25 Signs You Have a Horrible Boss

14 minute read

If you contemplate handing in your two weeks’ notice every time you talk to your boss, you’re not alone.

A global poll from job-search site Monster found that 32% of employees say they have a “horrible” boss, while only 15% say they have an “excellent” one.

“A bad boss won’t just jeopardize your career growth — they’ll also negatively impact your personal life,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, author, and leadership coach, told Business Insider. “A good manager will bring out the best in you and have a more uplifting affect on all aspects your life.”

It’s important to know whether you’ve got a bad boss on your hands so you can “take measures to mitigate the stress and own greater power in the relationship” as soon as possible, she said.

Here are 25 signs your boss will eventually crush all happiness you’re clinging to — and steps you can take along the way before you quit your job.

Your boss lies

A boss who lies is untrustworthy — not a good foundation for a productive relationship.

“Some can become so immune to their own stories that they can convince themselves that the lies are true,” Taylor told Business Insider. “They may legitimize their fibbing by rationalizing that others do it, deflect this character flaw by pointing the finger to others, or use mistruths to generally hide blunders.”

Other bad bosses just can’t face the fallout that will result from telling the truth.

“Examine what motivates your boss to lie,” she said. “Make sure you have all your facts before you start any questioning. And remember that it’s best to encourage honesty than to go on the offense or use sarcasm.”

Read more: 33 things you should never say to your boss

Your boss is never, ever wrong

Learning to admit that you’re wrong is one of the best things you can do for your colleagues. If your boss refuses to admit that they’re wrong, this means they’re not willing to go out of their comfort zone for you.

A national independent study by Lynn Taylor Consulting found that 91% of employees said that owning up to one’s mistakes as a manager was an important factor in employee job satisfaction.

“Admitting to mistakes sends a message to your employees that it’s a safe environment to take smart risks — and without that, you’re sapping innovation,” Taylor said.

Your boss overpromises

An overpromising boss is an untrustworthy boss.

“You might have been promised a series of promotions, increased responsibility, or a raise, but all you get is silence,” Taylor said. “It’s often helpful to get to the truth through emails, if one-on-one discussions are getting you nowhere. If the responses aren’t coming via email, or at all, be wary.”

Your boss is quick to blame you for mistakes, but rarely expresses gratitude when you succeed

Does your boss put you down in front of others? If you let it go once, it’ll happen over and over again. Good bosses know they should have this conversation with their employees in private.

In her book Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots, Vicky Oliver suggests apologizing to your boss behind closed doors. She writes:

“While it may sound counterintuitive to apologize to someone for something that clearly wasn’t your fault, amazing things happen when you can bring yourself to do so. An intimate bond is forged. All you have to say is something akin to, ‘I blame myself for your outburst earlier today. Clearly, I’ve been relying on you too much. If you have any issues with me, I’d appreciate hearing about them in the privacy of my office.'”

Your boss expects you to be just like them

Most people like others who are similar to them. But good bosses know that different types of personalities can improve their team.

If your boss is constantly trying to cast their image onto everything you do, try following one or two of their suggestions and thank them for the rest. Stay true to your colors, but also show that you value your boss’ suggestions.

Your boss is a micromanager

Is your boss so pushy and overbearing that you find yourself unable to accomplish anything efficiently? This may be a perpetual problem, so get ready for it early.

If they want a play-by-play of every meeting, email, and call, then take detailed notes of every business interaction and send them to your boss, Oliver suggests. Your boss will think that they’re on top of things and will leave you alone.

“By over-communicating with a micro-manager or needy boss, you’ll diffuse their desire to constantly check in, while you build all-important trust at the same time,” Taylor said.

Your boss has a pesky habit of calling you on your day off

You put in your hours and get permission for a long weekend off, but your boss doesn’t hesitate to call you during your off hours. To deal with this kind of boss, Oliver writes that you need to set your boundaries early.

“‘Separation anxiety’ can kick in if you have a power-hungry boss, and you inadvertently chip away at that power,” Taylor said. “You’re best served to instill a sense of comfort with a terrible boss who’s demanding, much as you would with a ‘terrible two’ toddler — whether you plan to take a day off, leave early, arrive late, or take vacation.”

If you’re going to be gone, give ample warning and let them know that things are under control, with appropriate detail.

Your boss has favorites.

This will cloud their ability to recognize your skills and the value you add to the company. They also fail to see that they’re treating you unfairly.

