”, whereas excellent employers integrate management into every part of their day, taking as many opportunities as possible to unite, guide, inspire, focus, and assist their team.
- Use condescending nicknames
No one appreciates being called “sport” or “champ”. Ick. Don’t do it.
- Be a dictator
While the final word on many decisions might fall to you, that’s no reason to feel like you are not obligated to provide an explanation. One big part of your job is to help your employees be better at their jobs, and to be a guiding force for the company. So when you issue a decision about a project (or anything, really) explaining your reasoning behind it doesn’t make you look weak and apologetic (as the Bad Boss Handbook would have you believe); it opens up your train of thought to your employees, which will only help them better understand what the overall goals really are, and how best to get there. You want your employees on the same page as you, or at least to understand which page you’re on. Being a dictatorial boss who hands down judgments with no explanation will do nothing but hold your team back from progress, and make you look like, well, a totally bad boss.