People Management
23 min.

Are You a Bad Boss: 9 Typical Profiles and What to Do About It

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
Last updated on 5 Jun. 2024
Published on 31 May. 2024

A bad boss is a manager who, more often than not, unintentionally harms the work climate, the well-being of his employees and, ultimately, the organization’s performance.

Table of contents

Unfortunately, we’ve all had a bad boss. If you’re unlucky, you’ve even had one as a manager. How did that affect the work environment and employee motivation?

💭 🤯

That’s what I thought. Many of us have witnessed just how damaging toxic leadership can be in the workplace. In 2019, two out of three of workers Quebec either left their job or thought about doing so because of their boss, according to an article in L’actualité.

And now that you’re a manager, you certainly don’t want to be anyone’s bad boss. 😯

This article presents 9 profiles of bad bosses and 40 signs that characterize them.

What is a bad boss, often referred to as a toxic boss?

A bad boss, sometimes referred to as a toxic boss, can be defined as a manager or supervisor whose actions, behaviors, and decisions have a negative impact on employees, the work climate and, consequently, the organization’s performance.

🚨 However, it’s worth pointing out that all managers have shortcomings and areas of improvement—everyone does. Recognizing yourself in some of the characteristics listed below in no way means that you are a toxic manager for your team, only that you still have room for improvement.

The consequences of a toxic boss in the workplace

A bad boss can have many negative consequences, both for individuals and for the organization as a whole. Here are some of the most common consequences:

  1. High staff turnover
  2. Lower employee productivity
  3. Employee demotivation
  4. Stress and demoralization
  5. Mental and physical health problems within the team
  6. Increased absenteeism
  7. Increased sick leaves due to burnout
  8. Difficulty recruiting staff due to the company’s poor reputation

Here are 9 profiles of bad bosses and 40 signs that go with them

This article compiles the characteristics of bad managers, and draws up portraits of the most common bad boss types:

  • The one who plays solo
  • The one who is too demanding
  • The one who doesn’t know how to lead
  • The one who is too egocentric
  • The one who is disorganized
  • The one who is obsessed with productivity
  • The one who is too nice
  • The one who lacks emotional intelligence
  • The one who shows favoritism

The bad boss who plays solo

The bad manager who plays solo wants to be the star of the game. They don’t trust their employees, or doesn’t do so very much. They micromanage, don’t take their team’s ideas seriously, and don’t give much credit where credit is due.

If you recognize yourself here, you might just believe that if you could be everywhere at once, the organization would benefit.

1. You micromanage

You try to involve yourself in just about everything your employees do. You want to be in the kitchen, at the tables, at the front desk… all at the same time. You question your employees, challenge their decisions, and limit your colleagues’ autonomy.

🔑 Micromanagement demotivates employees, reduces productivity, blocks professional development, and undermines the working climate.

2. You lack openness to your team’s ideas

You lack openness to your team’s ideas, and therefore don’t give your employees enough initiative.

🔑 Team members quickly tire of this lack of consideration and of seeing no room for autonomy in the workplace.

3. You leave no room for autonomy

You supervise your employees so much that there’s no room for them to bring their own color to the job.

As a result, your team members are purely executors.

🔑 According to Jacques Forest‘s research, there are three psychological needs that must be met in the workplace in order to generate the kind of motivation that leads to positive results: autonomy, competence, and affiliation. Clearly, employees have a strong need for autonomy.

4. You don’t think much of your co-workers

Since you leave your colleagues very little room to develop and progress, they either leave or stagnate. As a result, you don’t think much of them and view them as replaceable.

🔑 You’re caught in a vicious circle, because the more you treat your employees the way you do, the less they end up performing well. As a result, you don’t value them or trust your team, which confirms that you’re indispensable in every role. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

💡How to become a better manager

A good manager must show confidence in their employees, gives them the autonomy they need to do their jobs, and supports them in their professional development.

  • Acknowledge the problem: The first step to becoming a better manager is to recognize that micromanagement is a problem. Observe and list the negative effects it can have on your team and your own effectiveness.
  • Develop trust: Micromanagement often stems from a lack of trust in one’s team members. Work on developing trust in your employees by recognizing their skills and abilities.
  • Provide your team with the resources they need to do their job well, rather than dictating the steps for each task.
  • Delegate wisely: Delegate tasks according to your team members’ strengths, enabling them to succeed and even excel.

