25 Signs You Are A Bad Boss

by Chris Young

describe the imageNo one sets out to be a bad boss.  However, the costs of a bad boss are extremely high.

I believe in continuous improvement.  Whether I am advising CEOs and top management or reflecting on my own management and leadership style, we can all improve how we lead and manage.

There are many ways a boss can screw up a potentially good thing.  Following is my list in order of importance.  Take a moment and score yourself on a scale of 1-5 in each area.  What can you do differently?  What commitment can you make to improve?

  1. You hire idiots.  Few people are truly "idiots" but when you hire someone who does not fit the job - you are hiring an idiot and it absolutely reflects poorly on you.  If you are not using a Job Benchmark coupled with a valid pre-employment assessment, you are hiring more low performers than you should.  That makes you an idiot as well.  You owe it to yourself, your team, your customers, and your shareholders to hire only the best talent possible.  Hire people who are so good that they scare the hell out of you.
  2. You fail to set the vision.  Why is your company in business?  How can each employee team member live the vision?  The key is to communicate the vision constantly and provide small "vision course corrections" frequently.
  3. You fail to "let the horses run".  Do not be a micromanager.  When you hire only the best - you must let them run with their ideas - their hopes - their dreams.  Mistakes will happen - yet the lessons learned and the best ideas that come to the surface will propel your business fast forward.
  4. Fear is part of your culture.  Fear has no business in any company culture.  Period.  If there is fear it is because you are screwing up, a bully, a control freak, and/or you have the wrong people on your "bus".  Fix the problem.  Never criticize publicly.
  5. You are not a role model for personal accountability.  You blame everyone and everything else rather than accepting full responsibility.  The buck stops with you.  
  6. You fail to set expectations.  Goals cannot be accomplished without a game plan and expectations.  
  7. You compensate poorly.  The best talent deserves to be compensated for the results they produce - not what the position should be paid.  
  8. You believe coaching is something professional sports teams do.  Great talent requires continuous coaching.
  9. Your employee team members are emotionally starving to death.  Specific praise and feedback provide energy and direction.  Identify how each employee team member likes to be praised and offered feedback.  
  10. You fail to show your team know how much you care.  When you have the best talent aligned to get the right things done the right way - you must pour on the love.  You employee team members must know they can count on you - rain or shine/day or night/through thickness and thin.  
  11. You are invulnerable.  It used to be "macho" to be the one with the answers, the stoic one.  It does not work.  Without vulnerability-based trust, you will not have the kind of conflict necessary to get to the best commitments - true accountability - and the best results.  Thank you Patrick Lencioni.
  12. You are a pushover.  Just as an invulnerable boss can be frustrating, a pushover is just as frustrating.  You cannot be buddies with your subordinates while being the boss.  
  13. You play favorites.  There can be no favorites.  The worst kind of favoritism involves a long-term employee who may have saved the company early on but today they are idiots.  You may believe you are fooling your high performers but they know an idiot when they see one.
  14. You have "two codes of conduct."  I often see two levels of accountability depending upon if you are management or part of a special "club".  Mediocre companies have more than one "code of conduct".  There must be just one "code of conduct".    
  15. You fail to hold employee team members accountable for performance issues.  If you do not have candor, you are missing out.  It is uncomfortable as hell at first yet employee team members eventually seek it out.  Candor brings speed and great ideas.
  16. You fail to hold employee team members accountable for culture mistakes.  People are going to make honest mistakes.  It is your job to shape and protect your Culture.  Those who honor your "Culture Code" are watching your every move and they expect you to protect their investment.
  17. You manage every employee team member identically.  Each employee team member will have different needs.  Get to know them and manage them uniquely while honoring your "Culture Code".
  18. You have the answer to every problem.  Marshall Goldsmith calls this "adding too much value".  Speak less, listen more.  Your people have ideas they want to share.  Encourage ideas and listen.  With ideas comes ownership and better ways of getting the right things done.  
  19. You are never wrong.  Yes, you are.  If your employee team members see you as never wrong, they are much less likely to share their ideas nor alert you to problems that could be mitigated much earlier.  
  20. You fight every battle to win.  Not every battle needs to be fought.  Sometimes the best thing to do is step back and see where the chips fall. 
  21. You pride yourself on being a "firefighter".  The best leaders and managers put fires out and work to build better systems models to ensure problems do not continue to flare up.
  22. You are overly emotional.  Emotional bosses distract and scare the hell out of the team.  If you are having a "bad day" - isolate yourself as much as possible.
  23. You fail to shape your Culture.  As the CEO, you must carefully shape your Culture.
  24. You fail to offer unconditional love to your team.  When you hire the best talent, ensure they know what is expected of them, hold them accountable, and coach them to reach new heights...  You must provide unconditional love.  Your employee team members will make you angry from time to time.  Get over it quickly.
  25. You allow loyalty to be misplaced.  Average companies have employee team members who are more loyal to their fellow team members and doing what is convenient than doing right by you, the Customer, the bottom line, and shareholders.  Demand loyalty to be where it belongs.
Being a good boss takes commitment, persistence, and intent.  No one is perfect yet practice makes leadership more perfect.