These are the red flags of a bad boss.

You probably know as soon as you experience it. Watch out for these 17 bad management traits.

U.S. News & World Report

These are the red flags of a bad boss.

Employees are now more aware of toxic work environments than ever before. Managers and leaders play a critical role in a work environment, from the influence they have over employees to the way a company functions operationally and culturally. While good management skills can spur productivity, employee retention and success, weak manager characteristics and bad management traits foment a toxic work environment and can be detrimental for teams, departments and companies.

Almost every professional will face working with a bad manager at some point in their career. Here are some of the most common characteristics to look out for if you suspect you’re working for a bad manager. And if you are in a leadership position, review these bad management traits to see if and where you could set personal goals for improvement.


A micromanaging boss is one who doesn’t trust your abilities and methods for getting your job done. This type of manager may hover over your work, providing too much input and unnecessary oversight. Micromanagers may check in constantly to see how quickly you’re getting the job done or may ask you to redo a project to reflect their style rather than your own. Micromanaging benefits neither the manager nor employees in the long run. In addition to causing stress in the workplace, it also prevents people from demonstrating their creativity and enthusiasm for projects and sharing their innovative ideas. There are many ways to accomplish the same task, so beware of a manager who thinks executing a project in a way that differs from their own is wrong. Micromanaging bosses can drive employees out of the company, leading to high turnover that negatively affects the entire organization.

Doesn’t care about work-life balance

Work-life balance has become more important for employees, but a bad boss doesn’t care about your work-life balance. Does your boss make you feel guilty about taking a day off to care for your sick child? Does your boss discourage using vacation days? Does your boss expect you to be available outside of your scheduled work hours on a regular basis? This is a bad management trait and contributes to an unhealthy work environment. When employees feel that their boss cares about their work-life balance, this contributes to higher employee satisfaction. On the other hand, discouraging work-life balance leads to overworked employees and higher stress levels at work.


While managers are supposed to be good role models and exemplify leadership abilities, some bosses fall short of this and instead act unprofessionally. You may have a boss who cares more about maintaining his or her own personal life at work than helping their employees. An unprofessional manager may participate in cliquish behaviors and leave some people out. Other unprofessional bosses might overshare details of their personal life, grill you on yours or try to force a friendship with you that you don’t want. Unprofessional behavior from a boss may cross the line from merely annoying to possibly illegal if harassment is involved. If you’re uncertain whether a boss’s antics are bordering on inappropriate for the office or may constitute harassment, talk to your human resources department.

Unclear goals

Another mistake that managers can make is not setting clear goals for their departments and employees. Goals are important because they help employees to have a clear sense of direction and feel more fulfilled in their roles. Goals also help teams feel more motivated since they have something to work toward. On the other hand, unclear goals leave teams and employees feeling unsure about the big picture and how their work is related to that. This bad management trait can lead people to look for another job that will provide a clear sense of accomplishment and meaning.

Poor communication

Bosses with poor communication skills negatively affect their companies and teams. Managers who don’t communicate enough with their employees cause confusion and frustration. Ineffective communication affects productivity levels, since employees will have to stop and ask questions as they go as opposed to having all the information they need in the beginning. Poor communication can range from not giving clear instructions about a project to failing to provide feedback after work is completed. Some bosses fail to schedule regular times to connect with their direct reports, leaving them to guess at their expectations and progress.

Demanding authority

Some managers make the mistake of thinking they automatically deserve to be respected because of their title and position. This type of authoritarian boss conveys that they are more important than their employees and have better ideas than others on the team. They operate from a top-down mentality, perhaps hiring only people who validate their viewpoint rather than challenge it. This bad management approach can hurt diversity, equity and inclusion in an organization and may backfire with employees. People are more prone to respect those who have gained their status through positive actions and have created a culture of respect, not those who demand authority just because of a job title.


If an employee doesn’t feel that they can talk to their manager about work issues – or, in some cases, personal issues that affect their work – this can create a barrier between the employee and manager. Some managers may inadvertently or sometimes intentionally come across as unapproachable to their team members. Such managers may convey that they are too busy to be bothered or interrupted by team concerns or may have a closed-door policy that discourages interaction. These types of bad management traits may cause employees to distance themselves from a manager, which can create myriad problems in the office. It may make it difficult for a manager to resolve problems at work or for employees to accept suggestions and feedback from an unapproachable manager.

Wanting the team to make them look good

Another type of bad manager is one who feels that their team is supposed to work hard primarily to advance the manager’s own career. This type of boss doesn’t value high-quality work if it doesn’t make them look good. An attitude like this can crush the enthusiasm and creativity of employees. Once this happens, it hurts both the manager and the company, since people may disengage if they can’t fulfill their potential and their actions aren’t highlighted to help them advance their own careers.


Negative managers can take many forms. They may constantly complain about their own job and challenges, may succumb to political infighting that causes them to lose sight of team efforts, or may criticize people who work for them. When a manager is negative, it brings down the morale of the whole department. Negativity is contagious and creates a toxic work environment for employees. When a manager fails to bring positivity to the workplace, this also reflects badly on the organization and its values. Employees will not want to stay long working under a constantly negative boss.

Playing favorites

Some managers lack standardized rules and make the mistake of playing favorites. For example, they may have one set of expectations for you while making exceptions for someone they used to work with or for those who have been in the organization longer, in an attempt to be liked by certain people or groups. They may reserve the most coveted assignments for one person who they like best on the team rather than creating equal opportunities. This behavior may also involve participating in cliques or engaging in office politics. Managers like this may feel initially powerful in deciding who gets what. But when a manager isn’t inclusive and doesn’t treat all team members equally, team members won’t respect them and their job may be short-lived.

Doesn’t help employees grow

Some managers fail to help their employees grow in their roles. This shows a lack of interest in their employees and their goals. While fomenting employee growth requires time and effort, it’s well worth it. Good managers will take some time to check in with their employees, find out what their goals are and help them make a plan to achieve those goals. Then, they follow up with them regularly. Helping employees grow helps them feel more fulfilled, helps them sharpen their skills, and strengthens company loyalty, leading to lower turnover rates. Bad management has no plan in place for employee growth or even discourages it, which negatively affects the organization overall. People won’t stay long in a position when they know there is no room to grow.

Doesn’t walk the talk

Leading by example is an important managerial quality, yet some supervisors ask employees to do as they say, not as they do. If a manager fails to practice what they preach at work, it can lead to resentment and prevent the development of a culture of teamwork. Good leaders don’t see themselves as separate from the team, but as a special part of it, which requires pitching in with whatever is needed to help the group reach its goals. Walking the talk should also apply to how time off and hours on the clock are handled. If a manager asks others to be available online at certain hours, for example, then as the boss, they should make themselves similarly available.

Low emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence helps the best leaders understand what each member of their team values, and what’s important to different employees to help them get their best work done. Since emotional intelligence involves not only being in touch with your own feelings but also being intuitive enough to pick up on the feelings of others, it’s a critical management skill. If your manager seems to lack empathy or not care about your priorities, they may have low emotional intelligence. Employees under this type of leader can feel disconnected from the department’s or company’s goals, can lack motivation, feel burnout and resentment on their teams.

By Guest Blog
Guest Blog