4 Signs of a Terrible, Toxic Boss

4 Signs of a Terrible, Toxic Boss
Image credit: shutterstock

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

Get a glimpse of how to overcome the mental and physical fatigue that is standing between you and your full potential.
Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everybody has a terrible boss story. From managers who constantly micromanage to owners who throw temper tantrums, there’s no shortage of examples of poor workplace leadership.

Related: How Successful People Overcome Toxic Bosses

A bad manager can be so detrimental to an office that he or she actually affects employee retention. In Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report, one out of two professionals said they had quit a job to “get away” from their boss at some point in their career.

Accordingly, the question then becomes, do bad bosses even realize what they’re doing wrong? It’s easy to recognize lousy leadership behavior in others, but it can be difficult to analyze personal wrongdoings. Here are four behaviors of a toxic boss and how they can (and should) do better:

1. Not listening to employees

Imagine an employee named Jim. Jim has been thinking of ways to increase traffic to the company website. He goes into his boss’s office and shares his ideas. Without even looking away from his computer, Jim’s boss just says, “I’ll think about it.” Dejected, Jim returns to his desk, and his idea is never discussed again.

A 2015 SHRM survey of more than 600 employees found this situation is not uncommon. While an immediate supervisor who respects their ideas was in the top 10 job satisfaction factors employees listed, only 37 percent of respondents said they were "very satisfied" with the consideration their ideas received. Only 23 percent were "very satisfied" with the communication they had with senior management.

Instead of simply dismissing employees’ ideas, managers should take the time to listen and discuss their suggestions. Employees deserve the opportunity to present their ideas and explain how they can make the company better. Even if a boss decides not to implement an idea, employees should at least feel that their voices are being heard and valued.

2. Shifting the blame

A 2014 BambooHR survey of more than 1,000 American employees found that for one out of every five employees surveyed, having a boss who “passes the buck” when things don't work out as planned was a reason to leave their job.

The takeaway here is that when leaders don’t own up to their mistakes, they erase accountability from the company culture. Instead of wasting time finding someone else to blame, they should step up and find a way to make the situation better.

To make matters worse, bosses who shift the blame when they have a bad idea are often quick to take credit for others' great ideas. This is just as bad. In a 2015 Interact survey of 999 employees, 47 percent of those surveyed listed taking credit for someone else’s idea as an ineffective way to manage.

Trying to garner undeserved praise tells employees that their leader has no regard for others’ hard work or for their own careers. So, leaders should acknowledge employees who go above and beyond. This will create a workplace where employees themselves feel appreciated and in turn recognize others’ success.

Related: About That Time I Told My Boss to 'F*@% Off'

3. Leaving employees out in the cold

A strong leader needs to trust his or her employees and give them the independence to do what they do best. However, there’s a difference between providing autonomy and leaving employees out in the cold.

In the aforementioned Gallup report, while only 13 percent of employees surveyed "strongly agreed" that their manager helped them set goals, 69 percent of those employees said they were highly engaged.

In order for a boss to be a leader, he or she needs to provide more than just instructions. Also needed is guidance and support for those employees. Knowing the team’s needs and being able to address them quickly is an essential part of workplace leadership.

Thanks to new technology, it’s now easier than ever for bosses to communicate with and manage their employees. For example, PeopleSpark is a platform that allows leaders to monitor each individual’s progress, provide feedback and track how he or she is doing.

4. Focusing on the negative

When providing feedback, leaders may believe that it’s important to focus on what an employee needs to improve on instead of what he or she is already doing well. But such negativity can actually lead to decreased employee engagement.

The Gallup survey found that 67 percent of employees surveyed who "strongly believed" their manager focused on their strengths were also engaged. Only 31 percent of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses were engaged.

Regularly acknowledging employees’ positive contributions shows them you understand they are an important part of the team. Even if an employee is struggling, making sure to include positive feedback with constructive ways to improve will motivate this individual to improve and reach his or her full potential.

What other workplace leadership behaviors can be toxic for the office? Share in the comments below!

Related: What's the No. 1 Thing Employees Would Change If They Were the Boss? 

More from Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur Select: A Fund For Entrepreneurs, By Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs require more than just money, which is why we aim to empower you, as well as act as a catalyst for value creation.

Entrepreneur Insider members enjoy exclusive access to business resources for just $5/mo:
  • Premium articles, videos, and webinars
  • An ad-free experience
  • A weekly newsletter
  • A 1-year Entrepreneur magazine subscription delivered directly to you
Make sure you’re covered for physical injuries or property damage that occur at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business

Latest on Entrepreneur