The bad boss who’s too demanding

The over-demanding bad boss has unrealistic expectations of their team and is rarely satisfied with their employees’ performance.

They’re too much of a perfectionist and treat their colleagues badly, particularly by blaming them.

If you recognize yourself, you might believe that pressure is beneficial, even necessary, and that everyone can always do better. You probably believe that your employees could do more.

1. You’re a perfectionist to the max

You’re certainly demanding toward yourself if you’re also so demanding toward your employees. By constantly striving for perfection, you create a stressful working environment where mistakes are not tolerated.

🔑 Such a work climate leads to a widespread fear of failure, encourages risk avoidance, and limits your employees’ creativity.

2. You put a lot of pressure on your team

It’s to your credit that you set ambitious goals for your employees. On the other hand, too much pressure to achieve these goals creates stress and negatively affects well-being at work.

🔑 Chronic stress, exhaustion, and the feeling of never doing enough rarely lead to a positive outcome. Excessive pressure unfortunately comes at a cost: a deterioration in the mental health of your team members.

3. You blame your employees

Blaming your employees can lead to a drop in motivation and self-esteem. Excessive blaming is characteristic of a toxic boss.

🔑 When employees fear being reprimanded or blamed for their actions, they are less inclined to take the initiative or point out potential problems, for fear of being punished.

4. You give little or no recognition for your team’s achievements

You don’t usually celebrate your team members’ achievements. Recognizing and celebrating your employees’ successes is essential to maintaining their motivation and commitment.

🔑 Neglecting recognition is detrimental to motivation, commitment, and the atmosphere at work.

💡How to become a better manager

Is gently lowering your demands and being a more balanced and good manager for your team your new goal? Here are a few tips to help you get there:

  • Identify a few areas where you are too demanding and the reasons why. Then choose one of these areas and challenge yourself to lower your standards.
  • Set realistic expectations and have them approved by someone you trust. Are they really realistic from their point of view?
  • Celebrate successes and set up a way of “forcing” yourself to do so: A recognition system may be the key.

A bit of recognition makes all the difference.

Improved recognition. Stronger sense of belonging. Better retention.

Discover Agendrix
  • Try to promote a culture of responsibility and learning, rather than sending the message that mistakes are synonymous with failure.
  • Ask your team for constructive feedback. Do they think you’re improving?

The bad manager who can’t lead

The bad boss who doesn’t know how to lead has gaps in emotional intelligence, lacks communication skills, and has difficulty inspiring and motivating.

If you recognize yourself, you may not have clearly identified that you lack leadership, but you certainly know that you’re not having the effect you’d like to have on your team.

1. You lack vision and direction

You lack vision and direction, and this shows in the way you manage your team. This tends to cause a team to lose confidence in its manager.

🔑  Goals give employees a clear vision of what they need to achieve. Having a clear vision of where they need to go enables them to prioritize important tasks and avoid wasting time. As a leader, this is one of your priorities.

2. You don’t take responsibility for your actions

If you don’t take sufficient responsibility for your actions, you’re modeling the opposite of what’s desirable. You refuse to acknowledge your mistakes or apologize when you’re wrong? You risk losing the trust and even the respect of your employees.

🔑 All workers benefit from taking responsibility for their choices and actions, since this is what leads to learning from mistakes and moving forward.

3. You lack coherence

You know what they say? Walk The Talk. It goes without saying that if you lack vision, inconsistency will be the result. And unfortunately, inconsistency is a condition that doesn’t lead to effective, solid leadership.

🔑 Consistency is essential to establishing credibility as a leader. If you want your employees to follow you, you need to match your choices and actions to your words, and vice versa.

4. You don’t embody what you expect of your employees

Is “Do As I say, Not as I Do” your mantra?

You’re wrong.

As a manager, your role is to lead and guide your team to success. You must be a role model for your employees, embodying the values, behaviors, and standards you expect of them.

