Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
28 Jul 2011

Are you a horrible boss?

28 Jul 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Bad bosses of the world

If you’ve ever had a job, then the chances are you’ve had a horrible boss at one point. Chastised employees have several options available to them, from resignation letters, to switching departments; but murder is rarely considered. It's ‘horrible boss syndrome’, and not better salaries, that is the leading reason why people quit jobs. 

Yelling at staff. Taking credit for others’ work. Using offensive language. These are the qualities of the bad bosses of the world.
While these are definitely signs of horrible managers, the reality is that the most common blunder supervisors make are far less obvious. And these mistakes can prove costly as the jobs market improves and risk of staff turnover grows. Could you be a bad boss and not realise it?

Consider how you would handle the following situations:

Welcoming honest feedback

You’re about to launch a new initiative, and you tell your staff you welcome any and all feedback - negative as well as positive comments. But is that really the case? If you’ve taken criticism personally in the past or failed to follow through on your staff’s recommendations, you’ve sent the message that you don’t really want any input from employees. 

Just because everyone stays silent or agrees with what you say doesn’t mean they’re being candid or they’re on board with your plans, either. 

Consider the way you handle failures. If someone’s approach to a task doesn’t go as well as anticipated, make sure you treat it as a learning experience rather than disapproving.

Ensuring mums not the word

Big changes are on the horizon at your firm, but you feel it’s best not to inform staff now or they may become overwhelmed or, in the case of bad news, lose motivation or quit. So, you say nothing. 

Chances are, word of what’s ahead will spread through the office grapevine anyway and reports may be worse than the real facts. For instance, expansion with the opening of a new office in another city may lead some to the erroneous conclusion that you’re closing your current location.

When you fail to keep employees in the loop, you’re essentially telling them that you doubt their ability to make creative and productive use of the information. While you may not be able to let them in on every detail about developments right away, try to reveal what you can when you can.

Letting go

Your company has landed a major account and you’ve assigned one of your employees to oversee it. However, because this is such a key client, you stay actively involved in all activity related to that client. You attend meetings, request to be included in all correspondence and ask for all the details about the work done for that company. 

While it’s good to stay on top of your employees’ progress, if you’re too 'hands-on' with their assignments, you’re micro-managing. That can deplete morale because it says you don’t believe your staff can do their work properly. 

As a manager, you should be focused and spending most of your time on bigger picture issues, anyway. So, step back and make sure you’re delegating full authority to those given new projects. 

Going MIA (missing in action)

In the mirror image of the situation above, you’re so busy that the last thing you have time to do is micromanage. Instead, you take a completely hands-off approach, removing yourself from all aspects of your employees’ daily assignments. Your office door is always closed so you can focus on your own work.

In this situation, staff members often have major question marks about next steps with their responsibilities. If you aren’t accessible or you take a long time responding to voice and email messages, people may feel you don’t want to hear from them. They may believe you don’t care about their questions or needs. Employees may even feel they’re being set up for failure, which can heighten stress, frustration and the chance for turnover. 

To avoid this problem, offer clearly defined goals at the outset of a project and always ask if those involved have all of the information they need to move forward. Make certain there are no misunderstandings. And conduct a reasonable amount of follow-up during the course of any initiative. 

Make a point of setting aside time to interact with staff regularly and let them know how to best reach you when it’s particularly busy or when you’ll be out of the office. Consider assigning someone to serve as your backup when employees need advice during especially hectic times.

Telling the truth with tact

You believe you’re good about giving criticism privately to employees because you never do it in meetings or in front of others. But you do discuss problems or mistakes when stopping by someone’s cubicle, in the canteen or in hallways. 

It may seem that no one is around, particularly if you’re very focused on the topic at hand, but chances are, others may overhear what you’re saying if you’re not behind closed doors. The end result can be incredibly embarrassing for the employee being criticised or, at the very least, making the person uncomfortable in the fact that the issues were being discussed so openly. 

Finally, assess your overall attitude about your job and ask for feedback from your team on how you’re doing as a manager. Employees will follow the leader, so you need to be energetic and enthusiastic about your work. As the job market improves in many professions, make sure your behavior isn’t giving your staff a reason to consider jumping ship. Ultimately, your mood will rub off on those who report to you.