7 Bad Management Traits and How to Fix Them

Mike Kelly

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the best florist, hair stylist, party planner or accountant, your business will never grow if you don’t know how to manage employees. Take a look at this list of management traits and ask yourself whether any of them apply to you.

Don’t sweat it if you’re guilty of some (or all); the fixes are easy and your reward will be a successful business.

1. They Want to be Quarterback and Receiver

One of the most common traits of bad bosses is that they want to do it all. Whether it’s arrogance or insecurity, they have trouble delegating work and ultimately burn themselves out and frustrate their employees.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel like if I miss one day of work, none of my employees will know what to do and nothing will get done?
  • Do I feel like I save time by doing most tasks on my own instead of explaining them to employees?
  • Do my employees constantly make comments such as, “I’m happy to help you with this”?


When it comes to delegating work, ask yourself, “Who has more experience with this?” If you’ve hired a web developer to build your site, and you’ve never built a website, the answer should be obvious (hopefully). With employees who have more skill than you, give clear instructions about what you want and when you want it done, but leave the “how it gets done” up to them.*

If you have more experience than the employee, then it’s time to show them how you’d like it done – once.** Add up how many hours will be spent on a task in a year (it can be something that only needs to be done once or something that you do weekly) and then set aside 5 percent of the number of hours for training. This means that for a 100-hour job, you should set aside 5 hours for training. It may be tempting to just do the task yourself because it will save time in the short run, but remind yourself of the total hours you’ll be saving by instituting a process and training an employee who can do the task for you.

2. No One Can be Smarter Than They Are

They say that water finds its own level and sometimes with hiring, that’s the truth. Horrible bosses often hire people who are less intelligent – either because of their ego or because they’re too thick to recognize intelligence.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have employees who ask why I’m doing something and offer a better solution?
  • Do I learn anything from my employees?
  • Have I ever hired anyone who has a better education than I do?


During an interview, ask the candidate: “What would you change about this company?” If the candidate is smart and able to offer advice on how to better the company, they’ll have a chance to show that off. And you’ll determine whether you’re able to handle having a smart employee who can teach you something about your business.

(Caveat, there are few times when it’s OK to micromanage.)

3. They Only Pay Their Employees with Money

Horrible bosses offer their employees a paycheck and nothing else. There’s no potential to sharpen their skills or further their career. This leads to a high turnover rate, which ultimately will be a huge cost for their business.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I offer any sort of educational opportunities for my employees (i.e., training seminars and videos, guest speakers)?
  • Do I offer any benefits (e.g., vacation days, company stock, 401k) that increase with the time spent at the company?
  • Is there a ladder to climb at my company or do employees always remain worker bees?


Calculate what your turnover rate costs by adding up the annual salaries of the employees you lost in a year and multiplying that number by .7. This should give you a rough estimate of the money you lost to hiring and training new employees plus the money you lost simply because your business wasn’t fully staffed.

If you’re tired of losing good employees, you need to offer them more than just their paychecks. Start with  free ways to retain employees.

Health and education benefits, as well as vacation time that increases with seniority, are all helpful. But if you have a bare bones operation, finding educational experiences may be the best option. Set aside 3% of your business’s profits for training and offer a new training or educational experience for your employees every 3 months. It can be something as simple as a magazine subscription, educational videos or tickets to a seminar in their field.

4. They Choose the Wrong Stage

“Praise publicly; criticize privately,” is an age-old management proverb that horrible bosses tend to ignore. They  often verbally tear employees to shreds because they haven’t created a structure of accountability within the business. When accountability is structured into a business, all employees know who dropped the ball on a project and finger-pointing isn’t necessary.

Ask yourself:

  • Does every task, duty and project have an employee or team assigned to it?
  • Is there a public forum where these responsibilities are discussed in front of the entire team?
  • Have my employees and I discussed how I will measure the success of these tasks?


Maintaining a weekly team meeting is key. All ongoing projects and duties should be reviewed and all employees should be required to quickly explain the status of projects.*** This is a good time to express satisfaction with what an employee or team has done. When an employee or team has failed to meet an objective, ask them why. You don’t need to tear anyone to shreds. If you’re working with good employees, they’ll know they failed. If their failures are consistent, despite providing them with the help they need, it’s time to find some new employees.

5. The Extra Mile Leads to Nowhere

More than anything, employees that go the extra mile are what make a business successful. Horrible bosses don’t acknowledge employees who go beyond what was expected of them.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I acknowledge and praise hard work even if it didn’t lead to success?
  • Do my employees have enough freedom with their duties to even go the extra mile?
  • Do I go the extra mile for my employees (make myself available to them; make sure they have the same perks that I do such as a parking space, A/C, an ergonomic chair and a desk)?


