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Spotting & Dealing With Bad Bosses

by Sid Ridgley

Quick, think of the worst boss you ever had, and we’ve all had at least one.

Chances are you left that person’s organization, either by transferring to another assignment in the company or by going to another company. Many managers, particularly senior managers who are out of touch with their organizations, believe that people who leave are lured away with the promise of more pay or better benefits. In fact, reviews of the exit interviews that are conducted often confirm that belief.

Later, and rarely in writing, we find out that one of the key reasons for leaving was their dissatisfaction with their “boss”. For those that are leaving it is much easier, in exit interviews, to identify “pay & benefits” as the reason. From their perspective they really don’t want to burn their bridges. I believe (for the most part) that, people leave people, they don’t leave companies.

When Beverly Kaye, a co-author of “Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay”, was asked: “Why should organizations be concerned about the impact that bad bosses have on their employees?” She replied: “Because employees now have more choices than they’ve ever had before and their choices give them options that mean they are truly free agents.”

Spotting Bad Bosses

Actually, it not that difficult and you probably already know who they are. Here are some of the signs:

  • Higher turnover than other parts of the organization.
  • Higher employee utilization of “sick time”.
  • Higher complaints- from employees, co-workers and Customers.
  • An inherent philosophy of leadership, “it is my way or the highway”.
  • Poor (or non-existent) record of staff development, i.e., grooming others for more senior assignments in the organization.
  • Lack of concern with employees’ work/life needs because their needs are of a higher priority.
  • Lack of a concerted and sincere effort to involve employees in decisions. In short, they don’t empower.
  • Difficulty in recruiting people from other parts of the organization to “transfer into” the area.
  • Talented people who work in the area toil away in virtual anonymity.
  • A high level of resistance for accepting personal responsibility for any “poor” performance that occurs in their area.

The idea of “being good” to employees is not new. However, with a tight labour market, the financial impact of employee turnover can be (and is) huge. Therefore it is necessary to spot, rehabilitate and, if necessary, eliminate bad bosses.

Dealing With Bad Bosses

One of the best bosses that I worked for once said to me: “To be successful you need three things; money, good ideas and good people. However, if you have good ideas and good people you’ll get the money you need. When you really think about it, if you have good people then you’ll get good ideas. So, in reality, to be successful means you have to have good people.” Now, more so than ever before, our organizations need talent.

Here are a number of things an organization ought to be doing:

  • Select the “right” people to be the bosses.
  • Identify leadership and management competencies that are valued.
  • Set out clear expectations about how managers should behave.
  • Provide opportunities for feedback from those the person manages. There are a number of excellent diagnostic/feedback tools available on the market today.
  • Provide on-going training in leadership and managerial skills.
  • Provide personalized coaching and counseling. Often it is less costly to rehabilitate than replace.
  • Reward managers for performing all aspects of their jobs well, and correct and counsel them when they don’t.
  • Ensure that “annual appraisals” are balanced evaluations. It is easy to talk about “developing people for higher levels of responsibility” or “improving service to Customers”. If they don’t appear on the appraisal, then they will be ignored.
  • Polling, or soliciting feedback, from all employees regarding the current climate or working environment in the company.
  • Set out the implications for “poor” managerial performance, which could include termination, when necessary.

Even the best organizations have bad bosses who have a negative impact on performance, morale, and employee growth. I truly believe that the majority of bad bosses want to be good ones. They are, however, unaware or lack the skills, knowledge and training necessary to be an effective manager.


Sid Ridgley, MBA, CSP, assists leaders in creating great places to work through the simultaneous improvement of both employee and customer satisfaction. Sid can be reached at 905-294-1260.Visit for more about how Simul’s consulting, training and keynoting can help your organization.

You may contact Sid Ridgley about speaking, consulting, other publications and many other things by using the form at the end of this link. You must request permission from Sid Ridgley to re-print or repost this article.


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