How to identify a bad boss — 8 clear signs of toxic management.


Bad Bosses are tough to work for and at times are difficult to identify. They come in many forms, but the most common traits of a bad boss are clear: grandiosity, micromanaging, demanding unrealistic expectations from employees, being too political, and not trusting their team.

We've written before about the differences between a bad boss and a poorly-trained boss. Not all difficult bosses and managers are bad people, sometimes they just lack the training. But in this article, we're talking about bad bosses, those who's personality and attitude are responsible for their chaotic leadership style.

Without further ado, here are 8 tell-tale signs for spotting a bad boss.

Bad bosses take credit for your work

If your boss is a bad one, he or she will rarely give you credit for doing good work. They see their employees as extensions of themselves, rather than individuals. So when something goes well, they get all the credit. After all, (in their minds) it's them who tells everyone what to do, their staff merely have to carry out instructions on their behalf.

However, when something goes wrong, the same rule no longer applies. They fail to take responsibility, and can often demand to know who's to blame. If they sense a potential failure of leadership on their part, they will quickly go into denial and project their shortcomings onto their team.

They rule by fear

Bad bosses are afraid of losing control, so they will try to scare or intimidate you into submission. They may threaten your job or your reputation, if you don't do what they want. They may also try to take away your power and authority in order to show you who's boss. The key thing here is that these bosses are afraid that someone else might have more power than them, and that's something they just cannot tolerate.

They're grandiose, and self-important

A bad boss has an inflated sense of self-importance. They're convinced that they know more than everyone else and are always right, even when they're wrong. They think they're better than everyone else around them, especially those who work for them. That's why these bosses often surround themselves with yes men and women who do everything for them so that all the boss has to do is make decisions without having any idea how things actually work behind the scenes.

They'll often take constructive criticism as a blow to their ego. Bad bosses never consider criticism from others as anything but an attack on themselves; instead of listening to suggestions made by employees they'll go into defence mode, and see the discussion some form of power struggle. These bosses believe that their way is the right way, and anyone who doesn't agree with them is clearly an idiot who doesn't know what's best for themselves or their company.

This sense of grandiosity, coupled with a high-sensitivity to criticism, is usually the most telling sign that someone's going to be a pain to work for - so keep an eye out for these behaviours.

They have a strong sense of denial

Denial is a defence mechanism, and it can be a very effective one. In fact, it's the first line of defence against anxiety and depression in most people. So when you're dealing with an individual who is in denial about something, keep this in mind: they're probably not just being stubborn or obstinate; they may be struggling with some feelings that are too painful for them to deal with on their own.

That being said, pity is not the way forward with the bad boss. However, understanding that their actions are the result of deeper issues can help quell the resentment you may feel toward them, and allow you to think purely rationally about the situation.

Is there anything you can do to improve things? Or is this person too walled off by their own ego to listen? If the latter is true, it may be worth writing a new career plan, and finding a job at a better organisation.

They use double-standards

If you're working for a bad boss, you'll know it because he or she uses double standards. This person is either the most lenient leader on earth and has no boundaries whatsoever (they make up rules as they go), or they are extremely strict and unreasonable. Either way, their behaviour will be unpredictable and inconsistent.

When your manager is inconsistent in how he or she approaches things like deadlines, performance reviews, communication styles, team composition and project management processes—you will feel uneasy about your job security at all times.

They're overly political, and have pet favourites

Here is where double-standards arise again; bad bosses pick favourites and can be unfair with how they treat other members of the team. Often they will favour the people who validate them the most, meaning they actually reduce the amount of useful input they could get from the rest of their team. As well as this, don't put it past a bad boss to deliberately set one member of staff against another, or bring in a friend to a senior position after leading on another member of staff about a promotion!

They don't trust their employees & micromanage them

If your boss doesn't trust you, that's a sign of trouble. Not only does it mean they're more likely to micromanage you, but it also means that they're not going to allow you the freedom and latitude necessary for your talents and skills to grow. Intense micromanagement is frustrating and stressful for employees—and it's also a waste of their time and energy.

If you're finding that your boss is always checking in on the progress of specific projects or tasks rather than trusting you to do them yourself, consider whether this level of involvement is necessary or beneficial for the company at large.

They spam you out of hours

Bad bosses will spam you at all hours of the day and night. They expect you to be available 24/7, even when it's not necessary. If they need something done, they'll expect it instantly—even if this means interrupting your dinner with family or friends. Bad bosses don't respect your personal time and don't care about your health or wellbeing. Often they don't understand that your wellbeing and freedom outside of work directly influences your performance at work, and likelihood of staying at the company.


These are just some of the ways you can tell if your boss is a bad one. There are many more signs that you should look out for, so keep an eye on how they treat their employees and how much trust they place in them. If you feel like your boss is treating you badly or making unreasonable demands on you then it's time to learn how to deal with them or make plans for finding greener pastures.

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