Are you becoming a bad boss?

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 12:00

We've all seen them: The narcissist. The micromanager. The passive-aggressive sociopath. These are the personalities that haunt many otherwise successful businesses, disguised behind a well-tailored suit and winning smile. 

While there are plenty of bad bosses out there, they don't happen in isolation. In a recent article, we explored how a bad boss is a product of the culture within the business, which means managing a bad manager may also require addressing the culture of the company.

Perhaps the first warning sign is simply that you are working under a bad boss.

However, spotting a bad manager is much easier than identifying these same qualities in ourselves. In other words - how do we stop ourselves from becoming a bad boss?

The 'bad boss' alerts

There are many different warning signs that you might become a bad boss over time. Perhaps the first warning sign is simply that you are working under a bad boss or there are a lot of people within the business who are displaying negative personality traits. In this environment, you'll need to be sure you aren't picking up these same traits yourself.

As we've written before, there's no ultimate bad boss. Instead, you have to be aware of the personalities you are managing and how they perceive you. This self-awareness of your own personality is the first step in spotting signs you might be becoming a bad boss.

Among the concrete signs you can look for, according to research from lead generation Firm Approved Index, are:

  • Workers feeling underappreciated - 40.7 per cent
  • Overworked teams - 39.9 per cent
  • Perceived favouritism between different workers - 34.6 per cent

Each of these can be a sign that you will be developing a reputation as a poor manager. 

Sometimes though, there won't be any negative signs that you are a 'bad boss' - but instead your team won't be empowered to operate without you. If you are finding yourself frustrated because your team are bringing you problems instead of solving themselves, chances are they have become accustomed to you micromanaging them.

While this might not set off serious warning bells, it's still a sign that you are heading into bad boss territory.

The right (and the wrong) types of employee turnover

Interestingly, there is one metric that isn't related to how good or bad you are as a manager: employee turnover. This was according to research published by the University of Illinois, which found that great leaders and bad bosses have the same levels of turnover.

However, what the study revealed is that bad leaders have staff turnover that is negative, with people leaving their job because they are disengaged with their role and disillusioned with the work. On the other hand, great managers cultivate workers who have a sought-after skill set and who are subsequently head-hunted for new roles or leave on good terms.

If you are worried about becoming the passive-aggressive sociopath in your workplace, don't worry - it's entirely avoidable.

If your worried whether you are becoming a bad manager, the research suggests you might need to take a look at why people are leaving - if they are doing so for the wrong reasons, it might be time to rethink how you are nurturing your employees.

Turning around your possible bad boss persona

Once you have established whether you are at risk of becoming a bad boss, the next step is to look at how you can reverse that feeling. The good news is that the solution here lies in the same tools you can use to manage a bad boss in the first place. 

To do this, start by identifying why people might perceive you as a bad boss. If you are simply reflecting the organisational culture, it may be harder to address than if there are simply misunderstandings with the team regarding what is expected of them. Then, invest in your skills through options like management training to build your own self-awareness. 

If you are worried about becoming the passive-aggressive sociopath in your workplace, don't worry - it's entirely avoidable. As long as you are self-aware and invest time in understanding your staff, you can be sure you are avoiding these risks and keeping staff engaged with their work.