4 kinds of bad bosses that make employees want to leave

Brigette Hyacinth


written on January 16, 2018

Whether they play it safe, are bullish, self absorbed, or prone to micromanaging – these types of bosses are sure to chase good employees out the door.

Employees might  join companies, but they leave managers. A Gallup poll of more 1 million employed US workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is due to a bad boss or immediate supervisor. More than two thirds (75 per cent) of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. In spite of how good a job might be, people will quit if the reporting relationship is not healthy. Here are the four types of bad bosses that make employees want to quit companies:

1. Marionette

In an age of uncertainty, many managers are yielding to the trap of playing it safe to preserve their position and privileges. They are just following orders; they never stand up for their team or question policies. They are mere puppets and exude no loyalty to employees. A lack of integrity in a manager can make an employee lose passion for the job.

2. King Kong

When some managers reach to the top, they immediately forget where they came from. These type of managers possess a superiority complex and like to draw the distinction between management and staff. It’s dreadful to work under a manager who’s more worried about pushing their weight around than building relationships. Great leaders don’t talk down to their employees or make them feel inferior. Respect is a must.

3. Superman

This breed of manager thinks the organisation revolves around them. Some start behaving like they’re the owners of the company. This trap includes making all of the decisions solo, ignoring feedback and taking the credit. When employees don’t feel appreciated, morale and engagement plummets.

4. Taskmaster

Their sole focus is on the bottom line. Continuously drilling employees is a sure way make them unhappy at work. Micromanagement suffocates, demoralises and kills creativity. If you hired someone, it means you believe they are capable of fulfilling the role. A manager’s job is to motivate and provide guidance and support, not constantly monitor an employee’s every move.

The damaging effects of a bad boss

A bad boss creates fear and makes work drudgery. Studies show having a bad boss increases a worker’s chance of having a heart attack by as much as 60 per cent due to the stress and anxiety caused by unfeasible targets, lack of support, unfair practices and threats of punishment.

How not to act

Take this email I received from Steve as an example:

“I got a call my wife had been in a serious car accident. I told my boss I needed to leave immediately. He asked me to give him 10 more minutes. I was so disappointed because he could have covered for me. I come in early. I leave late. I hardly take any sick leave and that was the response I got from him? I looked at him and walked straight out the door. My relationship with my manager went south after that. I started planning my exit strategy and within three months, I quit.”

When you go beyond the call of duty for your employer, and they respond with inflexibility during your time of need, the relationship at that exact moment is lost.

Bad bosses are the number one cause of unhappiness at work. People see the company only through their immediate boss, and employees know when they are on shaky ground. A manager who keeps throwing employees under the bus will create an atmosphere of anxiety and distrust. A recent study says that 56 per cent of employees would turn down a 10 per cent pay rise to stay with a great boss. Treat employees fairly, reward them for their hard work and they will give 110 per cent.

There are too many individuals in positions who abuse their power. This is why good employees quit jobs. A culture of blaming, punishment, inflexibility and insensitivity only pushes people away. Employees want managers who are leaders. Managers who will inspire them, who are fair and honest and will stand up for their team.

I have seen too many exceptional employees become disheartened, stop caring, and just go through the motions until they find another job. Managers, please use the human-to-human approach when dealing with employees. It’s people you are dealing with, not just a statistic on a graph. Get to know your people, meet them where they are and be flexible. You can’t buy loyalty but you can earn it. If you want loyal employees – treat your people well!

Brigette Hyacinth is a keynote speaker and author of “The future of leadership: Rise of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence”.

This is an edited version of her LinkedIn article.

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5 thoughts on “4 kinds of bad bosses that make employees want to leave

  1. Hi there is a little too many images of white men in suits to illustrate ‘bad management’ or just managerment and leadership generally. Is is possible to mix it up a bit and source some more diverse images with women and other cultures?

  2. ‘Employees might join companies, but they leave managers’. So true, so true. I’ve always enjoyed this term because it is correct and totally relevant. My own experience has always identified that if the recruitment process is poor then you’ll employ a poor performing and ineffective manager. We also need to look at the recruitment panel as well; can the panel do the job, does the panel have effective recruitment skills and training and more importantly, does the panel know ‘exactly’ what they’re doing? An effective recruitment process and recruitment panel are worth their weight in gold I say! Several times I have noticed that the recruitment of a manager is based on what I term ‘personality performance’. The manager sounds good and uses the appropriate terms and words, they look good and the panel warms to what they see and hear. Seldom does a panel ‘drill down’ further and challenge the manager on their people skills and management of teams or employees. I cringe further when I see advertisements that state: ‘tertiary qualifications are not required but will be well received’. What a load of crock! I’ve noted that public service organisations use this somewhat outdated and silly term frequently. How on earth can you expect a manager to manage effectively if they lack the required qualifications? I agree that experience is important but the art and theories of management are changing everyday and therefore, both experience and relevant qualifications should be the expected ‘norm’ when recruiting managers. Unless we have an effective and sound recruitment process for managers, employees will always continue to leave the organisation – simply because organisations have failed to provide employees with an effective manager that all employees truly deserve.

    1. Dear CJT, I respect your views on qualifications and expectations that recruiting for a managerial position should come with the expectation that people hold requisite formal qualifications. Where I may have a differing view is not that management theories are changing regularly, if one reviews most literature and texts on management the overarching common thread is that new views of managing are based quite often on established forms of organising people to perform tasks. From the command and control approach to the more inclusive approach each theory has a rationale but as people leading and managing other people each situation is different and therefore needs a different approach. If that is the tenure of what you are promoting then I have no issue with you. Managing people is not a one size fits all approach and each situation requires different skills and knowledge. Just saying

  3. Thank you for the article Bridgette, I think your observations and comments are very indicative of many work situations

  4. Any toxic employee is going to be detrimental to your productivity! Your tips are awesome. I think that it’s best to avoid these types of individuals at the start.

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