🔑 Your employees will feel a sense of injustice if you don’t live up to the standards you set for them.

💡 How to become a better manager

Leadership isn’t always innate, and if you’re looking to develop your leadership skills now, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few tips you can easily put into practice right now:

  • Be sure to frequently remind yourself of your organization’s mission and purpose. Is it to offer the best possible service to the customers who visit your store or restaurant? Is it to respond as quickly as possible to customers in the lab? Whatever that goal may be, hammer it home to yourself and your team, giving you a clear vision.
  • Do the same with your company’s values.
  • More than anything, see yourself as a role model: Ask yourself regularly whether you would agree if a member of your team acted the way you’re about to.
  • Take responsibility for your mistakes: Apologize when you make a mistake. Without justifying yourself or making excuses.
  • Speak openly about your mistakes: Show that there’s no shame in making mistakes.

The bad boss who’s too egocentric

The egocentric bad boss, commonly referred to as an egomaniac, makes decisions based on how it will make them look. Their self-esteem is fragile, and they’ll do anything to keep face.

Does this sound like you? You’re certainly reticent about criticism, and you’re constantly looking for opportunities to prove your worth… to yourself and others.

1. You don’t take criticism well

When your colleagues offer criticism, you react defensively. You respond quickly rather than listening and processing information.

Do you find it difficult to receive criticism from members of your team? That’s normal. But this feedback is necessary.

🔑 Receiving criticism with openness and introspection is important, whatever the workplace. Otherwise, your employees won’t dare talk to you, and you’ll see them leave the organization without having had a chance to put things right when the time was right.

2. You need constant attention and validation

You’re constantly seeking attention and validation from your peers. Are you deeply concerned about your reputation and image? This insatiable need for external recognition is a dangerous road and has the potential to compromise the well-being of your team members.

🔑 Your employees will tire of you showing off at all costs.

3. You’re bossy

You tend to direct your team by being authoritarian rather than leading by example and being inspiring. An egocentric manager can exert excessive control over their employees and impose their decisions without taking others’ opinions or needs into account.

🔑 Obviously, the well-being of one’s staff depends on their manager’s consideration for them. An organization’s decisions benefit from being taken with everyone concerned in mind.

4. You don’t give a damn about your employees’ personal lives

You may find it hard to care about your employees’ well-being or even recognize their needs. You consider other people’s concerns to be outside your remit, and show little to no empathy for those around you.

🔑 Flexibility and work-life balance are top priorities for job seekers.

5. You foster a toxic work climate

You can see that the work climate in your organization is toxic. Your employees are insecure and distrustful. They feel devalued and their motivation is plummeting. Your organization’s performance will follow, if it hasn’t already.

🔑 Gone are the days when employees clung to a job despite a work climate that was bad for their mental health and ran counter to their well-being.

💡How to become a better manager

When you realize that you’re too egocentric, you’ve already taken an important first step. Here are a few tips for tackling this challenge:

  • Get to the root of your problem: Why is your ego guiding your actions to such an extent?
  • Embody the changes you want to see: Remember that the behaviors you expect from your team must first be embodied by you.
  • Work on your empathy: When an employee tells you about a situation and you’re ready to respond straight away, pause and put yourself in their position, their context.
  • Take training in communication or leadership: Investing in this type of training will enable you to develop skills that don’t come naturally to you.

The disorganized bad boss

The bad, disorganized boss has trouble organizing their work, and consequently that of their team.

If you recognize yourself, you don’t know where to start, you don’t find yourself in your own space, and your ideas often lack clarity.

1. You lack clarity when you communicate

You have trouble communicating clearly and consistently. Your expectations and vision are not clearly defined beforehand, and this is felt when you convey them.

🔑 Your team members need clarity and alignment to stay motivated and effective.

2. You find it hard to plan effectively

You don’t have a clear plan or strategy to follow. You may frequently change course or move from one task to another for no apparent reason, resulting in a lack of direction and consistency in the team’s work.

🔑 Your team needs you to model consistency and identify priorities, even if they are sometimes less challenging than other tasks.

