What Traits Define a Bad Boss?

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Even if you can choose your job, you can’t always choose your boss. If you’re doing your best but can’t seem to achieve the success you imagined for yourself, the problem may not be you — it might be your boss. Here’s a list of personality traits that should be red flags when you’re determining the quality of the leadership in your company and possible roadblocks to your career.

1. Abrasive communication style

Your boss might be missing the key management skills if he or she cannot communicate a concern or a problem without yelling. This habit has really stressed out most employees. The tension that a raised voice creates chases away qualified employees who may have been of great help to the business. Turnover is high, business performance goes down, and no one wants to admit what’s really harming the bottom line.

2. Poor planning skills

The saying goes that poor planning in one area often creates an emergency in another. Some bosses do not bother to anticipate concerns that you may have down the road, while others ignore planning altogether. Without a solid plan, teams find themselves exhausted after constantly jumping from crisis to crisis. Even the best employees can lose track of their priorities or lose productivity. Everyone suffers when their boss operates one step away from disaster. If your boss is unable to step up and offer common goals and direction, the department and organization will suffer. At this point, the replacement or training of the boss should be a serious consideration.

3. Expects you to be a mind reader

It would be great if we all had extrasensory perception. We’d be able to anticipate our boss’ every need before it was expressed — which would certainly cut down on meetings! The bad news is that mindreading is impossible. No employee should be expected to have this level of attentiveness. A boss who is this demanding will definitely be setting you up to fail if they constantly expect you to know what’s next without sharing information. The best boss is able to communicate their expectations to employees, without micromanaging or becoming too controlling. Good bosses realize that great results depend on good communication, not superhuman powers.

4. Lack of decision-making abilities

If you’ve ever had to work for a boss who can’t make clear decisions, you’ll know that it feels like being in a boat without a rudder. No one knows exactly what’s happening, and without that direction, it’s hard to create the momentum you need to achieve real success. We all make mistakes, and that’s a given. It’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them, but if a boss is constantly avoiding making decisions, it should be a warning sign. Sometime ramifications can go beyond the decisions at hand, this mostly happens when the boss is not a good leader. Lacklustre leaders don’t have the skills to inspire a team or communicate effectively with C-suite influencers. This can negatively affect everybody on the team when the time for promotions, bonuses, or raises comes in.

5. Takes credit for the good and passes blame for the bad

This is the most reported complaint about difficult bosses. If you find out that your boss has the habit of passing the buck when things get out of hand, and they are the first to take all the credit when things go well, prepare yourself for some deeply uncomfortable situations. There is no need to work in an environment where you’re left with all the blame for mistakes but none of the rewards of a job well done.

6. Cannot provide constructive criticism

It should always be a bad sign if your boss does not find time to offer actionable feedback when you do something wrong. Your boss should at least provide insights regarding how you can improve and become a better employee. Good leaders know that the best results don’t come out of thin air. Providing mentorship and directions for employees is not only a crucial part of success, it is the foundation of excellent communication skills.

7. Arrogance

When bosses don’t listen to team members who are facing the company’s challenges head-on, problems spread like wildfire. Employees soon learn that their boss doesn’t care what they think, and then morale goes down as cynicism and apathy increases. The most difficult thing about bosses who carry this trait is that it’s nearly impossible for them to understand how their attitude is affecting the workplace. They refuse to listen to common sense or experienced, dedicated employees, and everyone stops caring about performance.

8. Uncaring

If you’re in an emergency situation and have to take the day off work, you don’t want to feel like your boss is calling every hour to see when you’ll be back in the office. Even an ineffective boss knows that employees have personal needs that can’t always be taken care of outside business hours. Bosses who do not care about your welfare should have you checking for new work opportunities.

9. Uses fear tactics

Whenever you see bosses motivating employees with intimidation, this is a sign that they don’t have the necessary skills to be in a leadership role. Quite often, bosses who resort to bullying had managers who used similar techniques with them. The problem is that badgering or hounding employees might bring short-term results, but your company will have higher turnover and lower productivity in response.

10. Loves Attention

The worst kind of boss is the one who gives the best projects and credit to those who suck up to them. Not only do they love the teacher’s pet, but instead of spending time developing their team, they’ll suck up to those in the position above them. If employees are creating substandard work, it won’t be a problem in their eyes, as long as they make their boss look good. This is the quickest way for a department to perform poorly and miss targets.


Some bosses are challenging, and others are locked into patterns that will do more to hold back your achievements instead of encouraging them. If your boss uses some of these negative management habits, you need to be realistic about their impact on you and your company. Sometimes finding a new job or manager is possible, but if you’re locked into your current situation, don’t lose hope. Identifying their patterns or shortcomings can be enough to allow you to find a way to work around them. Watch carefully, do a little analysis, and discover exactly what kind of boss you’re working for.

Author Bio: Taylor Ryan is an American entrepreneur living in Copenhagen, Denmark. He’s a 6x Startup Founder and currently running ArchitectureQuote – Saas Platform for Architects and Digital Marketing Agency – KlintMarketing. He’s the lead instructor of Growth Secrets – 2 day Growth-Hacking masterclass. Keynote speaker, Growth-Hacker, CEO, Mentor, and Start-up Junkie.

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