Bad Boss Awards: 15 Signs You Might be the Winner and What You Can Do About It

You may not think there are that many bad bosses out there. But think again: Clearly, the idea of a horrible boss rings true with enough people that the movie Horrible Bosses was a hit, spawning Horrible Bosses 2. (Rumors of a Horrible Bosses 3 remain just rumors as of this writing, but there seems to be a lot of interest among the movie-going public.) You know what’s almost worse than having a horrible boss? The thought that you might be a horrible boss.

“Impossible,” you think. “I’m a great boss. My employees love me!”



Bad Boss Characteristics

Are you sure? Really sure? A new study by Comparably surveyed more than 2,000 employees to find out what their pet peeves are about bad bosses. The survey identified five negative traits that are pretty much universally hated in a boss.

Comparably, which provides workplace compensation and culture data to help people make smart job choices, also dug a bit into the differences in what men and women, as well as employees from different generations, dislike most in their bosses. Here’s a look at five Bad Boss Awards you don’t want to be in the running for — and what you can do if you are.

Honorable Mention: Impatient

You might be impatient if…

  • When you “walk and talk” to employees, they get out of breath trying to keep up.
  • You can’t wait the 38 seconds it takes for your microwave burrito to heat up.
  • You’re already at the bottom of this blog post because you couldn’t wait to find out what the No. 1 Bad Boss Award is for.

How to get over it

Impatience can actually be a valuable trait for entrepreneurs; it motivates us to get things done. However, if you feel your impatience is having a negative effect on your team, doing some mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises at your desk can help you slow down a bit.

Honorable Mention: Know-it-all

About 15% of employees dislike know-it-all bosses, while 9% can’t stand impatient bosses.  (Most of us are pretty impatient these days, which might be why this characteristic ranked last on the list.)

You might be a know-it-all if:

  • You can’t resist the urge to top an employee’s story about meeting Paul McCartney with a bit of trivia about the Beatles’ early years.
  • Employees’ eyes frequently glaze over when you’re talking.
  • Your first thought on reading this is, “Well, I do know it all.”

How to get over it

The key to eliminating this annoying trait is to be aware you’re doing it. Learn how to bite your tongue and count to 10 when you feel the urge to share non-urgent knowledge. You can even tell a trusted business partner or assistant what you’re trying to do and ask them to give you a secret signal when you’re slipping into the know-it-all zone.

Bronze Medal: Overly critical

Some 22% of employees overall dislike employers who are overly critical. This type of bad boss is especially unpopular among female workers: 20% of women, as compared to 17% of men, hate having overly critical bosses.

You might be overly critical if…

  • Employees never look happy after a conversation with you.
  • You frequently find yourself raising your voice.
  • You can’t remember the last time you gave an employee a compliment on a job well done.

How to get over it

It’s going to sound awkward, but the only way to get better at giving praise is to actually do it. Set yourself a goal to offer at least three positive comments to an employee for every criticism that you utter. Yes, it’s going to seem fake at first, but practice makes perfect. Also consider whether all of those criticisms are legitimate, or whether some are just the result of micromanaging. In general, if you must criticize employees, always make it constructive criticism and deliver it in private — not in front of the team.

Silver Medal: Disorganized

Overall, 16% of employees in the survey complained about disorganized bosses. However, disorganization was the top complaint of Generation Z employees, cited by 26% of them, which makes it the number-one complaint among Gen Z workers. Disorganization may have a disproportionate effect on younger workers, who are more likely to be in entry-level positions and less able to overcome the challenge of a disorganized boss.

You might be disorganized if…

  • You haven’t seen the top of your desk since before the Great Recession.
  • You use so many Post-It® Notes you should probably buy stock in 3M.
  • You call an all-hands meeting. . .and then forget why.

How to get over it

There are professional organizers who will come in and whip you into shape. However, for the seriously disorganized, the best solution is to delegate. Have an assistant who organizes everything for you, or a business partner who’s as methodical as you are undisciplined.

Gold Medal: Micromanager

Being a micromanager is the most-hated trait a boss can have. Nearly four in 10 (39%) of respondents overall, including 44% of men and 32% of women, chose this as their least favorite kind of boss. In addition, except for entry-level workers, employees at every level say a micromanager is the worst boss to have.

You might be a micromanager if . . .

  • You follow up with employees on job duties frequently — more than once a day is too much.
  • You frequently find yourself standing over an employee’s workstation looking at what they’re doing.
  • You’ve had employees redo work just because it’s not the way you would do it.

How to get over it

Some of my best friends are recovering micromanagers, and while it’s not easy to make the change, it is possible.

  • The biggest step is being aware of the behavior. Catch yourself when you’re about to tell an employee how to do something — and don’t do it unless they’ve asked you to.
  • Give employees goals, the tools to accomplish them, and enough direction to get them started — then let them decide how to get there. After all, that’s what you hired them for, isn’t it?

Do you recognize even one of these Bad Boss tendencies in your own behavior? Take steps now to nip it in the bud — or your employees might just be presenting you with an unwanted trophy one of these days.

Photo via Shutterstock

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