They say the average person spends 30% of their life at work. This is a huge part of your life and if you don’t like what you’re doing it can be a drag on the rest of your existence. One of the main causes of job dissatisfaction is a boss who isn’t good at their job. We’re not talking about the specific tasks and responsibilities of their position, rather we mean their skill at managing people. With this in mind, what exactly makes someone a legitimately bad boss?

A Good Employee Isn’t Always a Good Manager

The root of the problem is that people get promoted because of job performance not because of any perceived leadership skills. Too often people conflate the two but they require different skillsets.
You can look outside the office for examples to illustrate this point. In sports, superstars will retire and sometimes coach/manage or go to work in the front office but have little success. Ted Williams was one of the best baseball players ever but he was a failure as a manager. On the other hand, Sparky Anderson spent all of 19 games in the majors but was one of the best managers the game has ever seen.

Lacks Soft Skills

Most people just don’t have any experience or training in management before they become a boss. The problem is that when you become a manager you’re no longer an individual contributor. You now have to get your work done through others. You’re not managing jobs you’re managing people.
But too often the soft skills needed for success are foreign to managers. Bad bosses aren’t good interpersonally. They can’t communicate well so they give poor direction resulting in subpar results. Poor communication also results in an inability to motivate people to do good work. They don’t listen well which means they don’t really understand issues or what’s going on with their staff so they are unable to solve problems effectively. They don’t know how or are uncomfortable delegating which impedes workflow and ends in missed deadlines.


Bad bosses are arrogant and look down on others. They think of their reports as faceless drones and don’t value their input. They can’t or refuse to appreciate others’ time. For example, scheduling meetings wily nily or calling upon staff to help them with something even though that person may need to finish one of their own tasks.

The Few, The Proud

They don’t take the time to get to know the quality of everyone on the team or their work. They seem to pick one or two people to be their favorites based on some vague criteria they have and only focus on them and their growth. The result, of course, is that the rest of the team feel hopeless about being recognized and rising in the company. When this happens employees tend to leave for other opportunities.

All Work and No Play

One of the reasons people get promoted in organizations is by putting long hours into their jobs because they’re driven and live to work. Employers like this, for good reason, and many times reward it with promotion. Many people, reasonably, work to live – the opposite ethos of their managers. Bad bosses aren’t empathetic and expect their reports to share their mindset and give themselves to the organization as well. Not only isn’t this always necessary but it also results in low morale and resentment. On the other hand, sometimes bosses are workaholics but don’t expect their people to be. The problem is that they don’t demonstrate or communicate this effectively to their staffs so the problem is still there.


Another bad trait is having a deep belief that he/she knows everything and better than the rest of us. Successful leaders realize they can’t know and do everything well so they hire people that can and delegate to them. Bill Gates was once asked what was the best thing he did for business that year. He replied, “That’s easy. I hired a lot of smart people.”  Bad bosses are threatened by people they think are smarter than them. They think that person will constantly argue or question decisions or even end up taking their job. Being a know-it-all boss hurts morale by breeding insecurity and resentment in the staff because they will either feel that their contributions aren’t worth much or that their input isn’t being valued highly enough.

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