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The 10 faces of bad bosses

When we think of bad bosses we conjure up images of cartoon characters with steam coming out of their ears, or holding a megaphone and screaming at their poor defenseless employees. Even in “reality,” we think of those depicted in movies and television (think Michael Scott from The Office, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, or Mr. Burns from The Simpsons). 

And while these stereotypical bad bosses do exist, the reality is that many other types and traits exist in the real workplace, far beyond the caricature we see in cartoons or Hollywood. There are many other faces of bad bosses.

In our book Bad Bosses Ruin Lives: The Building Blocks for Being a Great Boss we explore these faces, or what we call the 10 types of bad bosses. We spent a lot of time, as you can imagine, “naming” our bosses. And while there is no right or wrong way to do this, we decided on names that are more descriptive, direct, and constructive, making them safe and approachable so that all bosses will turn to and not away from them. 

“We need to accept the fact that there are bad boss traits in all of us, not just the few. Bad boss traits are not taboo to discuss; rather, we need to understand and embrace them so that we can accept those that apply to us, instead of denying that they exist. And, equip ourselves with new skills so we’re able to tackle our bad boss traits instead of trying to be a great boss using bad boss techniques and approaches.”

Here is a high level summary for each of the 10 types of bad bosses. As you read through them, it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  1. It’s not all or nothing, you could have some of the traits that make up a particular bad boss type and therefore you can be categorized under that bad boss type.

  2. It’s not either/or, you could be more than one type of bad boss. For most of us, we have a mix of the traits of multiple types of bad (and good) bosses. They're not mutually exclusive.

  3. It’s not static, with us always being the same mix of bad (and good) boss types. We frequently move from one type of boss to another as situations change at our company, with our people, and even with ourselves. 

  4. There can be a domino effect, with one bad boss type or trait causing another trait to emerge.

  5. Even great bosses will have bad boss traits sometimes

The Avoider doesn’t show up for their people; ghosts them; doesn’t give them the time, attention and feedback they need to do their job and feel valued.

The Ignorer doesn’t listen to what their people say; ignores input, ideas and perspectives and misses out on what they have to say, making them feel undervalued

The Hoarder withholds and keeps information to themselves or shares it in ways that don’t fully meet the needs of their people. 

The Unappreciater doesn’t show their people recognition, gratitude or appreciation, making them feel unvalued, invisible and unappreciated for their actions and contributions. 

The Pretender withholds the truth and any discomfort it could cause others in an attempt to please and be nice to them; gives answers they feel are wanted and fails to give them the honesty they need and deserve.

The Blocker prevents or gets in the way of their people’s development and career progression, blocking them from achieving their goals, mastering new skills or contributing to the company’s success.

The Firefighter deals with situations in a reactive and urgent manner, moving people from fire to fire with no apparent strategy, affecting their ability to plan, learn, grow and achieve more meaningful and long-term achievements.

The Micromanager is overly involved in their people’s work, constantly controlling and prescribing what and how work is done.

The Blamer assigns responsibility to others for a fault or wrong, casting blame and refusing to take any accountability themselves.

The Coercer uses power in order to bully, control and coerce processes and outcomes, expecting strict compliance and offering their people a low degree of autonomy.

We encourage you to be open-minded and honest with yourself. Start by thinking, “Is this me?” instead of putting up your defenses and thinking, “Nah, it couldn’t possibly be me.” Think of it as an opportunity, and not a punishment. Embrace, and don’t ignore these bad boss traits, for that will take you one step closer to being a great boss. 

If you’d like to learn more about your boss traits, good, bad and great, you can take our free online assessment test by click on this link.

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