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July 20th, 2011
Are You a Bad Manager? See 8 Signs

In the workplace, nobody wants to be a bad manager. We all want to think that we are good in our roles and in how we perform our duties. However, one thing most bad managers have in common is that they are not consciously aware that they are bad managers. Are you a bad manager? Let’s explore these 8 signs…


A very bad boss CatherinesCareerCorner

By Catherine Adenle

Let’s face it, no manager will carry a placard around his/her neck with the message, ‘I am a bad manager, don’t let me manage you!” Even if bad managers are aware of their inability to manage on some level, they’re probably not willing to admit it to anyone, least of all themselves. You know why, well, nobody wants to believe they’re the problem at work.

In any case, this is a common phenomenon that isn’t limited to just bad bosses, but it applies to people at all levels in every organization: employees, managers, executives, etc. As much as I would have loved to analyze and expatiate on why this is the case, unfortunately, I am not able to. However, I’ll take a guess, and say it’s probably something to do with denial, ego, lack of self-awareness, self-delusional tendencies or lack of perspective.

As a manager, if you’re convinced that you’re the greatest manager on planet Earth and your ability to be introspective knows no bounds, you’d still be wise to check these signs to see if you are a bad manager. As an employee, if you think you are being currently managed by a bad manager, read this post too to see if your manager is truly bad and take a cold hard look at yourself in the process, as most of the signs apply to individuals, too.

Are you a bad manager? See 8 signs that can help pinpoint a bad manager:

  1. Yes or No Manager: If you as a manager cannot communicate and explain anything further, but reduce all your answers to Yes or No rather than explain your reasoning, this is a sign that you are a bad manager. A yes or No manager finds it a waste of time to find the real answer through intellectual thought. They are already thinking about the next orders or crisis. As a bad manager, you will not also accept any constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Why? Simply because you can’t deal with disagreement from employees who have their own opinions about work related issues.
  2. Can’t communicate, won’t communicate: If you dread communication or you always find reasons not to tell your staff what is really happening, then you are a bad manager. If you always hide behind confidentiality reasons for everything, when you know for a fact that not everything is confidential, then you are a bad manager. If your team is usually the last to hear about things that are going on in the company because you consistently fail to cascade the information, then you are not doing a good job. If a change is looming in your team and your staff are the last to hear about the what, why, when and who, then you are failing in your leadership position.

             See How to Communicate Effectively

  1. Your team is constantly underperforming. If you can’t motivate your staff to work together to achieve goals, sooner or later, your badly managed team’s result will trickle down and affect the entire organization. Whatever the appropriate metrics are for an organization, poor performance can usually be traced back to a management problem. With no set expectations, timelines or goals, bad bosses miss the mark and deadlines frequently. One of the most visible signs of poor management is poor decision-making. After all, decisions are actions, actions generate results, and results are highly visible. A bad manager will not pay attention to actions and results..
  2. If your boss is turning up the heat. When a good senior manager thinks there may be a problem with a subordinate manager, he’ll inevitably turn up the heat and see what happens. So if you notice that your boss is on your case, if he’s putting the screws to your area, it’s a sure sign that something is up.  It may be that there have been complaints and he’s trying to get you to firm up.
  3. Encouraging hard workers and not smart workers:  I like hard workers but I am not impressed with hard workers who are usually defined by the number of hours they put in. Smart workers are the ones that understand the concept of time management and multi-tasking. As a bad manager you will miss this connection. Smart workers are methodical in their thinking and can generally be successful because of their abilities management projects and time. Hard workers may take twice as long to do the work. It is important as a manager to assign work according to skills and personalities.
  4. You are behaving badly to your staff: A bad manager cannot separate personal life from professional life. If you bring your personal problem to work while trying to manage people, then, you are less focused and will not have the attention and direction you need for success. Working for you as a manager can be very dramatic as you are unable to separate your emotional imbalances. To top it, you may also be in conscious denial about being a bad manager, but on some level, you are probably aware of it. Then, it takes a toll on you, usually in terms of increased stress and anxiety that you’ll likely take out on others that do not deserve it.
  5. Hates change but will rather manage crisis. You are a bad manager if you constantly fire fight. If you always have to manage crisis then you have to say goodbye to innovation, change and progression. Proactive thinking is critical to the success of any company. If you are not finding ways to stop or reduce the amount of crisis that has to be managed, then your competition will pass you by. Leaders have to constantly improve, think out of the box and make changes.
  6. Your staff are constantly miserable. Come on now. Irrespective of how self-absorbed you are, you must know if your employees are miserable. Do they all disperse or stop talking and look guilty when you walk by them? Do they come to you to share their ideas and thoughts or do they invite everyone out for drinks after work but leave you out? Your colleagues are distancing themselves from you. It is one thing for your employees to talk behind your back and for your enemies to despise you, but when your work friends and allies start to back away, that’s an indication that you are a bad apple. Do you have a revolving door when it comes to staff turnover? Does your staff always have to ask you for recognition and reward after they have done a good job? Do you not stand behind your staff when they fail? Do you leave your staff to hang out to dry? If an employee tries their best in a situation and they fail to come through, do you punish them and not commend them on their effort? Do you use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple, positive communication would correct the problem?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe’ to all these questions, well, it’s needless to say that you must be bad to the bone as a manager. You might need an intervention – check yourself out of work to a leadership camp where the program includes leadership-skill development, management skills, people management, self management, being good at managing, coaching and classes on building general business acumen.

See Profile of a Good Boss

What to Do About a Bad Boss

So as a person reporting to a bad boss, what do you have to do since you can’t just call it quits?

  • Communicate – It will be hard to do this face to face, so find the perfect time to show your empathy with the manager and your good intentions. Choose your words carefully and point out what you think he/she might be doing wrong without sounding like the authority. Avoid accusations, point out his/her strengths, highlight the issues from your angle, and then offer solutions. Let him/her know that you are willing to support him/her.
  • Provide relevant information, resources and offer the tools. Give the manager the tools to help bring about a change.
  • If as a staff, you’ve done everything without making a dent, and your work life is affected, maybe it is time to move on.

So, are you a bad manager? What other signs of a bad boss can you add to the one above? Let’s hear from you, add your comments below.


Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.

2 thoughts on “Are You a Bad Manager? See 8 Signs

  1. I just hope that all the managers thinking they are good managers will read this post. I can point out two bad managers where I work. How can I get them to read this? I can imagine the looks on their faces after reading the post. Nearly everything you mentioned, they do! I am surprised that they still get to keep their job to be honest whereas few efficient staff were let go recently.

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