Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

14 Tell-Tale Signs That You’re A Bad Boss.

By Mark Wilkinson | Sep 1, 2015 | Staff Retention

half of employees have been bullied by their bossesWe talk about horrible bosses all the time in our blog posts.

There are just so many stories out there (we’ve got to admit, sometimes they’re pretty funny) about horrible, embarrassing and sometimes downright offensive managers.

(Managers who seem to take inspiration from horrific on-screen bosses like David Brent and Gregory House!)

Of course, most of our advice has been aimed at helping unlucky employees to deal with the offenders.

But what happens if you ARE the horrible boss? How would you know? What should you do?

Behold, the 14 tell-tale signs that you’re a bad boss…if you recognise any of them, then it’s seriously time to take a look at your management technique!

1. You think all of your staff are idiots.

man face palmingDo you find yourself getting really frustrated with your team? Do you think that they’re all a bunch of idiots and you’d be better off without them?

Then you’re probably a bad boss.

Having trust in your staff members and leaving them to their own devices is one of the key ways to engage them.

On the other hand, if they really are that bad and your team aren’t meeting targets, then you’ve got to reassess your HR process…

  • Have you failed to nurture and develop them?
  • Did you make terrible hiring decisions in the first place?
  • Are they under-performing because you’re too lenient?

As the senior staff member, the buck really does stop with you.

2. You lose your temper.

OK, sometimes bosses lose their temper… and the more senior the position, the more often that might happen.

But if you find yourself shouting, behaving aggressively or even screaming at your staff then you’ve lost control and you’re failing as their leader.

Such bully-ish behaviour will help you to achieve three things:

1. Your staff will lose respect for you.

2. Your staff will be afraid to approach you and offer you any of their great ideas.  

3. Your staff will eventually leave – it’s not worth the aggro.

Good managers know when to be tough (not terrifying) but also how to nurture their team.

3. It’s your way or the highway!

Do you find yourself getting frustrated when staff members question your decisions? Why?

Assuming that they’re not a bunch of idiots (see no. 1) they genuinely care about your business and they’re more than competent at their day job, then your staff could have some really valuable insights to offer.

Because they see things from a different perspective, they may bring something to the table that you’ve overlooked – you’re not infallible!

Recruiter Pro Tip.

If you’ve ever turned down an idea solely because ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ or ‘this has always worked for us before’ then you’re not being progressive.

This type of thinking will really hold your business back and will also leave your team feeling rejected and frustrated.

If someone comes to you with an idea, don’t just blow them off straight away… consider it.

If you realise that it really wouldn’t work then explain why you’re rejecting the idea in a conscientious and diplomatic way.

A team that constantly challenge each other and look for the best and most innovative solutions will thrive, while others fall behind.

4. You never thank or reward your staff.

post it note with 'merci' written on it

tiramisustudio at

Studies show that 80% of highly engaged staff received some form of reward or recognition for work well done.”

You don’t always have to make a huge, dramatic gesture to show gratitude to staff members… it would be unrealistic to expect you to throw a party every time someone completed a daily task or a pay rise for every small success.

But sometimes, something as simple as a sincere ‘thank you’ will put a smile on a staff member’s face, brighten up their day and make a world of difference to employee engagement.

So, when’s the last time you said thank you to your team?

5. You take credit for your employees’ work.

You’re the boss, so you should take all of the credit right? I mean, you did lead the team to victory…

Actually, good managers will be more than happy (and feel secure enough) to share the limelight!

Give your team their dues and they’ll respect you more, they will be more motivated, will excel and your seniors are bound to notice. Win-win-win!

Fail to give them credit and you’ll lose their respect (becoming a horrible boss in their eyes) and they’ll lose all of their incentive to work hard.

6. You bend the rules, where they can’t.

There’s nothing more frustrating then a boss who enforces the rules, but doesn’t stick to them, themselves.

It’s hypocritical and comes across like you think you’re better than the rest.

Don’t bend the rules unless you’re willing to let your staff members do the same! Simple.

7. You don’t do performance reviews.

man with a question mark for a head

pakorn at

Do you consider performance reviews to be boring and a complete waste of time? You’re making a mistake!

In a recent blog, we revealed that 92% of engaged employees have had someone talk about their progress in the last 6 months.

It turns out that employees actually do prefer to have an upfront discussion with their boss from time-to-time to make sure they’re on track and to discuss where improvements can be made.

No one wants to be left in the dark about their progress, constantly wondering whether their job is safe, whether you think they’re doing well and whether their are opportunities for progression!

Performance reviews will also give you the opportunity to thank them for all of their hard work (see no. 4)!

