9 Signs That You are a Bad Manager

you are a bad manager

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Let’s face it: everyone has, in his or her career, had at least one lousy manager. Perhaps the manager is unwilling to help his employees grow. Perhaps she’s a ridiculous micro-manager. Some of these management situations are easy for you to get out of. Others, not so much.

Let’s tackle some of the more common issues facing people in micromanagement and let’s look at ways to address them.

Fails at Management

Here’s a big one. Your manager can’t actually … manage.

It happens. The kicker is that it is stifling to personal and professional growth. If you as the employee feel that your manager isn’t giving you the respect you feel you deserve as an employee, you are faced with a choice: stay or go.

If the company is large enough that you can transfer to another team, do it. You may also wish to talk to the manager directly, telling her that she’s not doing a good job at what she was hired to do–but do it constructively. Tell her how difficult it is to say what you’re saying, and that you want to make her successful as a manager but in order to do so, she needs to make you empowered as an employee.

Forbes reports about a Harvard Business Review study that nearly half of upper managers around the world can’t actually manage. People get promoted for the pay raise, but they don’t get the adequate training to manage.

But being a lower level employee doesn’t lend itself to a pay raise, so it’s the only way in our business culture to move on up. It is best for companies to encourage training programs that help build great leaders. And if you are a bad a manager who thinks you can’t manage, take it on yourself to grow yourself professionally and personally, because everyone will benefit from it.

Bad Advice

Your manager is giving you bad advice. You feel that it doesn’t make sense for the company, yet you must be receptive to the insights because it’s coming from someone who is senior to you. If you’re in this situation, approach this person privately and try to learn why he is giving you this advice that seems so utterly nonsensical.

Your manager could respond in one of three ways:

  • to assert his authority again (in which case, he’s unprofessional and a horrible person to work with);
  • to tell you that your approach is simply not good, without any constructive feedback;
  • or to give you the true rationale as to why he’s doing it his way.

Remember, if he’s your senior, it’s because he has more experience. There may be a good reason for the approach you disagree with, simply because you haven’t considered it yet.

Berating Manager

Your manager makes a mockery out of your genuine attempt to grow and learn. You truly want to grow, but feel that her laughing at what she’d probably call “stupid questions” is hurtful.

Let her know this privately. Tell her that it hurts you. See how she reacts. Perhaps she’ll be apologetic. Perhaps she’ll be offended that you’d possibly think of her comments as malicious. Perhaps she wants you to play along and respond to her jokes, however hurtful they are.

People have different personalities. This may be her style. Sometimes, it may just be better to avoid the manager altogether by becoming more adept with the work.

If you can’t deal with her reaction to your direct approach, it may be time to move on. But before you do, talk to your colleagues and see how they react to your specific concerns about her insulting behavior.

Upper Management is Fine, but Executive Management is Not

Your direct manager may be a cool guy. Your CTO, however, may be a jerk. Should you walk away from a potential opportunity or the opportunity that already lies ahead?

The question is yours to decide upon alone. Think of how many times you’d be interacting with executive management. Is it often? Is the CTO that bad that you dread every single meeting with him, or can you tolerate him every so often?

If your work environment is typically tolerable, stick with it. If it’s not and you feel that the CTO is breathing down your neck and don’t like it, you might want to walk away. But talk to your colleagues as well. How are they reacting? Do they have a similar disdain for executive management?

If, as a team, you feel that there’s something amiss with your upper management, approach them as a team, and give specifics as to where you think they can improve. Remember, if 46% of all managers can’t actually manage, that could apply to the highest level of management, and most people who want to grow professionally would be receptive to honest and constructive feedback.

You’re Being Ignored

You have concerns. Your manager seems to listen, but instead, does nothing. Two months later, the same concerns have yet to be addressed. You begin to liken your manager to a politician who seems to say one thing but does nothing–or the very opposite.

I was in this situation myself. I waited it out and fortunately outlasted my manager. If the concerns are so egregious that you simply cannot overlook that they’re being ignored, you know what you have to do. And if there’s an upper manager above this guy, you can bring those concerns to them and hope that they’ll do something to ensure that changes are made.

The Micro-Manager

Micromanagement is the worst.

You have a boss who nitpicks everything you do, focusing on the nuances it takes to get to a certain point. Micro-managers don’t care how their employees are doing, nor do they care how their clients are doing.

I recall a story about a decade ago working for a great company run by micro-managers, where I was asking a client (in an open office) how his health was, because he was recently hospitalized, and I got berated that I wasn’t focused on the work. I was, instead, focused on small-talk that doesn’t do anything for progress.

