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Are You a Bad Manager?

Topics: Career Advice

You’re rolling along at work, thinking you’re doing fine, when you realize your team is unhappy. What brought this on? You’ve always prided yourself on being a superb leader, a pinnacle of office fortitude and the bossest boss — but your team is still struggling. The problem might be you.

Reality Check: Are You a Bad Manager?

Before you go all Michael Scott on your office, take a moment to reflect. This might be a bit uncomfortable, but if you’re interested in improving as a boss, you need to take a hard look at what’s going on around you to see if you can make some improvements.

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #1: Interviewing

job interview
JD Hancock/Flickr

You’ve probably seen career advice to the effect that a job interview isn’t just about the candidate making a good impression on the hiring manager. It goes both ways, which means that you need to pay attention to the message you’re sending during the meeting. You don’t want to scare off a potential new employee.

Good managers interview by:

  • Practicing active listening. Ask follow-up questions during an interview. “How did you accomplish that? Why did you decide to do it that way?”
  • Letting them speak! Allowing your interviewee to get a few words in shows that you’re not only interested in what they have to say, but that as a boss you’ll be open to hearing their ideas and opinions.
  • Watching the negative emotions. If you were on a first date with someone and all they did was talk about their awful ex, wouldn’t that set off some alarm bells? Talk about what you want the new employee to do, not just what brought down the last person.

These and other signs could be big red flags that send candidates running for the door.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #2: Onboarding

The next step in the boss/employee interaction cycle comes when you bring on that new employee for their first day at the job. Do you make sure that they’re taken care of and carefully onboarded? Or do you throw them in the deep end with the hope they’ll swim like fish?

Good managers onboard by:

  • Having onboarding practices in place. Don’t leave employees to figure it out. Chances are they’ll either forge bad habits, or take too much time from your other staff with questions that should have been answered already.
  • Doing their best to set them up for success. This means having all required badges, equipment and yes, even a nameplate with their properly spelled first and last name, in place on Day 1 — not Day 13.
  • Being available. Don’t welcome the team member then run off back to your own world. Check in. Ask them how they’re doing and if they need anything (and mean it). Make sure they’re not just sitting around wondering what the heck is going on. You can delegate the little stuff, but a new employee might not be able to ask the right person for help on their first days. Be a connector.

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #3: In Sickness or Health


People have lives outside of work, and if you manage people, you better have some idea of what those lives look like. That doesn’t mean prying into their personal business, or encouraging an atmosphere of over-sharing, but it does mean paying attention and being understanding and flexible. Work-life balance means having time for both work and life.

Good managers know:

  • …who’s sick (and send them home). Working sick is never good. Make it clear that you want your people to use their sick days. Getting healthy away outside the office means that your team will be more productive while they’re at work. (It will also keep those germs from spreading.)
  • …who needs help. Reading the room is an important skill for any good manager. And if you’re not taking a moment to pay attention to body language, behavior and eye contact, then you’re missing out. Employees who suddenly start acting differently could be experiencing everything from depression to interpersonal problems with coworkers.
  • …who’s a workaholic. Instead of rewarding those who stay late every day and work all weekend, help them find better work/life balance. This might mean encouraging a “turn it off” policy with computers and phones outside of the 9 to 5. It also means you should lead by example and not ask for replies at midnight.

Good managers solve problems, not cause them. Bosses can bring a lot of stress into the workplace, since they set the pace and goals for their team. If you’re stressing out your team, you’re harming them not only mentally but physically. Help your employees relax after a big push in ways that help them (not ones that are just easy for you, like the ubiquitous pizza party).

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #4: You Don’t Ever Lose

Don’t be a grumpy Dowager Countess and expect the prize for Best Bloom in the Village every year. Recognize great ideas when you hear them and encourage your team members to grow.

Good managers want the best ideas. Here’s how to get them:

  • Invite the smartest people in the room. Bring the right people to the meeting, even if they’re smarter than you. The best bosses lead without ego and allow experience and brilliance to win the day. Great ideas can come from anyone, not just those in charge.
  • Allow others to override you. Don’t expect that your ideas will win the day just because you’re in charge.
  • Brainstorm (and mean it). That whiteboard of ideas can include 99 duds and one winner, but the process of brainstorming is integral to building your team’s camaraderie and internal interactions. When you invite the group to contribute, you’re opening up the floor to ideas other than just one voice, and that’s awesome.

“Groups that practice brainstorming together may also learn how to work together better,” writes Kristen R. Price at Chron. “Your brainstorming sessions will enable you to see certain talents or expertise in your coworkers of which you weren’t aware, which can be a great advantage when you need help in the future.”

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #5: You’re Unkind

Tough love is no love at all. Being loud, angry, aggressive or passive aggressive won’t help you create a good relationship. Instead, lead with compassion, fairness and some regular old understanding and you might find your workforce is more dedicated and loyal than you could ever imagine.

Good managers lead with love:

  • Let your feedback be constructive. You’re not competing with your employee, so why bring them down? Help them do better by opening up a discussion about what’s working, and what’s not. Don’t lead with the wrong; lead with the right.

“Having feedback from your boss is critical to your growth and the mastery of your job,” writes Shelcy V. Joseph at Forbes. “If your boss edits your work without explaining or suggesting ways you can improve, or if they simply approve it and thank you for the work, then it’s a sign they might not be good at giving feedback.”

  • Base your ideas on facts. Unless your employees are actual children, the reason “Because I said so,” has absolutely no place in the modern workplace. If you can’t reasonably explain an answer or order’s purpose, then perhaps your idea isn’t based in reason at all.
  • You actually talk face-to-face. Besides getting time to absorb feedback and get updates, having one-on-one face time with your employees lets managers build trust with staff. You get to know each other, drop some formal barriers and interact like humans do.

You Might Be a Bad Boss Tip #6: You Don’t Encourage Growth

Good managers help lift up by:

  • Finding ways to mentor. Help your team members to grow by inspiring them to become better at their jobs. This might mean scheduling one-to-one meetings, setting goals (and checking in on progress), or encouraging them to move up the ladder.

“Employees have to be able to see that your department’s goals are part of something bigger and that they participate in that forward momentum,” writes Claire LaBrunerie at Patch. “That’s called motivation; and without generating it — when everything is about the manager — you will be branded as a Bad Boss.”

  • Recognizing when someone isn’t a good fit. Making your way through a bad job can be awful, especially if that job just isn’t the right role. Did a position shift focus or add new responsibilities that just aren’t working out for an employee? Help them either build skills or find a position that’s more suitable.
  • Not releasing the hounds. Want someone to move on? Talk to them and create a plan, instead of just shoving the problem to the side. We know it’s hard. But that’s what being in charge is about.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had (or been) a bad boss? What happened? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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