You Might Be a Bad Boss If . . .

By Margaret Morford


Most people enter the world of management with very little fanfare and almost no training. Someone simply walks into their office and tells them, “We’ve decided to promote you,” and then gives them some people to manage with no tools to take on this mammoth task. Most Bad Bosses don’t intentionally want to be bad mangers, but they may unconsciously do things that drive down morale and drive up turnover – things they would change if they only knew about these workplace irritants. Some of them are very small things that are talked about throughout the organization. Some of them are huge issues that permanently damage the manager’s reputation.


Listed below are a few to test about yourself. The scoring is simple. Look back over your last year as a manger. For each item, give yourself a point for each time you have done this to any employee. Unfortunately, there is no maximum score!


You might be a Bad Boss if . . .

  • You gave an employee a compliment that contained the word “but.” This is really an ambush, not a pat on the back.
  • An employee had to determine your mood before he/she came to talk to you. Some bosses joke about this, but it is not funny if you are the employee trying to cope with this dynamic in the workplace.
  • You ask an employee to tell a lie for you or to cover for you. You force the employee to accept your standards of conduct with no regard for their own. If the employee respects you, he/she will always try to cover for you and show you in the best light possible. You will never earn loyalty by forcing it.
  • You posted several jobs internally and no one bids on them. Everyone knows who the bad managers are in their organization and will avoid them like the plague, even for a promotional opportunity. Bad Bosses always have to recruit someone off the street that doesn’t know about them yet in order to fill their open positions.
  • None of the ideas that have been implemented in your department have come from any of your employees. Either you are not open to new ideas or you are a very poor listener.
  • Your first indication you had a problem was when a governmental entity contacted you. While all managers get sued at some point in their careers, you are really out of touch with the people you manage if the governmental investigation, charge or lawsuit surprises you. Even if you cannot prevent it, you should know it is going to happen long before it does.
  • An employee has to ask for his/her performance review. All full-time employees work at least 2,080 hours annually for their managers. A good, accurate performance appraisal is the least a manager owes an employee for all that work. When employees have to ask for it, it communicates how unimportant all their work is.
  • You took a phone call or allowed someone to interrupt an employee’s annual performance review meeting. (See above explanation.)
  • You drink coffee, but rarely make a pot of coffee. This may seem very trivial, but employees really get mad about this because it is a subtle way of telling them they are your servants.
  • Employees primarily communicated with you by voice mail or e-mail rather than face-to-face. Particularly watch for those messages that often come in before you get into work, after you go home or when employees know you are out of the office. Your employees will do anything to avoid dealing with you.
  • The people that work for you disagreed with you less than 12 times this past year (at least once a month). When this happens, your employees have given up on their relationship with you. It is not worth the effort and you have sucked any passion they have for the work out of them.
  • You hold the same position you did a year ago, but are making more decisions than you did a year ago. Good managers train and develop their people to take on increasing responsibilities and to make bigger and bigger decisions. Good manager relinquish authority to those that work for them rather than micromanage them.
  • You gave an employee an emergency deadline because of a project that had been sitting on your desk for a week or more. If you do not understand why this would irritate your employees, get some coaching immediately. You are a Bad Boss!

Look at the areas that you had particularly high scores and recognize these are your weakest areas as a manager. Get some training and/or coaching so you drive down turnover, retain good employees and dramatically increase job satisfaction for all your direct reports

Margaret Morford was a keynote speaker in the Skill Development track of Conference 2010, presenting Management Courage – having the Heart of a Lion and The Savvy Owl – Politics, Power and Influence – What They Don’t Teach You in Business School. Morford is president of The HR Edge, Inc, an international management consulting and training firm. She is the author of the book, Management Courage – Having the Heart of a Lion.

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