It doesn’t matter whether you’re the best florist, hairstylist, party planner or accountant, your business will never grow if you don’t know how to manage employees. The best way to become a good boss is to learn how not to be a bad one. Learning the personality traits of a bad boss can help. Check out this list of bad manager traits and ask yourself whether any of them apply to you.

Most terrible bosses don’t know they’re terrible bosses. Try to keep an open mind while reading over these bad boss characteristics. Don’t sweat it if you’re guilty of some (or all) of these bad boss characteristics; the fixes are easy, and your reward will be a successful business.

Bad Trait #1: They Want to be Quarterback and Receiver 

One of the most common bad manager traits is wanting 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.

bad boss characteristics

Bad Trait #2: Too Much Ego 

They say that water finds its own level and sometimes with hiring, that’s the truth. Managers who reveal bad boss characteristics often hire people who are less intelligent – either because of their ego or because they fail to recognize intelligence.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I have employees that suggest better solutions to problems?
  • Do I learn anything from my employees?
  • Have I ever hired anyone who has a better education than I do?

Bad manager trait solution: 

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.)

Bad Trait #3: They Only Pay Their Employees with Money 

Bosses with bad manager traits 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?

Bad manager trait solution: 

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 paycheck. 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.

Bad Trait #4: They Chose the Wrong Stage 

“Praise publicly; criticize privately,” is an age-old management proverb that horrible bosses tend to ignore. Managers with bad boss characteristics 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?

Bad manager trait solution: 

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.

Bad Trait #5: Not Acknowledging the Extra Mile 

More than anything, employees that go the extra mile to do a good job are what make a business successful. Managers with bad boss characteristics 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)?

Bad manager trait solution: 

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.

Bad Trait #6: Burning Out Employees 

Bosses who demonstrate bad manager traits 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?

Bad manager trait solution:

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.

Bad Trait #7: Not Communicating Clearly 

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 the time to refine them before the discussion?
  • Can I summarize my thoughts for a discussion in a simple paragraph?

Bad manager trait solution: 

Start group and one-on-one meetings by asking how everyone is doing, how their weekend was, and relay 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. This solution can come off as condescending if it’s done harshly, but if done correctly, it’s an effective way to ensure understanding.

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.

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