Employee Survey Reveals These Top 10 ‘Bad Boss’ Leadership Qualities For Managers To Avoid

By Annabelle Smyth

We’ve all heard the old adage, People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Since we all have a ‘bad boss’ horror story, few will argue with that logic. But now there’s finally some data to back up the anecdote.

A recent employee survey by BambooHR has revealed that 44% of employees said that a boss had been the primary reason they left a previous job.

The feedback survey asked more than 1,000 US-based employees to rate 24 ‘typical boss behaviors’ from ‘totally acceptable’ to ‘totally unacceptable.’ Some of these behaviors were attributed to leadership attribute archetypes like, The Harasser, The Micromanager, and The Credit Taker (which was voted as the #1 worst behavior).

Here’s a summary of some of the key findings from the survey, as well as an infographic you can quickly look at while your boss is busy harassing someone else.

Taking Credit That Isn’t Due

If you haven’t experienced this poor leadership quality yourself, you’ve probably seen or heard about it happening to someone else.

Managers that have deemed themselves worthy of credit due to their employees are unlikely to ever be forgiven. In addition to using their employees’ efforts and ideas to promote their professional image, this behavior can be a problem in the workplace by negatively impacting employees’ careers.

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People want to be seen and appreciated for their hard work, and they want to form genuine, trusting relationships with their managers. The lack of employee recognition like this demonstrates the opposite of the leadership qualities that employees crave in their ideal work environment.

Interestingly enough, failing to recognize employees and taking credit for another’s efforts is considered less and less acceptable with age. The survey results indicate that younger employees have a higher tolerance for this behavior, whereas older employees found this management behavior much less acceptable. In fact, more than 77% of employees aged 60+ found it completely intolerable.

The Gender Gap

The survey responses also revealed different perceptions about boss behavior between male and female employees.

While both the men and women surveyed stated that they had left a job because of bad management, men and women disagreed on the behaviors that motivated their departure. Out of the 24 categories of bad boss behaviors, women rated 19 leadership qualities as being more unacceptable than their male counterparts did. Men, on the other hand, rated only a handful of (non-gender specific) behaviors as more unacceptable than their female counterparts:

– Refusing to friend you on social media

– Doesn’t like to spend time together outside of work

– Pushes you outside your comfort zone with new tasks and assignments

These are some of the behaviors that women found more unacceptable than men:

– Doesn’t appear to care if you are overworked

– Doesn’t appear to trust or empower you

– Boss focuses more on your weaknesses than strengths.

One of the outcomes in particular was not surprising, especially in light of recent continued sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. While 31% of the women surveyed stated that they left because of ‘inappropriate behavior’, only 20% of men indicated that they had left for the same reason.

Does Leadership Care?

The BambooHR employee survey uncovered a painful truth — that non-managers tend to feel more strongly about these leadership behaviors than managers do.

In the long run, a lack of trust between managers and employees will do more than send A-players running for the hills, it will corrode a company’s workplace culture. The same is true for apathy towards overwork, which disturbed 68% of employees surveyed compared with only 48% of bosses.

The good news is that company leaders who read this can learn from the mistakes of “Bad Bosses”. They can focus on providing their managers with tools to empower employees, treat them with dignity and respect, and support them in their career paths.

Check out the infographic below to see the rest of the behaviors that managers should avoid…

Author Bio: Annabelle Smyth is a freelance writer who covers everything from HR to technology and leadership skills. Her most recent work involves partnership marketing with BambooHR where she has had the opportunity to learn about the relationship between employee engagement and successful businesses.

Image Credit: JD Hancock


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  • Taking credit for something which was accomplished by a member of your team is hugely damaging. Not only it will result in a loss of respect by the team as a whole, but the manager will also loose the person’s trust and loyalty.

    • Thank you Monika! I agree completely. Integrity and honesty are paramount.

  • My pet peeve with managers wasn’t listed. It’s having a boss who lies! Having had two different bosses with tendencies to lie to cover up mistakes or other things, it’s quickly become my number one irritant. I guess it goes hand in hand with taking credit, since that’s also a deception.

    • Totally agree. For many people, deception is the worst.

Leadership

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