10 Warning Signs Your Boss is So Bad, They're Toxic

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
May 27, 2024 at 6:23PM UTC
You won't necessarily know that you're working for a bad boss until, well, you know that you're working for a bad boss. Of course, most people are on their best behavior during the interview process — after all, your boss would have wanted to win you over, so their negative qualities probably didn't come out right away.
It may take months. It may take weeks. It may only take days for you to realize the toxicity in your workplace environment. You might not even recognize it at all.
If you're suspicious that you're working for a bad boss, here are the top 10 warning signs of a bad boss. Yup, the boss to whom you're reporting may not be the boss for you.

1. They micromanage you.

Micromanaging refers to when your boss is constantly hovering over your shoulder, never giving you the space you really need to do your job well. This may stem from a place of distrust, or it may stem from their lack of leadership skills in allowing their team to take the wheel sometimes. Whatever the case, you need to feel trusted and respected in order to perform optimally, and you need space to exercise your skills. A micromanaging boss can actually set you back in the workplace — and you can rest assured that they won't give you much room to grow.

2. They don't lead by example.

A leader should lead by example. But a bad boss absolutely won't. A bad boss might have an agenda of their own that conflicts with the overall goals of the team. So rather than coming into the office each day and setting an example for their subordinates, they may do just the opposite. They may exhibit poor behaviors in the workplace — coming in late, leaving early, showing disrespect for others, discriminating against others, letting deadlines fall to the wayside, etc. — that suggest these behaviors are OK, when they're most certainly not.

3. They don't respect your work-life balance.

A work-life balance is hugely important. In fact, according to an infographic from Family Living Today and Now Sourcing, 66% of employees don't believe they have a strong enough work-life balance. A bad boss might be one who is always calling you on the weekends and during odd hours of the night and early morning (when those aren't your hours and you're not on call). They may not respect your time off or show any appreciation for your efforts in maintaining your physical and mental health so that you don't burn out. They might mistake long hours for hard work, negating the fact that burnout actually leads to loss in company dollars, too.

4. They make subtle micro-aggressions.

Micro-aggressions may be subtle, but they're no less impactful than outward discrimination. In fact, subtle sexism, ageism, racism and other prejudices in the workplace can be even more damaging at times. It's harder to identify and, therefore, more difficult to report, and it can often cause you to question yourself, which can take a toll on your self-worth and overall mental health.

5. They're outwardly discriminatory.

A bad boss may also be outwardly discriminatory, which is illegal. For example, it is illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, gender or national original. Here's how to deal with and report workplace discrimination if you spot it in your workplace.

6. They don't give constructive feedback.

A wealth of research suggests that women don't receive actually helpful, constructive feedback in the workplace. In fact, some studies show that women are more likely than men to receive feedback on their personalities and soft skills, as opposed to their hard skills — and they're given less guidance on how to improve and forge forward. A bad boss is someone who doesn't give constructive feedback to all employees.

7. They're notoriously unorganized.

Studies show that a workspace that's clear of clutter can lead to greater productivity. That's why there's an entire day dedicated to cleaning the workplace, and some companies even have clean desk policies in place in order to keep the office tidy. An unorganized boss isn't necessarily a bad boss, but an organized boss is more likely a better boss.

8. They have personal goals that contradict the company vision.

One major key to a successful company is a shared vision amongst all employees, including leaders of the company, who should disseminate that vision. While we all have goals of our own, a boss who has personal interests that contradict that of the company probably isn't able to guide their employees in the right direction.

9. They don't trust their employees.

Trust is the glue to every successful company, and teams need to have trust for one another — including employers to their employees. A boss who doesn't trust their employees for valid reasons isn't a bad boss, but it's possibly a bad decision to keep those employees on the team. If a boss doesn't have trust for their employees for no good reasons, it's in their best interest to develop trust. Employees who feel trusted and, therefore, respected, will do better work.

10. They don't respect paid time off.

A company isn't obligated to offer employees paid time off.  But, if they do give that time, it should be respected. A boss who is constantly calling while you're away on vacation or sending unnecessary, non-urgent emails is a boss who doesn't respect your time off.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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