[ Skip Main Nav ]

Career articles

7 signs you're a bad boss

Bad boss

You enter the lunchroom, and discussion among your employees halts. They drop eye contact with you, and then everyone scurries away. You get the feeling they were talking about you.

Recognize the scenario? “It may be because you’re a bad boss,” says Anthony Di Gaetano, an instructor in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus. Here are seven signs that you may need a managerial makeover:

Your staff lacks guidance.

If your employees work overtime, but projects are completed haphazardly or you constantly make staffers redo work, you’re probably giving poor instructions, explains Erich Grubert, area chair for business programs at the University’s Des Moines Campus.

How to improve: Provide written outlines of employees’ individual project responsibilities, says Grubert, a former project manager.

Employees avoid you.

When direct reports go to colleagues for work-related information, that means they don’t want to deal with you or may not trust the information you give, says Di Gaetano, a former human resource manager.

How to improve: Meet in small groups to answer questions about projects, he suggests.

It’s all about you.

A sure way to “breed mistrust between you and employees,” Grubert says, is to take credit for your staff’s work.

How to improve: Praise the good work of employees in a newsletter or staff meeting, or give assignments with increased responsibilities that play to your staffers’ skills.

You publicly pounce on staff.

“I once had a manager tell another employee that everything [he] did sucked, and [he wasn’t] good at anything — in a large meeting,” Grubert recalls. The employee’s infraction? Improperly collating and stapling a report.

How to improve: Give feedback regularly, and in private, Grubert stresses. Also, if you’re quick-tempered, take a breath when an employee makes a mistake, Di Gaetano advises, and say, “We’ll discuss this later.”

You play favorites.

If you mentor or sabotage employees based on whether you like them, your staff will notice. For example, Grubert says, you give one employee important assignments and ignore his tardiness, but give another you don’t like difficult tasks and warnings for being late.

How to improve: “Be conscious of consistency,” Grubert says, “and apply rules equally.”

Turnover is high.

When employees regularly quit or transfer to other departments with little warning, that’s a wake-up call. “When [employees] don’t see an end to the negativity or poor management, then they are going to look for a way out,” Grubert explains.

How to improve: Ask your remaining employees why they choose to stay on the team, and then harness that motivation to keep them engaged.

Other managers express concern.

When other department managers ask if everything is OK, Di Gaetano says, it’s usually a sign your employees have complained about you.

How to improve: Be receptive to colleagues’ feedback. Perhaps you’ve been preoccupied with a personal matter, such as a divorce, or maybe you need to fine-tune your supervisory skills. “This is when human resources become the experts,” he says, “because they know the resources to help you, including management training courses.”