3. You’re messy

Your workspace is a mess. Whether it’s your desk, the documents on your computer, or even the back room of your business: this disorganization is hampering your efficiency.

🔑 A great way to be the available, proactive manager your team needs is to see clearly what you have to do and stay efficient. Don’t let a cluttered, messy space get in the way of work.

4. You’re often late and forget a lot

You’re frequently late or make avoidable mistakes. Not only do you fail to model what you expect from your team, but it also undermines your credibility.

🔑 Your team relies on you to dictate and inspire best practices.

If you don’t know how to lead the way and adopt behaviors that you would never accept in your colleagues, you can be sure to lose their trust.

5. You lack follow-through on tasks

Imagine being asked to complete a task as if it were important and a priority, only to receive a follow-up days or weeks later. This kind of inconsistency can be extremely frustrating.

🔑  Lack of follow-through on your team members’ tasks can be a major irritant within your team.

💡How to become a better manager

You want to become a better organized boss. Here are some concrete tips to help you take a step in the right direction.

  • Set yourself realistic rather than idealized goals: For example, rather than committing to be on site at 8:00 am, before the 9:00 am shift starts, commit to 8:30 am in front of your team. Aim for 8:15 am and set your alarm even earlier.
  • When you want to assign responsibilities to your colleagues, ask yourself about its level of urgency. Give deadlines according to this urgency. An Eisenhower matrix might help.
  • Schedule a time each week to reorganize and tidy up your documents, your office, the staff room, or wherever it is that’s messy.
  • Get yourself a good planning tool: An electronic, paper, or other note taking tool, and get into the habit of writing everything down.
  • If you schedule your team on paper and have a habit of forgetting leave requests, shop around for a work schedule creation tool.

The bad boss obsessed with productivity

The bad boss who’S obsessed with productivity puts tasks and efficiency first, to the detriment of well-being and quality of life at work. They lack flexibility and openness, and tend to demand too much of their colleagues.

If you recognize yourself, you’ve probably noticed that the work climate is negative, and your organization’s turnover rate is probably high.

1. You don’t show any flexibility

You see flexibility as an obstacle to productivity. Opening the door to more flexible arrangements for your team has the potential to undermine your objectives.

Note: Flexibility isn’t just about being able to telework, it’s about so many other aspects, such as time off, shift swaps, work-life balance, etc.

Create the perfect schedule in minutes.

Create schedules that respect your employees’ availability – and your staffing needs.

Discover Agendrix

🔑 Flexibility is one of the major needs of employees and job seekers alike. In fact, according to statistics from 2023 compiled by Randstad, 46% of non-office workers consider flexibility to be as important, if not more important, than their salary.

2. You outperform your team (for the wrong reasons)

Because your expectations are high and you overvalue productivity, you ask too much of your team members. As a result, everyone feels out of breath and under pressure.

🔑 Overwork is one of the main causes of burnout. Constantly increasing workloads, or placing ever-increasing demands on workers’ mental, psychological, or physical resources creates a considerable health risk. Excessive workloads increase absenteeism while curbing initiative and creativity.

3. You overvalue productivity

In your eyes, discussions about anything other than work have no place.

For example, the sight of your waitresses chatting while rolling utensils maddens you.

And yet, these more innocuous exchanges serve to build relationships between colleagues.

🔑 Group cohesion and good working relationships are essential to efficiency. High-performance teams are first and foremost united teams made up of employees who enjoy coming to work.

4. You’re not available enough

You don’t take the time to get to know your team. Talking to them about their personal lives is a waste of productivity.

🔑 The relationship between manager and employee has a major impact on employee job satisfaction. It’s by taking the time to have one-on-one meetings and discussions with your team members that you build trusting relationships.

💡How to become a better manager

You’ve realized that balanced productivity is important, and you want to loosen up. Wonderful! Here are a few practical tips you can implement gradually.

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your employees in advance, either monthly, quarterly, or at least twice a year. Book some time to discuss how the employee is doing, personally.
  • Take the time to say hello to each and every employee who work when you do.
  • Form a group or committee responsible for team building activities. This way, without any effort on your part, activities will be organized and you’ll be forcing yourself to make room for relationships within your organization.
  • If you haven’t already done so, find the right scheduling tool for your needs.

