Bosses 101: What Makes Someone a Bad Boss?

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:19+00:00 August 2nd, 2010|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: , |1 Comment

If you dread going into work, have anxieties and fears about your workday, it’s probably because you’ve got a bad boss making your workday a living hell. Unfortunately you’re not alone—80 percent of employees leave their jobs because of their bosses. For many people the behaviors of bad bosses begin to affect their mental and physical health, notwithstanding his/her ability to do the job well.

“Simply uttering the word, ’boss’ drives an emotional response,” says Andrew O’Keeffe, a human resources executive of 25 years and author of the book appropriately entitled, The Boss. “It’s gotten so bad that even the mention of our supervisors can tie our stomachs into knots.” O’Keeffe, who has been observing bosses for many years recognizes the symptoms of a frustrated subordinate— feeling trapped, helpless and being plagued by self-doubt are all consequences of cruel managers. The affected employee must choose to stay in the job and be demeaned, or complain and get fired: It’s constant struggle to maintain one’s self-esteem.

“It becomes an either-or situation. In a bad economy, it’s more difficult to find a new job so managers find that their power-base is increased,” O’Keeffe says.

If you’re an employee in this frustrating situation, first thing to do is to recognize the type of bad boss you’re dealing with. For some bosses, it’s possible to reason with them because some simply “don’t know what they don’t know,” as Dave Schoof, a LinkedIn professional points out. So providing that you approach sticky management issues with diplomacy and courtesy, it’s possible to turn a bad boss into a not so bad one. But be advised that there are some bosses who are just insane, impossible and incapable of changing.

Here are some common characteristics of a bad manager and if you recognize any of them in your boss, buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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About the Author:

Ji Hyun Lee
Ji Hyun Lee is a writer and consultant based in New York, home to one of the most competitive work environments in the country. As a result of this, she uses her work experiences to document a blog about all the ethical dilemmas that arise in the workplace for her website, In the past, she worked at, DiversityPlus and Asian Diversity magazine. She has an MFA from Columbia University.

One Comment

  1. Guy Farmer January 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Great insights Ji. It really is amazing how much of an impact bosses make on their employees, often without any knowledge of the boss herself. I’ve found it helpful to realize that a bad boss is not a reflection on me. Negative bosses are really only working out their own issues on everyone in the workplace. It doesn’t make them inherently evil, just perhaps not incredibly positive.

    The great thing is that we can do things to take care of ourselves such as coming to terms with the kind of person we work for and accepting it; being assertive and asking for what we need; or moving on to work for someone who will recognize our talents. I fall in the latter category because I figure life is too short to work for someone who makes life miserable.

    Another positive perspective is that even the most troubled bosses can actually move toward a kinder leadership style should they choose to do so. There’s always hope because even formerly tyrannical bosses feel great when they let go of all the garbage.

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