5 Signs That You’re a Bad Boss

You’ve probably heard that people “don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses,” before– and it’s true, more than half of the time. According to a 2019 study, 57 percent of workers have left a job because of their bosses, a statistic that should have employers everywhere taking a hard look in the mirror to assess their effectiveness as leaders.

As a small business owner you’re likely tackling everything, from bookkeeping to filling inventory to human resources, on a daily basis. Without having the resources to delegate some of these tasks, your focus is often on everything but how you manage your employees. While you might feel like your coaching style is effective, you could be driving good workers straight into the arms of your competitors.

Take a look at our checklist of 5 signs that you’re a bad boss and how you can change for the better:

You’ve disciplined an employee in front of others.

Confronting an employee is never fun, but it can be constructive. When you’re ready to issue constructive criticism or need to take disciplinary action, make sure you’re doing it behind closed doors. Chastising one of your team members publicly, as in, within earshot of the general public or around coworkers, is unprofessional and generally a bad idea. This tactic could lead to feelings of humiliation and make them feel unappreciated, disrespected, and unmotivated to change.

Far worse than issuing a punishment in front of a crowd, public put-downs and insults are totally unacceptable. Where a short conversation in private would have sufficed, disrespectful confrontation is a recipe for an HR disaster. Additionally, having a trusted and impartial party present when tackling serious issues is a good idea– their presence guarantees a witness for you to rely upon, should a disgruntled employee make false claims against you after meeting with them behind closed doors.

You can’t stop micromanaging.

As the leader of a team of people, delegating tasks is one of your most important tasks. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing even the most senior of your team members after every decision they make, you’re failing to do your job effectively. Allowing your team to take charge of their tasks without questioning their every move can increase their personal sense of motivation at work and will cut back on the amount of time you’ll be wasting standing over their shoulders.

Micromanagement can also be seen by other leaders as a sign of a deeper issue, like mismanagement and inefficiency. Handing off jobs to your crew will allow you the time to focus on bigger decisions and goals. At the same time, giving your team their own goals to work on will make them better at their jobs over time. Mistakes are learning experiences for them and coaching opportunities for you– embrace them.

You’re unavailable.

This can range in severity, from ignoring casual suggestions to outright disengaging when you’re confronted with a situation that begs your involvement. Being listened to and, better yet, heard, will make your employees truly feel like they’re part of the team, further motivating them to be invested in their work. Make sure you’re allowing your team to come to you with their concerns and ideas often and show them respect by hearing them out, even if it means setting up a meeting for a time when you can be completely available.

Since performance reviews are largely geared at showing employees areas where they can improve, consider making time to take suggestions from them on a regular basis. Respond to emails about suggestions as best as you can, and offer your team the time to come to you with their ideas; fostering an environment of transparency allows your team to grow as a unit.

You’re inflexible.

Holding people accountable for their responsibilities is one thing, but being rigidly inflexible and stubborn is quite another. Whether we would like to admit it or not, our employees don’t schedule their lives around work, and will require some patience and accommodations. If an employee feels like they can’t ask for time off to go to medical appointments, be present at major events, or take any personal time, they’ll soon be looking for a new job.

Being flexible doesn’t mean that you have to act like a doormat, however; finding a balance between respecting your team’s personal time and achieving work goals is extremely important. Additionally, encouraging your employees to rest up on their time off will result in happier, more effective workers that are ready to perform well. 

You’re overly critical.

While your responsibility is to hold everyone accountable for their jobs, you’ll need to pick your battles wisely. A good boss knows that even they aren’t infallible and will accept the blame where it’s due. Everyone will make a mistake eventually, and even the most experienced employee will occasionally drop the ball, but the way you handle their mistakes matters. Try to balance the bad with the good by framing these corrections with positive affirmations about their strengths, and congratulate your team often for their successes.

In the same breath, issuing praise is important. You want your employees to know that you appreciate their hard work and saying “thank you” often will go a long way. If all you have to offer are criticisms, your employees will begin to feel undervalued and unappreciated and will likely be seeking other opportunities. Did your company exceed sales expectations for the quarter? Make sure your team knows how great that is. Did you achieve a major milestone for the company recently? Share your thanks with the team that made it happen.


If reading this checklist made you do a double-take, it might be time to take a step back and reassess your effectiveness as a manager. Don’t give up, though– you can become a better boss. Ask around for additional resources, engage in self-training, seek personal advice from others in your position, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

If you’re looking for more ways to improve your professional life, contact us today.

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