A “bad boss” isn’t entirely uncommon, although the traditional idea of a bad boss is less frequently seen in today’s workplaces, particularly as compared to past decades when it was almost a necessity for a boss be seen as harsh, unyielding and even bullying.
The general concept of a bad boss is so prevalent countless movies have been made about the topic, including one simply named “Bad Bosses,” starring Jennifer Aniston.
What is only coming to light fairly recently, however, is the detrimental impact a bad boss can have on an entire organization.
What Constitutes a Bad Boss?
The idea of a bad boss is a general one, and it can cover many different types of leaders, some of whom may operate from a place of fear and intimidation or others who may be hands-off and disengaged with employees.
These are some of the most commonly seen types of bad bosses:
The Bully Boss
A bully boss can be the one our minds automatically revert to when discussing this topic. A bully boss is someone who leads not by example or by cultivating a sense of respect, but instead through fear. The mean, bullying style of leadership can include yelling, frequent pointing out of even the smallest mistakes, outbursts, and very little recognition of the positive impacts of employees.
There’s going to be a lot of negative feedback coming from these bosses, and if it’s not something negative they may not be interacting with employees at all.
Bully bosses can represent one of the worst types of people to have in a business because they not only damage morale, productivity and employer brand, but they can even be so harassing there may be civil litigation issues arising as a result of their reign of terror.
The Unprofessional Boss
The unprofessional boss is someone who strives to be a friend or confidant of employees, rather than someone in a leadership position. These people may strive so hard to be liked by subordinates that they completely forget their role is to manage and lead them.
This is a completely different end of the boss spectrum from the mean boss, but it can be just as impactful. When a boss is trying to be liked above all other objectives, employees may start doing things on their own time with little regard for actually working. They may not show up on time, may not get tasks completed and the office can quickly transform into a free-for-all.
An unprofessional boss who struggles to be a friend to employees may not even know when performance issues exist, so there’s no way for them to fix them.
The Unqualified Boss
In some offices, a problematic boss is a person who has no idea what he or she is doing. You may find yourself wondering how they were even put into a leadership position. These people may not just be unaware of how other people’s jobs are performed, but may even be unsure of how to do the simplest tasks.
Unqualified bosses can be frustrating for employees, who are looking for someone who can lead by example.
The Push-Too-Hard Boss
Bosses are meant to push employees to perform to expectations and be the best possible asset to a business, but there are those bosses that have unrealistic expectations, often because they’re not in the shoes of their subordinates being asked to do these unmanageable tasks.
If your boss comes to you at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and asks you to compile data for hundreds of customers before the end of the week, he or she may be a push-too-hard boss.
These managers are good in the sense they want to fuel employees to do their best level of work and keep productivity at a high level, but when expectations are unrealistic it can make employees feel discouraged, too stressed out, and it can reduce overall morale.
The micromanager is someone who’s so engaged with employees that it becomes stifling and anxiety-producing. Micromanagers have difficulties delegating, and even when they do they still want to be part of each and everything happening in an office.
Micromanagers can limit innovation and creativity that stems from employees branching out to create their own ways of getting things done, and they can also make employees feel as if they’re not trusted or relied upon to produce quality work. When employees don’t feel like they’re being given adequate responsibility, they tend to disengage and only do the minimum required of them to get by in their position each day.
The Damaging Impact of Bad Bosses
Regardless of what style of bad boss is present in a company, there are going to be wide-reaching effects as a result.
One way bad leaders cause damage is to the health and well-being of subordinates and co-workers. Research shows that working under a bad boss can up your risk of having a heart attack by as much as 50%. When you work for a boss, you also tend to experience the fight-or-flight reaction, which is when your body is producing high levels of stress hormones and adrenaline. Your body is not designed to continuously have these situations occur, and when it’s a long-term issue, it can wreak havoc on hormones and cause other physical issues that contribute to chronic diseases.
If your company invests a lot of creating employee engagement, wellness, and benefits plans, all of these investments might be wiped out by a bad boss, which means you’re not maximizing your ROI for these programs.
Bad bosses are also shown to correlate with not just lower employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction, but also with reduced levels of customer satisfaction. Bad bosses lead to increased rates of turnover, which means money is being poured into recruiting, onboarding and training what are likely to turn into short-term employees, as well.
Share with us your thoughts about the role of a bad boss—have you worked for or with someone who could qualify as a bad boss? What were the results of this person’s behavior? If you are a leader who is serious about dealing with the issues of bullying bosses, see this course.