“No matter how hard you work, or the results you achieve, they somehow become dwarfed by those of the teacher’s pet,” Taylor said. “It’s worth modeling good behavior in this scenario, praising others on your staff or those in other departments, for their team effort. You’re giving recognition to those who deserve it and demonstrating the powerful impact that has for people like you.”

They don’t want to hear your viewpoint.

Stubborn bosses are as common as company water coolers. “But there’s a fine line between appearing insubordinate and arguing your case,” Taylor said. If there’s something in it for your boss, you have the best chance of changing behavior.

“Avoid the temptation to fight the same battles repeatedly,” she said. “Change your argument to find compromise, and document your case if you’re passionate about your perspective. Just don’t win the battle and lose the war.”

Your boss hogs the limelight

Does your boss constantly use the word “I” when associating with success? Do they fail to invite you to meetings to present your own work?

They may be intentionally keeping you out of the limelight so that they can stay in it, Oliver warns.

“Territorialism is in the DNA of a bad boss,” Taylor said. “They can become glory hogs and take credit for your hard work. Your best option is to manage up and understand the real root of the problem.”

Their feedback isn’t relevant

Do you feel like you’ve gained nothing after receiving feedback from your boss? Is it so vague that it’s not helpful? Your boss may either be unsure of what to tell you, meaning they’re not equipped for the job, or they don’t want to tell you anything useful, writes Oliver.

You boss could be withholding information in order to have some kind of advantage. This person is not a team player.

“You’ll have to decide if your career will remain stagnant reporting to this boss; if a lateral move is possible; or if you can still grow due to interactions with other senior members of the team,” Taylor said.

Your boss gossips

When your manager spreads rumors or gossips about the staff, it’s disheartening and awkward — and entirely unprofessional.

“Your terrible boss may try to drag you in, but you’re better off diplomatically staying out of the fray,” Taylor said. “Otherwise, you may find yourself inadvertently alienating others if word spreads further.”

Try segues that bring current projects back into focus: “Hmm, I hadn’t heard that. But while I have your attention, I’d like to mention some good news about the XYZ account.”

Your boss teases or flirts

Jokes that are at your expense can be upsetting, and bad bosses have trouble seeing that by relentlessly teasing people who aren’t their equals, it can be hurtful, Taylor said. “They lack the emotional intelligence to see the difference between humor and insults.”

Equally as inappropriate, or worse, are bosses who cross the line and flirt. “It may not qualify as sexual harassment (if it does, don’t allow it and speak up early),” she said, “but it might be unwanted comments that are borderline, and seem flirtatious or awkward.”

If the comments are merely friendly and build rapport, great. If anything more than that, you have reason to push back and address it privately.

Your boss constantly changes their mind

Does this sound familiar? In the morning, they tell you one thing. After lunch, it’s a different story.

“Pick the [suggestion] that benefits you most and pursue that direction,” Oliver writes. “Kick the habit of being dependent on him in the first place. Never ask for permission. Instead, simply inform him of your intentions. If he has a problem with any of your decisions, he’ll let you know.”

Taylor said fickle bosses are challenging, because they can trigger never-ending false starts. “And that can affect the initiatives you give to your team, causing a colossal productivity and morale drain.”

It’s often better to wait before going full bore on a whim from this kind of boss, she said. “Also, you can be the voice of reason by asking non-threatening, thoughtful questions about the newest idea or flavor of the day. That can give a terrible boss pause, and foster a more strategic approach next time you’re given an ‘urgent’ project.”

You’re not given a chance to grow

There are few things more aggravating at work than being kept stagnant with the same routine responsibilities over a long period of time, especially after you’ve voiced interest in expanding your level of contribution.

“If you feel your sentiments are going unheard, you may still proactively demonstrate your more strategic skills on a current project and propose them to your boss; contribute new ideas to your boss’ pet project; get more specific with how your background and credentials could specifically be better tapped for XYZ initiatives; or, with your manager’s permission, offer to volunteer on a related department’s project where your skill set applies, building on your existing credentials,” Taylor said.

Your boss is passive aggressive or ignores you

One of the most unnerving, telltale signs of a terrible boss is one who rarely lets you know where you (or they) stand. “Most employees would rather get direct criticism from their manager than face a seemingly pleasant, but backstabbing boss,” Taylor said.

