Bad Management Behaviors

31 Ways Bosses Drive Employees Crazy

a manager with a milk mustache drinking a cappucino
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Everyone gripes about their boss from time to time. And managers, you’re kidding yourselves if you don’t think you are the subject of your employees' dinnertime conversation once in a while. It comes with the job. Most managers are decent, hardworking human beings with the best of intentions, and even great managers will frustrate employees sometimes.

But no manager is perfect, and sometimes stress brings out the worst behaviors. Below is a list of 31 things that managers do that annoy their employees and cause problems in the workplace. Managers, this is a chance to perform an honest self-assessment—or better yet, get some candid feedback. If you find that you're doing any of these things, resolve to stop your bad-boss behaviors.

31 Behaviors of a Bad Boss

  1. Not being responsive to questions or requests. When an employee asks a question or makes a request, don’t ignore it until they have to ask again. Be responsive—yes, no, maybe, or at least let them know when you will have an answer for them.
  2. Forgetting what you have asked them to do. Everyone forgets things now and then. But, if you make a habit of it, you're telling your employees that what you ask them to do may not really be that important.
  3. Assigning the same task to different employees. This could happen due to forgetfulness, or it could be setting employees up intentionally to compete. Both are annoying and damaging to employee morale.
  4. Not setting an example (do as I say, not as I do). Leaders need to be role models, not hypocrites.
  5. Taking special privileges. For example, flying first or business class and having your team fly coach. There is a great leadership tradition in the military: officers eat last. It’s a good standard for corporate managers to keep in mind.
  6. Coasting. Some managers get complacent, even lazy, yet expect their employees to pick up the slack. If your employees feel that they work harder than you do, you'll lose their respect quickly.
  7. Not pitching in during a crisis. All hands on deck means ALL hands, including the manager. While it's true that managers should not be doing the work of their employees regularly, the crew will appreciate it when a manager pitches in and gets their hands dirty when they're overwhelmed.
  8. Over-promising and under-delivering. This is common for the Type A visionary manager who comes up with lots of big ideas but rarely follows through with any of them. After a while, they lose credibility and trust.
  9. Not listening/multitasking. Employees know when a manager isn’t paying attention, and it’s more than annoying—it’s disrespectful.
  10. Insensitively to signs of overwork. Some managers keep piling it on, oblivious to the telltale warning signs that an employee is on overload and about to hit the breaking point. This is a great way to burn out your staff and create a culture of overwork.
  11. Fighting with and badmouthing your peers or boss. Employees want their managers to have positive, collaborative relationships with their managers and peers. If they don’t, it’s the employees who end up suffering the consequences of a lack of resources and cooperation from their other departments.
  12. A lack of understanding or appreciation for the work. An often heard employee complaint: “My boss doesn’t have a clue what I do or how hard I work!”
  13. Taking credit instead of giving credit. This is a surefire way to destroy trust and loyalty. One of the manager's primary jobs is to help others develop, and part of that means celebrating their successes.
  14. Holding back, not sharing critical info. Sharing knowledge empowers your employees to take ownership of the company and its success.
  15. Micromanaging. If you really want to drive your employees crazy, then keep them on a very short leash.
  16. Not addressing performance problems. No one appreciates seeing their co-workers get away with murder.
  17. Playing favorites. It’s hard to be perceived as treating everyone fairly. One way to make it harder is to think you can be friends with your employees. Many managers think they can, but it usually backfires.
  18. Sending emails, texts, or making phone calls on weekends and evenings, and expecting an immediate answer. Employees need their personal time, and good managers respect that.
  19. Being cheap. Managers often have to tighten the belt, but there is a big difference between frugal and cheap. Frugal is staying at a less expensive hotel. Cheap is making employees room together.
  20. Being Indecisive. Whether you take forever to make decisions, or you simply don't make decisions, you become a bottleneck.
  21. Waffling. This is indecision mixed with trying to please everyone, leading to endless flip-flopping back and forth.
  22. Having loose lips. Betraying confidence is another way to erode trust.
  23. Being moody, emotionally volatile, and unpredictable. I once knew a manager so mercurial that everyone always checked with his secretary to find out what kind of mood he was in. She even developed a handy early warning system. If your employees are afraid to catch you at the wrong time, they're likely to avoid you all the time.
  24. Refusing ever to admit mistakes. Some managers are quick to blame others and point fingers, never having the humility to admit their shortcomings.
  25. Saying, "It's my way or the highway." This is the manager who insists on doing everything the “right” way, which really means their way.
  26. Not being open to new ideas. Good managers are open to new possibilities, but bad bosses are quick to shoot down new ideas.
  27. Caring only about yourself. Do you show any concern for your employees' lives and interests? Or are you only concerned with you and your career?
  28. Not being available. Bad managers are impossible to reach, always busy, and don’t take the time to have regular one-on-one meetings.
  29. Abusing your power. This is the bully boss, who uses sarcasm, insults, or other rude behavior to "keep employees in their place." There are few quicker ways to create a toxic work culture.
  30. Being a buzzkill. If you regularly only see the glass as half full when an employee shares good news or an accomplishment, you're a buzzkill.
  31. Being a know-it-all. This manager always has to “one-up” the employees to show them how smart they are. “Yes, that’s a good idea, and here’s how to make it even better!”

If you've noticed that you're guilty of a few—or a lot—of these behaviors, then make a plan to work on one or two of them at a time. Your employees will thank you, and their performance will likely improve.