The bad boss who’s too nice

The boss who’s too nice doesn’t know how to say no, and has trouble respecting himself… and being respected.

If you recognize yourself, you believe or pretend you’re making decisions for the good of your team, but in fact, you’re forgetting that a good leader sometimes has to be firm.

1. You’re afraid to displease

You fear upsetting or disappointing your employees, and this shows in all your decisions and interactions with them.

Not only do you put a lot of pressure on yourself and experience a great deal of stress and anxiety, but saying “no” is excessively difficult. At times, this fragility may be abused by more or less reasonable requests.

🔑  Your employees need a strong manager who can coach and lead. The lack of leadership caused by this fear of displeasing is really problematic on several levels: performance, team cohesion, work climate, and trust in the manager.

2. You’re too accommodating

In an effort to ease tensions within the team, you unwittingly compromise your own values or objectives. You’ll do anything to avoid conflict.

🔑 Being firmer and more solid is reassuring for your team. It gives them the feeling that they can count on a confident boss who won’t waver at the slightest obstacle.

3. You avoid confrontation

Rather than face up to problems or have the discussions that lie ahead, you prefer to avoid confrontation altogether. You ignore problems or minimize them, hoping they’ll resolve themselves or go away. Spoilers: they won’t.

🔑 When you avoid confrontation, you compromise your team’s well-being and effectiveness. Healthy, rapid problem-solving takes the team further. Irritants that remain unresolved or latent conflicts undermine the working atmosphere.

4. Setting boundaries is your biggest challenge

If you recognize yourself in the overly nice boss and want to please at all costs, shy away from confrontation, and set unclear expectations, it goes without saying that naming and respecting your boundaries is a major challenge. You’d rather not listen to yourself and respond to others’ requests. As a manager, this bad habit has a negative impact not only on you, but also on your organization as a whole.

🔑 A person who knows how to set boundaries inspires confidence. A lack of solid boundaries and an ill-defined framework are destabilizing and create insecurity within a team.

5. You lack clarity in your expectations

Because you have trouble setting clear boundaries, you remain vague in your expectations so that no one will be offended. However, the other side of the coin is a lack of alignment and employees who don’t always know which direction to take.

🔑 A lack of clarity in your expectations can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, often resulting in employee frustration. Thinking you’re being nice to your employees only irritates them more.

💡How to become a better manager

Right now, you want to develop your strength and find the right balance between kindness and firmness. Here are a few actionable tips to help you do just that.

  • Carefully study the following procedure for setting boundaries at work. With practice, it will become more and more natural.
  • Before assigning a responsibility or task, systematically ask yourself what your expectations are. What do you see as the final outcome of the task? For example, when you think of closing the store, what absolutely must be done? List it clearly and agree with the person to whom you are giving the task.
  • If your brain says no, but you’re about to say yes, stop. Write down the reason why you might want to say yes when your inner monologue is telling you no. You’ll get better and better at recognizing situations in which you’re trying to please others at all costs.

The bad boss who lacks emotional intelligence

The bad boss who lacks emotional intelligence has trouble managing themselves, so managing team members is a major challenge.

If you recognize yourself, you’re frequently overwhelmed by your emotions and let them guide your decisions. You’re impulsive and lack empathy with your colleagues.

1. You lack empathy

You find it hard to put yourself in your employees’ shoes. When they share their experiences with you, or have to take time off for personal reasons, you lack sensitivity.

🔑 Since flexibility and work-life balance are so important to employees, empathy is key to feeling good in the workplace.

2. You don’t manage your emotions well

Your reactions are considered excessive or disproportionate by your colleagues. Stress or conflict make you completely unavailable and you act impulsively.

🔑 If you can’t manage yourself, you can’t manage others. This is the most basic skill needed by any manager: taking control of their own emotions.

3. Your working relationships are difficult

Given your lack of empathy and your sometimes over-reactive attitude, maintaining healthy, positive relationships is a major challenge. Conflicts are frequent and poorly managed. Collaboration isn’t your cup of tea, so you’d rather work alone than with your team.

