I did a quick poll of my friends and coworkers, asking for bad boss horror stories. Most people had relatively tame ones -- bosses rechecking their work, being flighty or generally being unprepared to handle (and therefore explain) the responsibilities of a job. Personally, I experienced situations as strange as an upper manager named Dave who only promoted people named Dave (and one named Davena), a director who routinely made me – an administrative assistant -- smell the bathrooms (don’t ask), and a supervisor who would lose his train of thought in the middle of instructions to me and replace whatever else he had intended to say with the word “thing.” Example: “Jennifer, we have the meeting at twelve, so I need you to-- thing.”
Other people polled had more … intense… experiences: extreme micromanagement, screaming, throwing people under the bus and physical threats. Wow.
The saying goes, “People quit managers, not jobs.” According statistics compiled by LinkedIn , “Three-out-of-four employees report their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job,” and “The average organization is 50% as productive as it should be, thanks to less-than-optimal leadership practices.”
A company may be amazing, with excellent benefits, a great salary and a fun work environment, but if a manager makes life miserable for an employee, none of that matters. If that employee was talented, trained and dedicated, losing them is a loss for the whole company. The result of a bad manager: missed opportunities and financial losses for both employer and employee.
First off, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it: Nobody should be physical threatened or physically threatening on the job. That is illegal, and your HR department should have procedures in place for dealing with such threats, including involving the authorities. If you feel unsafe, extract yourself from the situation!
This extreme example aside, here are a few other bad boss behaviors that drive employees crazy (and away from a company).
Micromanaging: There is nothing that will deflate your confidence more than knowing your manager is watching every step you take, waiting to pounce on your first mistake (real or imagined).
Taking all the credit: These are the bosses who expect you to applaud while they accept awards and promotions for all of your hard work.
Taking none of the credit: You feel like you might as well just stay under the bus for all the times a manager like this throws you there. The successes are theirs, and the failures are someone else’s.
Being brutally honest – with an emphasis on brutal: Somehow, this extreme honesty never extends to compliments. These bosses throw performance feedback at you like a brick and believe that any kind of praise will make you too complacent.
Making people scramble: Tight deadlines and changing procedures are part of most jobs and businesses these days. But it’s the boss’s job to try to mitigate these stressors, not make them worse.
Lacking empathy: Now more than ever, it is abundantly clear that life happens, and we can’t be prepared for everything. Having a manager who lacks flexibility and understanding can add to already intense life pressure.
Employees: what can you do if you find yourself working for one of these characters?
Managers: What can you do to avoid becoming one of these characters?
Being a strong leader and manager takes time and ongoing effort. Unfortunately for everyone, it is more noticeable and difficult when a manager slips up than when one employee does. When you can, use these slip-ups as a learning opportunity. And finally, most importantly-- thing.