8 Alarming Signs You’re a Bad Boss

Here are signs your management style isn’t working — with tips on how to improve.
Updated April 3, 2023
Fact checked
angry senior woman boss firing unprofessional employee

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Being in charge of others at work comes with a lot of responsibility — juggling your daily duties and making sure your staff is on track, supported, and working effectively. A good boss is on top of all of these things, but sometimes even the best ones can slip up, and that can hurt your staff. After all, your direct reports will have challenges of their own, which often relate to work and their abilities to earn enough to cover expenses.

Not to fear. These habits can be identified and remedied, promoting both a better workplace for your team and more effective, productive work for you. In case you need a hard look at yourself, here are eight traits that signal you might be a “bad” boss, along with tips to help you make changes.

You micromanage too much

StockPhotoPro/Adobe boss watching over his employee

Attention to detail matters. Sometimes work projects require a boss to be on top of the progress being done, especially with a looming deadline. But there is such a thing as being too much on top of things. The needling, bothering manager from Office Space should be a comedic character from a movie, not who you model your work style after.

Let your staff have the room to adapt and try new things. Many employees might underperform if they’re paranoid or anxious about a boss constantly breathing down their neck.

You're being too vague

fizkes/Adobe multi-ethnic colleagues having claims fight about mistake in business document

It's the opposite problem to micromanaging: You're not setting clear goals and assignments for your staff. Affording your workers clarity and direct tasks will likely help them be their best. A good boss should be upfront about what work is needed when, and who is to do what task.

A good manager can create actionable plans that everyone can understand, and that is a key component in some of the best jobs. Not providing enough info can slow down work and leave your staff confused. In a bad scenario, a task could fall through the cracks.

Your team isn't communicating

KINGKAN/Adobe asian businessman and caucasian business woman using computers in modern office

It varies from job to job and the industry involved, but a workplace is often meant to be collaborative. In a poorly run space, staff might not feel comfortable asking each other questions, offering help, or just getting to know each other.

Employees should feel safe in their work environment and that safety extends to the ability to communicate — with each other and you as the boss. A staff that feels they can freely express themselves may lead to exciting new ideas and more ambition.

You're not checking in with your staff

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe smiling manager helping call centre agent

As with your team talking to each other, it's good to reach out to them as well. Is a project or task proving difficult or overwhelming? Perhaps they can offer help. A work relationship can be reciprocal.

In many scenarios employees might not feel okay coming forward with an issue or problem they're struggling with unless offered a chance to do so directly. Be aware of that and regularly check in with each individual to see how everyone is doing.

You're not advocating for your staff

Monkey Business/Adobe businessman addressing meeting around boardroom table

Are you doing all you can for your employees, particularly when it comes to compensation or benefits? Money might be tight, but with many people quitting their jobs for higher paying alternatives, advocating for your staff to get raises may make their lives better and promote workplace retention. Coveted job benefits like a raise or bonus could slide you into the “great boss” category.

Pro-tip: Jobs with less stress are often more desirable. If it is doable, consider expanding some benefits to staff for improved workplace health. That could be stress-related therapy, more remote days to boost work/life balance, or even things like free snacks and lunch.

You're often grumpy or worse

fizkes/Adobe furious boss scolding young frustrated intern with bad work results

Work can be stressful, and it is a particularly stressful time with the events of the last two years, but try not to let frustration trickle out to your employees. A supportive and positive boss can motivate staff by setting a powerful example. An angry, frustrated, or even outright hostile boss can destroy workplace morale and drive staff away to jobs with less stress. 

Consider stress management for yourself. Or offer workplace yoga or meditation so everyone can try to let any grumpiness go. And if you do blow up at an employee, take the time to apologize for it. Accountability is appreciated by everyone, and it starts at the top.

You're ignoring your team's contributions

fizkes/Adobe boss introduce new black employee to colleagues

In many fields, projects are collaborative and really are team efforts, but often one person goes above and beyond or handles a specialized role for a specialized task. Be sure to acknowledge that person both in the office and give them credit when reporting to your own superiors.

Not being recognized can make employees look elsewhere, either for a side hustle or a different job entirely.

You're not giving your staff room to grow

JKstock/Adobe CEO glad to hear good news reported by the sales manager

A good boss is also a teacher who is working to have their employees do better as well and advance. As part of checking in with staff, are you listening to their goals or offering to help them learn and take on bigger roles in the company?

Taking the time to teach and train current staff new duties can have lasting benefits for a company. That employee could pass those lessons down to new hires and just be a more effective worker in the office.

Related:  6 Big Moves to Grow Wealth

Bottom line

fizkes/Adobe  coach talking with group of office workers

Work can be stressful and even good bosses have their off days. Having a communicative workplace is often beneficial for everyone.

A good boss can set the tone and energy for an office, both in leading the way on tasks and making sure staff feel comfortable and collaborative. Be sure to check in on everyone’s progress without micromanaging and ask what your employees need to succeed.

Search Over 80,000 Care and Service-Related Jobs

Connect with paying families looking for care and service-related work. Available jobs include child care, tutoring, senior care, pet care, and housekeeping.

Sign up for Care.com now
Earn Great Pay Working From Home

Free 3-class intro teaches you how to launch a bookkeeping business

Access the training
Earn Cash Taking Surveys

Join a community of 20M+ lifetime members who have been paid $76 million to date.

Sign up today

Author Details

Nicholas Slayton Nicholas Slayton is a journalist and editor based in Los Angeles. His writing can be found at The Daily Beast, Paste Magazine, Architectural Digest, Shelterforce, and other outlets.

Want to learn how to make an extra $200?

Get proven ways to earn extra cash from your phone, computer, & more with Extra.

You will receive emails from FinanceBuzz.com. Unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy

  • Vetted side hustles
  • Exclusive offers to save money daily
  • Expert tips to help manage and escape debt