3 Ways to Tell If You're a Bad Boss

Is your team fleeing the company like the proverbial rats off the sinking ship? Bad news. The problem might not be your organization. The problem might be you.

bad boss 

(Photo Credit: betsystreeter/Flickr)

Bad managers are the number one reason people leave their jobs, but unfortunately, many organizations don't spend the time and money necessary to train managers to be better. That means that it's totally possible to be a terrible boss -- and not even know it.

Here are a few ways to tell if you're the problem.

1. You're moody.

"I once had a boss that we called 'The Bear'; most people assumed he earned this nickname due to his large stature," writes Maren Hogan at SmartBlog on Leadership. "We actually called him that because you were never sure if you were getting a teddy bear or a grizzly bear from day to day. That guy was all over the place!"

As Hogan points out, if people can't predict your behavior, they can't trust you. And speaking of trust...

2. No one ever tells you things.

Sure, people are naturally cagey around the boss. After all, if they present you with a problem, they're turning over control of a situation. Also, no one likes a tattletale.

Still, if you're always the last to know about a problem, either you have a serious communication and trust breakdown with your people ... or you're clueless. None of those things are good.

3. You can't -- or aren't allowed to -- make decisions.

This is really two problems: one is a failure of decision-making, and the other is lack of support from your higher ups. Both are an issue.

In order to be an effective leader, you need to evaluate options and choose a course of action -- even if you're not 100 percent sure that it's the right choice. Good leaders can do this and take in new information, and change their minds. In effective leaders are indecisive or unable to adapt.

Finally, if your own managers aren't empowering you to make decisions, you need to question whether you'll be able to be the kind of boss you want to be, or your people deserve. If not, maybe it's time to look into moving on to a job where you can really make a difference.

Tell Us What You Think

What was your worst-ever boss like? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


  1. 3 Lou 12 Jun
    Wow, I hope the guy with the brain tumor sued. That's been illegal since Nixon so it baffles me how these psychopaths keep getting away with it.
  2. 2 MoneyButtCHES_Dude 12 Jun

    You are 100% correct when you have Manager to whom not only does not know how to make any decisive decisions, but is all over the place with one thing than the next and shifts and is completely clueless all of a sudden?

    That's why we have lost over several or more people in my direct group due to this behavior and the person still gets promoted to a higher position? Crazy Company to be in in.

  3. 1 Kerry 12 Jun

    Bad bosses?  Geez, hard to pick the worst.  The paranoid conspiracy theorist who used to play with his .357 Magnum on the desk during project meetings and once aimed an elephant hunting rifle at my chest and joked about how the bullet would go through me and the concrete wall behind me?  How about the alcoholic rage addict who wasn't happy unless he reduced at least one secretary or engineering tech to tears every day?  When he tried to provoke me and I didn't take the bait he got so mad he screamed at me and shoved me out of his office.  Or the narcissistic bully who fired a secretary because her husband had cancer and it annoyed him that she took a half day off every other week to take him to chemo (even though she came in Saturdays to make up her time and work.)  He also fired his senior estimator when the guy developed a brain tumor )"I have no use for someone I can't rely on to be here every day" he said.)  The same bully fired me the day after I got back from vacation, claiming I had "not bothered" to call in to explain I had an airline delay and would be a day late returning.  I actually had called in but the secretary that I left my call-in with got into a fight with the boss when he came in that morning and quit in a huff without relaying my message.  Despite my being able to prove I had called in he was too arrogant to back down (had already printed a severance check for me).  Actually, I was thrilled to be fired that day since I knew I would have a cushion of unemployment to continue searching for a better job (which I eventually found and still have 8 years later.)


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