If they’re simply not attentive, that’s also a problem. “When your boss has the attention span of a fly, it not only saps your motivation; you feel like you’re spinning your wheels,” she said. “Try observing how others get the manager’s attention.”

Your boss has mood swings

“Not everyone is even-keeled all the time. But a bad boss can be a charmer in the morning and a Raging Bull an hour later, depending on events of the day,” Taylor said. “You can easily overreact and follow suit with the wide swings. Or, you can be the even-tempered professional who suppresses the ‘sky is falling’ dynamic.”

By offering rational thinking — “That’s true, but we have until tomorrow to finish the project, and that’s more than enough time,” for example — you can demonstrate a more constructive approach. “Realize, too, that this yo-yo behavior is rarely directed solely at you.”

Your boss never discusses your future with you

Are the discussions with your manager mostly transactional, with rare discussions about your future growth path?

A good boss will discuss your prospects for long-term growth within the company — and not just during your performance evaluation, Taylor said. “Savvy bosses check in with their team on a regular basis, rather than being reactive or waiting for an emergency, such as your brand new job offer.”

It’s getting harder for you to wake up in the morning

If you have a knot in your gut every time you have to face your boss, or if it’s taking you twice as long to drag yourself out of bed every morning, take notice. You may just have a terrible boss.

“The worst thing you can do is nothing,” Taylor said. “Better to first examine if this is a relationship worth salvaging with some diplomatic, high-road tactics.”

Your boss throws tantrums easily

No one should be subjected to an out-of-control boss. “If you have been, your next step might be to check out your favorite job board,” Taylor said.

But if your manager only has occasional outbursts, you may be able to work through the situation.

Taylor suggested:

“Consider the acronym CALM: Communicate — more frequently and in a venue that works for your boss; Anticipate problems before they worsen, and have solutions; Laugh— use levity to help your boss keep a rational perspective; Manage up — set limits with your bosses diplomatically, and let them see the benefits of your suggestions. Timing is important with emotionally prone bosses. Don’t go into the lion’s den in your zeal for approvals, and certainly avoid early mornings, just before lunch, or after some bad company news.”

Your boss is self-centered

Does you boss truly believe that the world revolves around them?

“Some bosses immediately take the conversation to themselves; what happened to them, their latest golf score, a conversation they had … you get the picture,” Taylor said. “You can become more adept at getting to your agenda by saying something like, ‘That’s interesting. It reminds me of the project you gave me yesterday.’ And then don’t stop talking until you’ve safely equalized the conversation.”

Your work is never enough

“It’s 8:30 a.m. and your inbox is crashing the corporate server due to your boss’ excessive requests and inquiries,” Taylor said. “You could work 24/7 and still find your boss dissatisfied.”

Your manager must realize that you have limited time in a day, and can’t do all things (well) at once. If you don’t speak up, your boss will keep pushing.

Projects are suddenly whisked away

“You’re given the plum project of the year on Friday, but on Monday, John is now somehow in charge,” Taylor said. “It feels like the rug was just pulled from under your cubicle.”

You have the right to get clarity, albeit tactfully, she explained. You want to avoid: “Why is John handling my project?!” Use a cool-down period to collect your thoughts, diffusing any signs of emotion.

Try something like this in a face-to-face meeting: “I want to do the best job I can here and was really looking forward to managing that project. What happened that changed that plan?”

“You may not be the only one on the receiving side of this form of mismanagement, so don’t assume you’re being singled out,” she said. “If you’re seeing a pattern of losing work assignments, ask to handle specific new projects and gauge the responses before making your next move.”

Your boss operates by irrational fear

If your boss acts as if the world is coming to an end, that spawns fear throughout the office and hurts your concentration.

“Try to be a beacon of rationality by posing the ‘what ifs’ to your boss, and point out the positives of the situation with real facts,” Taylor said.

Your boss says ‘yes’ to just about everything

You may consider having a pushover boss a good thing — who doesn’t want the freedom to do whatever they want? But having a boss that never pushes back on ideas means you’re not getting the guidance you need to grow professionally.

While tough managers are more likely to stress you out than inspire better performance, good bosses know that being kind and empathetic doesn’t equate to always saying ‘yes.’

If you suspect that your boss will agree to just about anything, you’ll need to motivate yourself to work harder and become more discerning in your decision-making.

This article originally appeared on BusinessInsider.com

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