🔑  A poor manager-employee relationship is one of the leading causes of quitting. Building and maintaining relationships is essential to fostering your team’s commitment.

4. You make impulsive or irrational decisions

It’s not a good idea to make decisions when emotions are overwhelming you, either at home or at work. Yet since it’s more difficult for you to manage your emotions, you all too often let them guide your decisions. It’s a mistake.

🔑  Your team inevitably lacks confidence in you, noticing that the many choices you make are dictated by your emotions. It’s anything but inspiring to find that the person who has the role of managing the team lacks so much control.

5. Your reactions are unpredictable

You tend to be emotionally unstable, and your mood shifts rapidly. Your employees find it difficult to know how their boss will react in any given situation.

🔑 Your staff benefits from working in an environment that is not stressful or unpredictable.

6. You lack resilience

Being highly sensitive to stress and emotional variations, your ability to meet challenges with brilliance and control is lacking.

Adapting to obstacles and reacting constructively and healthily when faced with adversity is very difficult.

🔑 Your team members need to know that their leader is solid and capable of guiding them toward solutions when they’re having trouble. Opportunities to bounce back and change tack are not rare in the workplace. So, a team needs a resilient leader to provide motivation, optimism, and clarity.

💡How to become a better manager

Lacking emotional intelligence is not an insurmountable problem. If you want to take control, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few tips you can try out to make progress right away.

  • If you feel that your emotions are overwhelming you, walk away and don’t come back until you feel calmer.
  • Find your favorite tools for lowering your inner thermometer. Everyone has their own strategies that work: Breathing, walking, music, drawing, talking to someone, writing…
  • Find an ally you can talk to when you’re facing a challenge at work. This ally should be particularly comfortable with managing his or her own emotions. This person can help you determine the best way to react in whatever situation.
  • Tell your team members the truth and use them as allies too: Knowing that you’re aware of your lack of emotional intelligence but are open to changing things, your employees should be much more understanding with you. Their feedback will be highly relevant as a result.

The bad manager who shows favoritism

The bad manager who shows favoritism has one or more favorites whom they treats differently from the rest of the team. They’re not fair in their decisions, and the team suffers as a result.

If you recognize yourself, you may not even have realized you had this habit. While it’s not malicious, the repercussions are negative and can lead to employees hating each other, among other things.

1. You favor some employees over others

It’s obvious to your entire team that you have one or more darlings. Some employees receive special treatment over others, for no good or reasonable reason.

🔑  Employees who are not favored may find their motivation to be lacking.

2. You assign tasks unfairly

You tend to assign the most interesting and coveted tasks to those you prefer.

🔑 Other team members feel left out and don’t enjoy their shifts, given the less stimulating nature of their work.

3. You act very differently with certain employees

Some members of your team receive praise for little things, while others see their good deeds virtually ignored.

🔑 This preferential treatment of certain employees’ achievements can lead to a great deal of jealousy and even conflict within the team. Moreover, the lack of recognition experienced by others is extremely demotivating.

💡How to become a better manager

Would you like to do better and change this habit of showing favoritism to certain employees? Here are some examples of actions you can take.

  • Standardize the salaries of the employees in your organization, and plan the scenarios in which salary increases are granted. This way, you won’t be inclined to give preferential treatment as far as wages go.
  • Have a list of tasks for each position in the company. Similarly, having a clear job description will prevent certain employees from being given random responsibilities.
  • Hold regular one-on-one meetings and confirm with each member of your team that they appreciate their work. Ask them if they feel like they are being treated fairly.
  • Conduct anonymous online surveys, with the goal of taking the pulse of the team: Does everyone feel that they are treated fairly?

Being a good manager, it’s possible for everyone!

This article discusses the characteristics that can have a negative impact on the working atmosphere as well as on the well-being and performance of workers. However, these behaviors are rarely adopted voluntarily by managers.

Fortunately, it’s within your power to be introspective and focus on what you can control.

After all, the best managers and leaders are those with a strong will to progress. And to do this, there’s no secret recipe, only the will to work on oneself continuously.

Discover Agendrix.
Manage better.

Up to 21 days of free trial. Easy setup. Cancel anytime.