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3 Worst Traits of Bad Bosses, and How to Protect Yourself


The boss is in charge, and when he points the finger at you, you could get burned. We all make mistakes, so admit your own — but don’t get pushed into accepting the blame for the mistakes of others. Learn to spot bad bosses and protect yourself from their dysfunctional behavior.

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1. They Are Quick to Place Blame

Nobody is perfect. While it is psychologically healthy to examine and learn from our mistakes, it is unlikely that everything bad happening at work is one person’s fault. (And if it is, this person may not last long.)

A bad boss is likely to accept credit for good things and point the finger at others when things don’t work out well. He will engage in irrational thoughts in order to save himself from having to accept responsibility for poor outcomes. The object of his blame might suffer from serious career consequences, if others believe the boss’ story.

While confronting your boss is risky, some experts say that not confronting your boss about being wrongly blamed for things is equally risky. Best practice if you choose to discuss the situation with your boss is to be non-confrontational. Ask questions about why he thinks something is your fault. Going forward, document what you and your team do in order to best defend yourself in the future.

2. They Make Things Personal

A discussion about how well a policy or procedure works should be about the policy or procedure. It should not be about the “stupidity” of the person who suggested the policy or procedure. Some bosses make everything personal, and this can cause others to not offer ideas or suggestions. It causes stagnation in the workplace.

If you find yourself (or anybody else) being scapegoated during a professional discussion, steer the conversation back to the policy or procedure and how it may be improved. Try not to let conversations digress into the personal. If you feel attacked, you may ask why your boss thinks your idea will never work. Sometimes, managers don’t have an answer for this question, which will highlight the fact that it is a petty, personal issue and not professional judgement.

3. They Are Divisive and Set People Against Each Other

Steve Tobak at CBS MoneyWatch defines leadership as “somehow getting people with disparate views to coalesce and execute on goals and plans they would never agree to on their own.” In other words, good leaders get everybody to work together.

If your boss is pitting people against each other or gossiping about one employee to another, this is highly dysfunctional and divisive. Avoid gossip and try to maintain good working relationships with all of your co-workers.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you had to work for a bad boss? How did you protect yourself? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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