Most of us have indulged in sessions of boss-bashing or daydreaming about how we would do a much better job if we were in charge. However, being a manager of others is more tricky than it looks. There’s a reason psychologists and business professionals have spent decades researching the factors that make a manager effective.
Learning what makes a boss good or bad can help you inspire new energy in yourself and the people around you at work, and it’ll also save you from taking the ultimate choice of quitting: 50% of employees who quit said a bad boss was the primary reason for it.
What makes a bad boss
Merely heading a company or managing a team may make a person a boss in title, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a boss in reality. Certain attributes make specific people better suited to leadership than others, but nothing can overcome a lack of experience or unwillingness to learn.
Here are a few big factors that make a bad boss:
- Inability to delegate. Micromanagement is one of the most frequent complaints workers have about bad bosses. The desire to micromanage often comes from feelings of incompetence, as research shows that 48% of bosses like to be seen as experts or authority figures. These fear of losing face often pushes bad bosses to get too involved in minute decisions. They fail to trust the expertise of their team members, leading to resentment and disastrous consequences for productivity.
- Indecisive. A good boss inspires workers to stay motivated even when things get tough and acts as the steadfast guide that employees need to stay on top of their game. Bad bosses, on the other hand, have a tough time committing to (and enforcing) clear goals and may even overreact to small shifts in public opinion or company performance. These constantly changing opinions make it tough for colleagues to keep up and can lead to a loss of morale.
- Passing blame. President Truman popularized the phrase, “the buck stops here.” Every boss should internalize that message. Some bad bosses routinely take zero responsibility for their actions and instead cast blame on others or even their team members. Similarly, some bad bosses will wrongfully blame certain team members who have done nothing wrong, just so they can exert their authority. Whether this negative boss behavior is due to selfishness, arrogance or otherwise, either situation sucks and doesn’t do any good for employee morale.
- Obliviousness. Sometimes you’ll find a boss who is really nice and has nothing but good intentions, but because they are totally oblivious to the truth of how things really are in the workplace, they are actually bad bosses to have because of how ineffective they are. Whether it’s to due to lack of attentiveness, lack of intuition, lack of listening or straight out denial, a boss who doesn’t know what’s going on can’t address problems well or be the supportive manager you need.
What makes a good boss
One of our post popular posts ever is one that shares the most compelling qualities of great leaders and you’ll find that there’s tons of overlap between the qualities in that list and the qualities of a good boss. That’s because a boss is a leader, whether they want to be (or consider themselves to be) or not.
Think about the following qualities to cultivate to become a better boss or to provide constructive feedback to your own boss:
- A strong vision. Inspirational leaders have a very strong vision. Consider Steve Jobs, the visionary founder of Apple. He foresaw a personal computing revolution and was tireless in pushing the boundaries of what computers and other devices could do. This inspired his employees to constantly create innovative products that changes the way we live.
- Openness to new ideas. Openness to experience is one of the “Big Five” personality factors that is most strongly associated with leadership abilities. Good leaders are curious about the world around them and constantly ask questions that push things forward. A boss who isn’t open is likely to stick with the same old strategy, even when it isn’t working.
- Effective communication abilities. Having good intentions isn’t enough if you’re not communicating effectively. Bad bosses make sweeping statements, only to get mean-spirited and personally combative when things go badly. Good bosses, on the other hand, practice excellent communication: listening, getting specific, and honestly addressing concerns as they arise.
- Integrity. 61% of workers say that trust is very important in a manager. The old saying that trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair holds true in workplace relationships, too. Good bosses act honestly. That isn’t to say that they never make mistakes, but a good boss will own up to a bad mistake and make amends.
- Emotional intelligence. Any good leader is smart and quick-thinking. But it takes emotional intelligence to become a truly great leader. Researchers have defined five core features of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy for others, and social skills. An emotionally intelligent boss understands employees’ concerns, handles difficult situations with maturity, and mediates conflict effectively.
Are there any qualities of good or bad bosses that we missed? Let us know @kununu_US!
Linda Le Phan is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.