HR Insights 4 min

Updated Top Bad Manager Behaviors

July 27, 2020

We’ve all heard horror stories about bad bosses who do the unthinkable or unforgivable. It’s tempting to think these bad manager behaviors are just some tall tales meant to spook impressionable interns. But businesses can’t afford to ignore bad bosses.

Close to half of our 1,010 respondents said a boss has been the primary reason they left a job.

In 2017, we sent out our first survey to find out about bad manager behavior, and we decided it was time to revisit and refresh our insights. Our new data shows that people still feel strongly about the worst manager behaviors, with some interesting new twists. Learn to recognize bad boss behaviors and avoid creating a toxic workplace.

A Sneak Peek at the 10 Worst Bad Boss Behaviors

According to employees, nothing is worse than having a boss take credit for work they’ve done.

So what are the absolute worst manager behaviors? We created a list of 24 potentially bad boss behaviors and asked more than 1,000 US-based employees in various roles to rate them from “totally acceptable” to “totally unacceptable.” Of those 24 behaviors, we picked out the ten worst. Here’s a peek at some of our results and what employees think is most important:

Steady at #1: Stealing Credit

According to employees, nothing is worse than having a boss take credit for work they’ve done. Respondents consistently rank it as the number one bad boss behavior in 2017 and again in 2020.

This makes it crystal clear that employees expect fair recognition for their accomplishments. If you want to make a positive impact with your employees, make sure you don’t pit managers against employees, especially in reward or compensation systems, and build a culture that encourages recognizing other people’s accomplishments and contributions.

Want to see the rest of the top 10 bad boss behaviors for 2020? Download our Bad Boss infographic for free.

Climbing the Charts: Focusing on Weaknesses

In 2017, a bad boss who focuses on employee weaknesses rather than strengths came in at number 9. In 2020, it shot up to number 5––no other bad boss behavior made such a dramatic shift!

Employees want a carrot, not a stick. In fact, the stick just reeks of bad manager behavior to them. So instead of focusing manager reviews or one-on-ones on the negatives, you’ll get better results and help employees improve by including more positive reinforcements and building on their strengths.

Widening Gender Gaps: Trust and Support

Two bad boss behaviors have become more unacceptable to women than to men since our last survey:

  • Women are more likely than men to say it’s unacceptable that a boss doesn’t appear to advocate for them when it comes to compensation.
  • Women are also more likely than men to say it’s unacceptable that a boss doesn’t back them up when there’s a dispute between them and a client.

This is worrying since this reveals possible gender bias. Bias can infect everything from how you evaluate employee performance to who you hire, and the sneaky thing about it is that it’s often unconscious. But that’s not a good excuse for making female employees feel like they don’t deserve as much as male employees. Learn to face your biases, and create a workplace that values feedback and input from all employees.

Coaching and Mentoring: Small Business Challenges

We also asked our respondents about the size of the company they work for, revealing that some bad boss behaviors are bigger problems for small businesses (25–49 employees).

  • Ranked overall at #4, employees at small businesses are more likely to say that a bad boss doesn’t advocate for them when it comes to compensation.
  • Ranked overall at #9, they are also more likely to say that a bad boss doesn’t provide proper direction on assignments/roles.

Small business owners need to watch out for these worrying trends, which point to a lack of support from managers. Just because a business doesn’t have many employees doesn’t mean that employees know everything, and it doesn’t automatically make their boss more approachable. Small business owners should consciously train their managers––or themselves, if they’re managing all their employees––to be better mentors and coaches.

Bad Bosses Make Good People Leave, So Bosses Need to be Better

It may seem like we’re delivering a lot of bad news with our bad boss infographic, but we think this data is key to help business leaders and owners make the necessary changes to their management training programs and workplace policies to better support employees and managers.

Take a good look at our bad boss infographic. Do you work for a bad boss? Are you a bad boss? If you’re in a leadership position, you have the power to turn this bad boat around. When bosses are open and approachable, help employees set goals, and focus on employee strengths, employees consistently report being more engaged at work. So rooting out bad apples––and helping them get better––helps everyone perform better.

Want to be a better boss?
Get the full Bad Boss infographic.
Marie-Reine Pugh
Copywriter

I’m a copywriter at BambooHR with six years of writing experience. I focus on making HR easier for professionals and anyone wanting to make a difference in the workplace.