Wow. The main boss didn’t understand that relationships were what mattered the most. How would you respond to this?

In my case, I was working for a startup with 12 employees, so I couldn’t go above him. I waited for the boss to be out of the office so that I wouldn’t be chastised–and quit. (He later chased my new employer and badmouthed me.) A friend who later worked for him at another company got fired. You’ll inevitably leave miserable if this permeates your daily grind. Hey, it happens. Bigger and better things lie ahead.

Of course, if you have the opportunity to go above him, do it. Your exit doesn’t have to be out of the company. Things can change within the company as well.

No Feedback

It absolutely sucks to go at your daily grind without knowing how your manager feels about your progress. You don’t want to wait until an annual review to know that your manager is unhappy (or super happy) with you. As a manager, your role is, of course, to manage. If you’ve ever read “The One Minute Manager,” you’ll know that the key to successful management is good feedback and constructive criticism.

As an employee, living in the unknown is frustrating.

If you’re not getting the feedback, you need to ask your manager directly. Prepare to hear good and bad. You can also ask your peers for their feedback, since that matters too. And then, think internally: knowing how you perform, how can you do better?

Not Communicating Expectations

You are told to do X, with the objective that Y will happen. You do X as far as you can tell, and Y doesn’t happen. Your boss gets furious that you didn’t do what was expected.


Employees need to have a clear understanding of what success should look like. Otherwise, they will almost undoubtedly fall short. Don’t tell them just to do something–tell them WHY they need to do it.

As an employee, if you’re not sure why you’re doing something, don’t be afraid to ask. If your manager isn’t aligning expectations for you, you need to do due diligence of aligning them yourself.

Your Manager is Too Stiff

Your manager has no sense of humor. It’s saddening to tell a joke and to be met with a straight face and confusion.

As someone who has an obligation to maintain personal relationships, it’s quite difficult to do so if your boss isn’t responding to attempts to make the work environment a tad more enjoyable. Come on, manager, lighten up!

And… if she doesn’t, well, you can make a choice. Remember, not all managers should be there. Sometimes, you have to suck it up. Having a manager who can’t be relaxed and an enjoyable colleague may not be the worst thing in the world. But if she also meets the other criteria referenced in this post, you know what you may need to do.

Bad management is a tricky thing. You are bound to encounter it a few times in your career path. A bad situation isn’t a permanent situation, and sometimes you can actually fix what’s wrong. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel you can.

Worse comes to worst – new opportunities are everywhere.

Stressed Employee Photo via Shutterstock

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4 Reactions
  1. This must be a painful realization for people; to realize you’re a bad manager, but that’s your job that you likely worked very hard to get.

  2. Have read a lot on it’s topic and this is really so. Sometimes it’s very hard for the owner of the company to communicate with managers. But for company to be a success it’s important to provide good management.

  3. Here’s a thought. Which is more effective? 1) “Please put the supplies in the box room after you finish the inventory and leave it in my iin-box on my desk.” or 2) How do you feel we should track our orders?

    I have worked over twenty years in this possition and even learned how to fill in for my “boss” when she was on vacation. Now, I’m a lowly secretary and no one even asks me for help. The girl who took my bosses place was a todler when I started this job. She is unable to “manage” those under her. Someone please tell me what’s wrong with todays management and why they can’f give “orders” to those they supervise? They can’t even speak english correctly. They either mumble or talk too fast.

  4. A bad manager is someone who doesn’t return calls. Who leaves the job a lot to take care of personal problems. Who leans on their employees to pick up their slack. Who doesn’t offer good wages, and who is adamant about capping wage categories.

    You see, I come from a job with a manager who did all of that. He needed me to train the new supervisor, but insist that the role I would be in is only worth x amount. So he said, for the four months, I have to reduce your wage due to that positions cap, but will give you back your regular wage when you come back and work with me. (or should I say, cover my ass, so I can leave the job all to you, and I can make all the money.)

    I worked my butt off for this guy, and his company, and still he treated me with absolute disrespect. He complained about the turn over rate, but I wonder why it was happening. HMMMM. Plus, I watched him lose several clients for similar reasons. A: They can’t get a hold of him, and B: the turn over rate bothers them.

    I thought he was a good manager, but it turns out, I was wrong. He was horrible.
    I told him that it’s obvious that it’s more important for him to save a few bucks, than to care about his staff. That proved that he treated us like we were disposable.

    That is a bad boss.

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