There’s more to a  successful project than just the outcome. Assess the strategy used, the  attention to small details and the overall work ethic. If any of these are worthy of praise, mention it at the weekly meeting (see above), even if the overall goal wasn’t accomplished.

6. Speaking of Hard Work…

Horrible bosses don’t respect employees’ free time. When an employee knows that weekends, holidays and off-hours are subject to emails and phone calls that require immediate action, there’s really no time off. This leads to exhausted, burned out and irritated employees.

Ask yourself:

  • How often do I contact employees over the weekends or on holidays for work-related information?
  • Do I expect employees to work over the weekends regularly, even to perform routine tasks that can wait?
  • Are my employees regularly in the office when I’m not?


Determine how many hours your employees are either at work, or logging work from another location within a month. Divide that number by their monthly salary or earnings. This is their “true wage.” Now assess whether this “true wage” is worth the results they produce and the duties they perform. You may not be able to pay them more, but making a visible effort to organize their tasks so they don’t have to work so many “off hours” will improve morale.

Also, you should arrive before and leave after your employees do.**** Even if you’re working from home and on the weekends when your employees aren’t, not arriving first and leaving last sets a bad precedent. On top of this, you will be the one to send the hard workers home for the night. This fosters a good work/life balance for employees because you are ordering them to stop working.

7.  They’re Charlie Brown’s Teacher

Horrible bosses have horrible communication skills. They relay information in a way that’s impossible for employees to understand, if they relay any information at all.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I understand what my employees are saying?
  • Do I discuss ideas as they are coming to my mind or do I take time to refine them before discussion?
  • Can I summarize my thoughts for a discussion in one simple paragraph?


Start group and one-on-one meetings by asking how everyone is doing, how their weekend was and relaying one interesting thing that happened to you. Taking time to build rapport when discussing tasks may sound like a waste, but it helps sync up you and whomever you’re talking to. This small bit of casual conversation will engage everyone.

As a last ditch effort to improve communication, you can use the “summarize what I said” strategy. After you’ve explained something to an employee, ask the employee to summarize the information back to you. The trouble with this solution is that it can appear condescending if done harshly. It’s always best to place the blame of the bad communication on yourself and ask the other person if they’d be “kind enough to help you” by partaking in this strategy.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re guilty of some of these habits. A horrible boss isn’t the boss who has these habits, but the boss who refuses to fix them.

*With the exception of legal issues or practices that go against brand standards.

** It’s perfectly fine if your employee needs another run through. Just make sure that you’re not repeatedly showing them what to do because it gives you a chance to do the work.

***Skype is okay, but no phone conferences for this one.

****If the line at the coffee shop is long and you know it’s going to make you late, pick up a box of muffins for the team.

Next Steps:  You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.

22 Responses to "7 Bad Management Traits and How to Fix Them"

    • Okaileng charles | October 23, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I admire this business tips

    • bob | January 8, 2018 at 11:15 pm

      Helps to keep you on course

    • Debbie Klisch | January 9, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Does the Agency have permission to share this article on our website?

      THank you

      • Elizabeth Larkin | January 9, 2018 at 9:44 am

        You can link to the article from your website with an intro, but please do not full-scale copy and paste the article. Elizabeth

    • Rama | January 9, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Unbelievably true and nicely summed up.
      Wish it could be a part of a mandatory executive training for all businesses both big and small, perhaps every three year retraining just as a reminder

    • San Ong | January 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Very good and true. Good advise.

    • REUBEN HART | January 10, 2018 at 8:44 am


    • Nathan Terrell | January 10, 2018 at 8:47 am

      My spouse works for a very large company. She was advised, as were all other employees in the branch where she works, that they were required to take home their laptop computers and company issued cell phones so they could monitor emails and receive text messages. We have not been on a vacation or holiday for years, that she did not receive communication from her employer. She is constantly frustrated but there is no where else in our area that offers the benefits or salary she makes.

      Sadly, if I send a part of this article to anyone at her work, she will feel the repercussions!

    • Dottie B. | January 10, 2018 at 11:07 am

      I always find these posts helpful. I manage to take away something new when reading. Thanks!

    • Akhtar HAssan | January 10, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      Excellent Tips!

