There’s an old saying in business: “Employees don’t leave companies – they leave bad bosses.” Back in 2015, a Gallup poll of more than 1 million U.S. workers confirmed this adage, and today, the results haven’t changed. Seventy-five percent of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of bad bosses. Atrocious conduct at the top inevitably trickles down throughout the company, affecting employee morale, productivity, and eventually the company’s culture. Good employees who sign on don’t stay very long, and the employees that do stay either grow passive, indifferent, or begin to mimic their boss’ behavior. So how do you identify the signs of a toxic boss?
Identifying the Signs of a Toxic Boss
Identifying the signs of a toxic boss isn’t always easy if you are a job seeker. Many bosses who possess toxic behaviors are quite adept in covering them up when you are in the interview process. They can pant a rosy picture that leaves you walking away with a great first impression, but once you’re on the inside the façade wears off and you finally see the emperor’s new clothes. The best thing you can do to minimize their impact on your well-being is to be observant, aware, and diligent in setting boundaries to corral them. Below we’ve identified a few categories that toxic bosses fall into.
Micromanagers encourage the slow death of effective teams. Bosses who micromanage undercut employee productivity and stifle creativity. If your boss constantly hovers over you and your work, or interferes in your work assignments by asserting themselves into them, you have a micromanager. Micromanagers are toxic bosses because they exhibit a need for constant control. They need to be involved in every aspect of the business process, and involve themselves in the minutia of an employee’s daily work rather than supervising larger concerns. This demonstrates a lack of trust in their employees, and an arrogance on the boss’ part that they know better. Such behavior demonstrates to employees that their work is not valued, and undervalued employees don’t stay long within the company.
Bullies lead by intimidation and coercion. They yell at their employees, and rule by fear rather than cooperation. Bullies are one of the worst type of toxic boss. If they are challenged on their decisions, they lash out at others to minimize dissent. They create an authoritarian environment that minimizes the free expression of ideas in the workplace, and demoralize employees – effectively cutting off an employee’s potential to grow. Bosses who bully demonstrate an extreme about of insecurity in their behavior. They bully because they believe any opposing suggestion to their ideas is an attack on their leadership, so they overcompensate by putting others down to inflate a false sense of superiority.
Blamers always pass the buck when things don’t go their way. Bosses who blame are toxic bosses because they don’t take responsibility for their own behaviors or poor decisions. They’re also great at taking credit when things go well and exclude their employees. Blamers exploit others for their own personal gain. They gaslight their employees to shift blame, and they never show appreciation or give recognition to their employees – instead keeping all the accolades to themselves.
Perfect storms are the kings of toxic bosses. They exhibit a slew of toxic behaviors across all categories, and can make the work environment so hellish that a total breakdown in team cohesion occurs. That’s why we call them “perfect storms.” Perfect storms display an air of superiority so egregious that employees will do almost anything in their power to avoid interaction with these types. If your boss carries the attitude that they are God’s gift to the business world, that no employee ever leaves them – they leave the employee, then that is a major sign of dysfunction in their character and their leadership.
If you are encountering any of these behaviors in a boss, you have options. The best course of action that we advise is to start looking for new employment where you can be a valued employee. However, we don’t recommend quitting your job right away without finding a new position first. It’s common knowledge that it’s easier to get a job while employed than to find one while jobless. As such, do your best to mitigate your boss’ toxic behavior until your find a better workplace.