Learning From Others: 25 Qualities the World's Worst Managers Share

We’ve all had one: a boss, manager, or team leader who could have come in first at a competition for the World’s Worst Managers. But what makes them so bad?

Turns out, there are quite a few qualities that many of the worst bosses have in common. One of those qualities is that they don’t see themselves as a bad boss. They think they’re doing a fine job.

The world’s worst managers don’t communicate, suffer from narcissism, micro-manage their team and play favorites

If you are a boss or manager, I urge you to read this list with an open mind. Decide if any of these qualities could describe you and work to change.

Recognize yourself?

The World’s Worst Managers: 

Don’t communicate. Almost universally, this is viewed as one of the worst things a boss can be or do. Whenever possible, be open and honest with your staff.

Suffer from narcissism. With terrible bosses, it’s all about them — how employees’ work reflects on them, how someone’s problems or successes will affect them. There’s no ‘I’ in team, people — and that goes for bosses too!

Micro-manage their team. Some bosses need to have control over every single aspect of their work. If you can’t stand to let your team work on their own, you might need to consider whether you should have a team at all.

Play favorites. You might be on better terms with one employee over the others outside the office, but inside, it’s important to treat everyone equally.

Have unclear (or changing) expectations. If the manager doesn’t know or communicate what is expected of the employee, how can the employee ever live up to those expectations?

Use fear as motivation. If your goal as a manager is for your team to fear you, you’re going about it all wrong. You shouldn’t have to use fear or intimidation to get things done.

Yell or lose their temper. Hey, we all get frustrated and upset from time to time; that’s normal. What’s not normal is acting as though there’s a correlation between the volume of your voice and the team’s revenue figures.

Can’t make a decision. As a team leader, it’s basically your job description to make the tough decisions; if a manager can’t decide what’s for lunch, let alone the direction the team or company should move in, there’s a problem.

Take credit for successes that aren’t solely theirs. Ever found out later that a boss took credit for your work or ideas? Yeah, it doesn’t feel good at all. Don’t do that.

Blame the team for failures. This is often the flipside of the manager who takes credit for the good: he blames everyone else for the mistakes and failures.

Manage up. The term “managing up” means that the person spends all their time trying to look good to their boss, at the detriment of their team. A good manager has everyone’s interest at heart, not just her own.

The World’s Worst Managers also:

Never apologize or admit a mistake. A great manager can admit when he is wrong; a terrible one never admits that he makes mistakes at all.

Resist change. Managers who never want to change how things are done can drag entire teams and companies down with their outmoded ideas or practices.

Fail to provide recognition. Maybe they don’t steal credit for your accomplishments, but they never hand out a single pat on the back or “good job,” either. This is terrible for team morale.

Are unable to motivate the team. These managers just never seem to get the best from employees and may see high turnover in their team.

Go missing when there’s work to be done. These are the bosses seen mostly wandering around the office with a cup of tea, “managing” everyone. Yet they mysteriously disappear when there’s actual work to be done.

Seem unavailable when problems arise. Characterized by the phrase, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!” these bosses are unavailable to help an employee whenever problems arise.

Lack vision. When the leader lacks vision, the team lacks direction, and that can be incredibly frustrating as a team member.

Don’t mean what they say. These bosses may praise you to your face, but you know in your heart that they don’t mean it. You can’t trust these managers at all.

Have unrealistic expectations. It’s fine to set clear guidelines about what is expected of employees, but sometimes those expectations become entirely unrealistic. A good manager understands not only what is desirable, but what is possible.

Are focused only on work. These managers wouldn’t recognize the concept of work/life balance if it came and sat in their lap. They have no life outside of work and expect their employees to be the same.

Tolerate mediocrity. Nearly as bad as expecting the impossible is the manager who tolerates mediocrity or worse. If one team member can get away with anything while the others pull their weight, it’s clearly going to cause resentment.

Manipulate. Managers who play one person off another, or dangle carrots and threaten sticks all the time aren’t leading, they’re manipulating.

Have a vindictive streak. Woe to the employee who disagrees with this manager; a terrible manager will make an employee “pay” for any perceived slight.

Use humiliation and shame. The very worst bosses will publicly humiliate or shame an employee as a motivational tactic — either for him or the rest of the team. And it never works.

If you recognize yourself in any of these behaviors, never fear! You can change and become a great leader. All it takes is a little self-knowledge and the desire to do so.

About the Author

Bernard Marr is a business author, keynote speaker, consultant in big data, analytics and enterprise performance, and the founder and CEO of the Advanced Performance Institute. This article was first published on LinkedIn’s blog was re-edited for clarity and conciseness.

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