    • Joey Terranova | January 10, 2018 at 4:29 pm

      Great article! This was a good reminder of some of the most common sense things we, as managers and owners, can do to get the most productivity from our personnel, and maintain respect in the workplace. This needs to be ingrained in everyone’s day to day activity with everyone in a management capacity.

    • Ophelia Smith Evans | January 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm


    • Teresa Mason | January 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm

      Wow … I definitely resemble the “workhorse” that would rather do it myself to save time …

      This is not because I want to actually stay bogged down with work but because I obviously don’t take the time to delegate and then explain exactly what I want, how I want it done, and when I expect it to be completed even though I do understand quantifying the quality of work expected.

      That’s about to change … Thanks!

    • Jguffin@americath.com | January 11, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      #8 should be to put your office in theirs so that you are accessible, take your door off the hinges so it’s always open, and don’t build a fortress in your office with things that block your view of employees or their view of you. I hated the concept and as a result of necessity I just turned down a bigger space that would afford individual offices. It makes people communicate and accountable for their time. Good stuff!

    • Betty Porter | January 11, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      A quick note about delegating… Delegate what YOU like to do. There is some reason why you get satisfaction out of completing certain projects or assignments.. and your staff will find that to be the case. Too often we give away what we don’t like to do… give away what you like to do, and encourage that sense of satisfaction in others.

      • Elizabeth Larkin | January 17, 2018 at 8:42 am

        Great point! -Elizabeth

    • Oluagba | January 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Your information is always very useful in training other managers because it serves as an additional reference point.

    • Rose V. | January 12, 2018 at 11:35 am

      I always enjoy reading this newsletter and the posts. In interviewing and hiring folks for the past eight years, I wanted to comment on the interview question of asking people how they would like to change the company. While I absolutely support innovation and creativity among staff, this question would lead into idea generating that would be a waste of both our times (them trying to impress me with something, me knowing the company well and trying not to judge whether it would even be a realistic endeavor). I’m old-school where I’d like people to get some experience with our work culture and client-base before making general statements of improvement. There’s a gap between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. Having some time learning the ropes helps to keep vision and goals realistic without alienating people. Navigating the landscape of change and innovation is a separate skill from dreaming and vision (and the nerves of interviewing). I would re-phrase the question to be “What strengths would you be bringing to our team?” and let them showcase their talent that way. I’m always a fan that managers don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. A highly successful manager will play the strengths of her/his employees in all that the company does. Thanks for reading!

    • Steven Smith | January 15, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      As a small business owner, I would say none of these apply to me. I work in entertainment and the client always comes first. At least 90% of the businesses I deal with will not answer the phone after hours or on the weekend which is when most of them are busiest. What ever happened to putting the customer first? My clients routinely place last minute orders and make many mistakes. How do you schedule delivers and set up for events when their employees send you orders with this info missing and then do not answer the phone. Anyone in my business who does not answer the phone after hours is not only inept but setting themselves up for failure. Most of my clients come to me because I almost never make a mistake and I have my hands into every aspect of my business and I am available 24/7 to remedy any of THEIR mistakes. I always give extra product to my customers. 99% of my clients WERE somebody else’s client. Key word there is “WERE” There is a reason they use me now. I started out with no money to advertise. My clients do not like who they were using and searched for me to find me. After 7 years of growing, I have never lost a client, never advertised, and am still growing, Obviously I am doing something right. I am at the point now where I have to expand and buy a larger property. I answer the phone, I give extras, I don’t make mistakes, in short I care and put my clients first. Most employees are there for a paycheck. Most people live in the real world where they are looking to make money, not have fun at work. Sure make it as friendly as possible, but if you are going to give benefits to employees, just take the money you would spend on these benefits and raise their pay. If you spend an extra 50% on benefits, don’t think for one second they won’t jump ship at the first job offer that is paying 50% (in cash) more than their paycheck is currently. When you offer benefits such as healthcare or education, employees will think this is part of their compensation. Employees who do not need or want these benefits will feel that they are supplementing the other employees who take advantage of these benefits. I will always adhere to these philosophies,
      1: The client comes first.
      2: Cash is king.
      3: Go the extra mile.
      4: Be very respectful to every client, no matter how obnoxious or wrong they are.
      I’m sure I left out a few.

    • G. | January 30, 2018 at 4:12 am

      You just described my two last managers at PB France.

    • Linda | February 1, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      I resigned from my position as a National Account Executive because of a bad manager

      • Elizabeth Larkin | February 2, 2018 at 9:24 am

        What did they do to drive you out? Did they give you an exit interview? -Elizabeth

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