Top 10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Avoid Them

A bad boss can do many things. Although they may be able to contribute to the bottom line for a short while, eventually their effect will spoil any good faith they’ve created for themselves and their company. In this article, we’ll explore the 10 signs of a bad boss and the risks they pose to their employees.

There are many signs of a bad boss and because of this, comes the possibility of a vicious combination that not only makes you hate your job, but also not want to get up in the morning at all.

Let’s face it, we’ve all heard stories that make you appreciate your own work environment. Either that, or you’re the one speaking. Regardless, it’s a universal feeling to want a working environment that isn’t toxic. Working for a horrible boss can make you rethink your career path, can impede on other areas of your life and can even bring on mental illnesses such as depression, when not dealt with.

To avoid this, here is our pick for the top 10 signs of a bad boss. Hopefully providing the red flags to be spotted as early as at the interview.

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Boss -

Image: Business Man, energepic


Micro-management can be a common complaint among employees. Occurring when a boss, manager or person of authority overlooks your work from your shoulder. However, micro-management can become more than just a nuisance and a time waster.

When micro-management occurs, often employees struggle to get much done. This could be for a number of reasons, the most common being; they’re over concentrated on everything being perfect even before the editing phase begins because they’re being constantly scrutinised. This, without doubt, stunts the work process.

It’s said that an effective way to appease a micro-manager is by providing detailed notes on every meeting, call or otherwise. Giving them the allusion that they’re in control and on top of things.

Criticising in public

Any decent boss knows that to have a private conversation with an employee, should be in private. Easily being one of the 10 signs of a bad boss, publically criticizing or public put-downs are reprehensible.

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Whether you’re discussing performance, something professional or personal, discretion is advised. If an employee feels disrespected or under appreciated by the way they’re being spoken to, it can be a great reason to pick up, pack up and move on to their next challenge. Leaving your company behind, forcing to rehire and in a worse off position.

Never saying thank you

Managers that are quick to condemn, but refuse to acknowledge success are often the ones that drive valuable employees away. When something as small as a “well done” goes unsaid, often time’s employees feel devalued and much underappreciated. This is especially bad since they’ve clearly done something good enough that they deserve praise.

Essentially, if you’re a manager… Just show your gratitude for good work. A few small words can be very significant and allow your employees to love the place they work.

Don’t encourage career growth

Let’s be honest, we work to create a better future for ourselves and to one day retire comfortably. To do this, we have to climb the rungs of our industry, upskilling and becoming as valuable as possible. So when an employer doesn’t acknowledge this, it can be frustrating.

By providing adequate room for career growth, an employer can ensure not only success for the individual, but for the company. Through upskilling your employees, the company will benefit by having the most skilled people in their industry, being held in higher regard within your industry and by having individuals that can do more, handle more and therefore, make you more money. It’s a win-win for the individual, the boss and the company.

There just needs to be a culture that fosters growth within the organisation!

Never listening

Unsurprisingly enough, when someone you speak to doesn’t listen, it can become very, very frustrating. So when an employer does this, it can be even more so. Thus the reason it made itself onto the list of the top 10 signs of a bad boss.

By all means, when someone speaks to you, listen. Helpful or not, it will make your staff feel respected and will improve the company culture.

Don’t encourage feedback

Feedback is a cornerstone to improvement. Providing feedback to employees allow them to work to the standards required and ensures professional growth.

A great way to facilitate feedback is through discussion. Speak to your boss as soon as possible (on your first day is perfect) about what they expect from you and to set goals. Once underway, regularly check in and ensure your boss knows you’re interested.

Allowing bullying

It seemingly goes without saying that bullying in the workplace is a no-no. Still, employees often admit that not only does bullying go on in the office, but can be perpetrated by the boss. Although employees are protected by the governments Fair Work initiative, bullying still goes on.

Dealing with bullying situations can be difficult. However, the best way to deal with it is to speak to a separate ‘higher up’ like a supervisor or another manager and let them deal with it. If still nothing changes or if you’re in a small team where the bully is the only superior, proceed to look for other alternatives and people to talk to.

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Boss

Image: The Office’s Dwight Schrute and Michael Scott,  The Rambler

Don’t have a vision

Having a vision for the future is a great quality for a boss. Being more specific, however, not having a vision can become something quite the opposite.

Ideally, your boss should have always guide the team and company in such a way that it works with the overall goals of the company. Knowing this vision, you should be able to see what you’re working towards, the general future of the organisation and understand what’s coming in the company’s future (within reason).

Break their own rules

Another common complaint among employees is that of the rule breaking boss. This boss is the boss that is seemingly never, ever wrong in their own eyes. Despite the fact that they develop rules for the office, they regularly break them with some manager-based reason to do so.

For example, I once had a boss who broke their own rules on a regular basis. Meanwhile, pulling myself and others up for the same ‘crime’. Her defence being, that she’s allowed to do so because she’s the manager and therefore has more on her plate than us mere employees.

Play favourites

Work place favouritism produces animosity among employees. When a manager or a boss has a ‘favourite’, things can go badly very fast. The final of the 10 signs of a bad boss, playing favourites produces a workplace culture that leaves others feeling any number of feelings.

When this favouritism occurs, it’s easy to feel dwarfed by the boss’s teacher’s pet, or just the boss’s best friend. Being unfair to employees, or failing to reward those who perform makes for a workplace that quickly becomes dysfunctional. As an employer, you can combat this by just treating your employees fairly. And for the unfairly treated employee, bring the issue to the attention of the boss.

In Summary

Overall, just because someone shows some of the top 10 signs of a bad boss, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad person. Perhaps bringing them up on some of their bad habits will set alarm bells off in their own head, forcing them to rethink their management style.

Still, a bad boss can be distressing. Sometimes finding a way to impede themselves into your off-time, forcing you to rethink your career or position, and inciting mental health issues. If your boss commits any of the top 10 signs of a bad boss, then beware. But also know that it isn’t the end of the world and there are alternatives. Just don’t get too bogged down or disheartened and instead look to progress yourself outside of work… Whatever that may mean for you.

Glenn Symmons

Glenn Symmons