8. You’re negative.

Do you spend more time talking about mistakes and problems, than focusing on successes and solutions?

Stop –  you’re bringing the rest of the team down!

If you’re constantly complaining and being negative, it’s bound to rub off on your staff who’ll, in turn, feel like it’s OK for them to complain and be negative.

The team atmosphere will become toxic, unmotivated and unhappy.

9. You have a “favourite.”

work friends bad boss

nenetus at

Reading this… did someone immediately spring to your mind? Is there a particular staff member that you get on with more than others?

Obviously, it’s entirely natural to bond more easily with similar, likeminded people but when your actions change depending on that friendship, then you’ve got a serious problem.

It goes without saying that you should never dole out tasks, praise and perks based on how well you get on with someone, but even the little things like having lunch with an employee, can become disruptive.

Other staff members may get jealous and paranoid that they’re being overlooked so by trying to treat everyone equally, you’re less likely to create insecurities within your team.

10. You’re too lenient.

Do your staff constantly flout the rules? Do they show up late to work, lag behind and constantly end up making excuses for under-performing?

You’re probably being too lenient for your own good.

As we always say, a good boss knows when to praise their staff (see no. 4) but also, when to put their foot down and roll out the discipline.

At the end of the day, you’re running a business and if someone isn’t willing to pull their weight, you must take action – you can’t be everyone’s best pal!

To find out how to deal with under-performers, check out our 3-part blog series starting here.

(Click these links for Part 2 and Part 3).

11. Your employees constantly work long hours.

woman with post-it notes all over her, struggling with work

marcolm at

Surely it’s a good sign if your staff members are willing to put in the effort and work extra hours… right?

Yes – to a certain extent, it does show commitment!

But you’ve got to take a step back and wonder, why exactly do they have to work overtime?

Are your processes too slow? Is something or someone slowing everyone else down? Do you need more staff?

Once in a while, overtime is unavoidable, but if it’s a weekly (or even daily) occurrence then something’s not quite right.

If you push your employees too hard, they will get burnout.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

There really is no point in forcing your employees to work overtime (especially without offering overtime pay).

It shows that you don’t value their time and is bound to lower motivation and staff happiness.

Instead, be proactive; get together with your employees and work out exactly where the bottleneck is and come up with ways to speed up processes.

12. You don’t know anything about your employees.

Do you have any idea what your team did over the weekend?

Some (bad) bosses feel that it’s unnecessary (or even inappropriate) to have a chat with their employees, if it’s not related to work.

But, you’d be surprised how a simple conversation can boost an employee’s morale, making them feel valued and loved.

Next time you’re in the office, why not have a quick catch up?

13. You make false promises.

a pinky promise

tungphoto at

I once worked for a company who had this cheeky little way of improving staff retention.

If an employee became unhappy, they’d make a variety of false promises… ‘there’s no point leaving now, you’re up for a salary review in a couple of months – you never know (wink-wink nudge-nudge).’

These broken promises of a brighter future may have retained staff for a little longer (most people hoped that things would genuinely change) but it eventually lead to a mass exodus of staff.

Be honest with your team and they’ll respect and trust you – even if it is bad news. Lie to them and they’ll leave you high and dry.

14. You’re constantly sacking people.

If your company has a ‘revolving door’ recruitment policy then you have one of two problems…

1. Your recruitment process is terrible. If you find yourself hiring the wrong person time and time again, then it’s time to reassess your recruitment strategy. Luckily we have an entire blog to help you with that! Click HERE to sign up and discover our secrets.

2. You’re being far too hasty. Deciding to let someone go is a HUGE decision that should not be taken lightly.  Good managers will build great onboarding and ongoing processes to ensure that every staff member receives the appropriate support and opportunities to develop and thrive in the business.

Of course, occasionally you will just hire yourself a bad egg or things just won’t work out, but this should really be nothing but a rare occurrence.


Are YOU a bad boss?

Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all management technique that will help you to become the perfect, infallible boss.

Different people respond better to different styles. That’s why it’s so important for you to constantly reassess yourself as a manager.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Of course, the most obvious sign that you’re a bad boss is having a terrible staff retention record – and beware, your superiors will start to notice if this is the case!

If employees (especially the high-flyers) don’t hang around for long, then you know something’s wrong.

If you’d like to learn more about creating a happy, engaged team that employees actually WANT to work for then check out our other Staff Retention posts.

Good luck!

- Mark Wilkinson
Mark Wilkinson

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is one of the founders of Coburg Banks and heads up the permanent recruitment division of the business.  Every day he helps companies with their recruitment projects, sourcing the very best individuals for their vacancies.  He understands recruitment inside-out.

> More blog posts by Mark Wilkinson

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