4 Toxic Traits All Bad Bosses Have in Common

woman with head in hands looking frustrated

Adobe Stock

Profile Picture
May 30, 2024 at 12:42PM UTC

No two bad bosses are exactly alike. Maybe one’s a sneaky friend who gaslights you; maybe another’s completely absent until they’re giving you negative feedback. Yet there are some toxic traits that all bad bosses have that make them, well, pretty bad. Here are five red flags bad bosses have in common—and what to do if your manager has them.

1. They don’t support you.

A boss’ main purpose is to support you in your role. If they’re not adequately setting you up to achieve—whether that’s by hitting certain quotas or finishing a project—they’re a bad boss. While you’re responsible for your work, your boss is there to guide you and act as a helping hand. They should never be indifferent to your progress or actively avoid helping you.

What you can do about it 

If you notice your boss isn’t giving you the support you need, try asking directly for what you need help with. Take initiative by asking for the specific help you need and see how they respond. If they’re still not supporting you, it may be time to find support—or another role—somewhere else.

2. They don’t care about your career goals.

A boss doesn’t need to be passionate about your five-year plan to be a great boss, but a good boss should care about your career goals beyond your day-to-day work. A good boss wants you to be doing work that both helps the company and works toward your individual goals.

What you can do about it

If your boss gets bored every time you talk about your career goals, focus on what skills and projects you can pick up now to serve your career goals. Can you get looped in on a project that aligns with your passions? Can you take a course to expand your skillset? Even if your boss isn’t focused on giving you opportunities that serve your career goals, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve them.

3. They don’t care about you as a person.

There should never be an obligation for you to share personal information with your boss, or for your boss to share personal information with you. Yet even if they don’t know anything about your personal life, they should still care about you as a person—especially your stress levels, emotions and how you’re balancing your work. Good bosses show empathy toward their direct reports and try to help them manage when they’re overwhelmed.

What you can do about it

Having a manager that doesn’t seem to care can be hurtful. Remind yourself this isn’t about you—it’s your boss’s lack of empathy!—and be sure to set clear boundaries that protect your life from your work. If they break these boundaries and start causing you stress, speak up and start to look elsewhere.

4. They don’t give you feedback until it’s too late.

Getting regular feedback from your manager is important, even when it’s informal. Knowing where you stand is crucial to your success in your role; it’s never fun to get a surprisingly negative performance review when no one told you anything was wrong. Bad bosses won’t let you know what they’re actually thinking about your work until it’s too late.

What you can do about it

Check in with your boss regularly at the end of a project or once you’ve finished a deliverable. Ask specific, actionable questions so your boss is guided to give direct feedback that you can use moving forward.

At the least, a bad boss can make you feel stressed and unsupported at work. At the worst, a bad boss can make you miserable and sidetrack your career goals. Either way, a bad boss has a negative impact on your job experience–and it’s worth fighting back against their toxic traits.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for someone with a toxic boss? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always