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20 Bad Boss Attributes And How To Avoid Them

This is our third article in a series on bad bosses. Why so many articles on bad supervision? Because Gallup workplace surveys show that as many as 70% of employees feel that they are poorly supervised. And my guess is that this percentage is higher in churches and non-profits, primarily because supervisors receive little or no training in how to lead, manage and supervise people.

One thing bad bosses, managers, and leaders have in common is they’re not consciously aware of their negative tendencies. They don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why training and self-awareness are so important. Hopefully, the following list of bad boss attributes and their fixes will help.

20 Qualities Good Bosses Try To Avoid

Here are qualities effective leaders, managers and supervisors of people try to avoid and suggestions on what you can do if you discover this is one of your tendencies.

  1. Micromanagement
  • Micromanagement is the number one most-often-cited attributes of a bad boss. Instead of giving staff the time, space, and freedom to perform, micromanagers hover and dictate every part of the assigned work. Inexperienced or insecure supervisors often want to control each step of a process. These bosses demand constant updates and progress reports that delay completion, make the assignment more onerous and take the joy and meaning out of the work. Further, this approach can squash creativity and take a toll on productivity.
  • How to avoid it: First, strive to trust your staff. Limit the number of times you check their work by jointly deciding how often updates should occur. Frequently, when supervisors provide staff with autonomy in their work, employees repay that trust by exceeding expectations.
  1. Failure to coach and give feedback
  • Coaching and delivering feedback is one of supervisors’ most important and even vital responsibilities. A supervisor who neglects to provide performance insight and guidance ignores one of their primary duties and stifles the employees chance to learn and grow.
  • How to avoid it: Scheduling regular formal reviews on a yearly, quarterly, or monthly basis provides the discipline and platform for sharing feedback. Also, making opportunities for more informal evaluations, like one-to-one check-ins on a regular basis can accomplish the same result.
  1. Inability to say “no”
  • It is not unusual for people in leadership positions to be uncomfortable in saying “no” to their own bosses and team members. This propensity for people-pleasing and aversion to pushback often leads to over commitment, bad decisions and a failure to meet objectives. Further, eventually it leads to the supervisor being taken advantage of.
  • How to avoid it: Acknowledge the potential negative consequences of always accommodating your coworkers. Make decisions based on organizational vision, mission, goals and objectives. Practice saying no and becoming more assertive.
  1. Absence of empathy
  • A lack of empathy is one of the worst bad supervisor traits. A leader who fails to recognize the feelings of employees may not hesitate to overwork staff, make insensitive comments, fail to express gratitude, treat employees like machines and display even worse examples of workplace abuse.
  • How to avoid it: Make an effort to observe and imagine employees’ feelings. Practice putting yourself in their shoes. Be mindful of self-awareness, how you are coming across to others. Search for the root of your lack of compassion.
  1. Lack of confidentiality and honoring conversations
  • Leaders who betray confidences and talk about staff behind their backs not only sets a bad example, but it also violates trust. As a result, an employee’s confidence can be destroyed. Nor will they trust or confide in their supervisor or ever admit they are struggling.
  • How to avoid it: Understand the toxic consequences of failing to keep confidences and honoring your staff in conversation. Simply make a commitment to not do it. Two rules of thumb. (1) If you would not make the statement to the employee’s face, do not say it to another co-worker. (2) If the roles were reversed and you would not want the information shared with others, then don’t.
  1. Poor communication
  • Bad bosses may go days, weeks, or even months without contact. Frequently they fail to provide timely or important information to their staff. Or they may fail to respond to questions or meeting and information requests.
  • How to avoid it: Determine your preferred communication tools and use them. Develop a communication schedule as a discipline to regularly communicate with your staff. Set deadlines for important conversations or responding to requests, phone calls and emails.
  1. Lack of organization
  • A lack of organization is a prominent bad boss trait. Disorganization becomes a problem when supervisors consistently forget details, misplace important documents, and miss meetings. This behavior sets a bad example, frustrates staff, and often causes extra work and delays for other team members.
  • How to avoid it: Find or develop a scheduling and calendaring system that works for you. There is an abundance of electronic and hard copy systems to choose from. Take an hour or two at the start or end of each week to organize your work and review it each morning. If details, structure and organization are not in your skill set, see if you can hire an assistant.
  1. Conflict avoidance
  • An unwillingness to confront and conflict avoidance are sure signs of a bad boss. When supervisors procrastinate or ignore disagreements, incompetence and bad behavior without addressing the underlying causes, resentment can build and reach a boiling point.
  • How to avoid it: Establish a conflict resolution process to provide an agreed upon structure for problem-solving and conflict resolution. Take a course in mediation. Read Ken Sande’s book, Peacemaker.
  1. Unavailable or unapproachable
  • Supervisors who are consistently unavailable to staff or otherwise put out signals that they don’t want to be approached create serious problems. Often, they are more focused on their own goals than team goals. These absent bosses are never fully aware of what is going on with their employees or their department. Secondly, employees feel unsupported and unimportant. Thirdly, staff begin to make decisions that they shouldn’t and create problems that the boss could have prevented.
  • How to avoid it: Establish hours you will keep your office door open and communicate that at these are the times you are available to your staff. Block out time each day to walk around the office and informally engage with staff. Schedule regular one on one meeting with each of your staff.
  1. Failure to delegate
  • Non-delegators qualify as bad bosses, even though they may be admired for their willingness to jump in the trenches and to do tasks that others are capable of handling. This leads to employees never correctly learning how to do their jobs. Further, non-delegators are prone to take on more responsibility than time permits and end up neglecting their own responsibilities. Ultimately, when their job remains undone the entire department or organization suffers.
  • How to avoid it: Determine the root reasons why you want to do it yourself rather than delegate. Self-gratification, recognition, people pleasing, lack of trust? Accept that your role as a boss is to coach, guide and empower employees, not to do the work for them.

Next week we will share 10 additional qualities of bad bosses that good bosses strive to avoid.

Posted on November 8, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5