How to identify a bad boss!

identify a bad boss
Share with a friend:

Working for a bad boss or manager might make you question your career choices. But even worse then that, an awful boss can have an impact on your home life and mental or emotional well-being. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and dreading going in to work. Especially if this is being caused by a bad boss. But how do you identify a bad boss or manager?

The answer to this is actually quite simple. Bad bosses and managers generally all make the same mistakes. The great thing about this is that they can become quite easy to identify, sometimes as early as the interview process. Simply knowing how to identify a bad boss might just save you countless months of anxiety or depression. So let’s discuss how to do just that.

Identifying a bad boss!

Bad bosses come in many shapes and sizes. Some do not seem to care if the company succeeds or fails and some might actually get results for the business’s bottom line. This is neither here nor there. And at the end of the day, the actions of a bad boss will have a disastrous effect on the good faith existing between a company and its staff members.

There are two scenarios where you might find yourself trying to identify a bad manager or boss. The first is where you are already employed at a company and a new manager takes over. This could be an outside hire or very often an internal promotion. The second scenario is during an interview. Identifying a bad boss at this phase could prove vital to your future career ambitions.

Let’s get started by identifying a few common signs of a bad boss. But before we dive right into them I feel I must point out that your boss/manager is also just a human being. They are also capable of making mistakes, sometimes with the best intentions. SO! Just because they have made one or two of the mistakes discussed below does not make them immediately a bad manager.

9 signs of a bad boss.

1) Criticising staff in public.

Criticising staff members in front of their co-workers or via any other public forum is completely unacceptable. This not only applies to serious reprimands, but also to performance appraisals or simple constructive criticism over a mistake that has been made.

Being criticised in public can only lead to staff feeling disrespected and embarrassed. And I can confidently say that no decent manager in the world would ever want to embarrass their staff in public. Regardless of the mistake that has been made.

2) Never listening

Have you ever spoken you someone who does not listen? I know I have! And it is the most frustrating experience imaginable. A boss who does not listen will make the staff feel unimportant and ignored. And the worst part is the boss will never know.

3) Shows favoritism among staffers

This is a very common sign of a bad boss because it is just so natural to want to treat your favorite better than the rest. And don’t kid yourself, your boss or manager does have favorites. That being said, good managers will still treat all staff fairly in the workplace. And would never treat their favorites any differently, or even make it obvious that they do have favorites.

When favoritism does occur, it often leaves some staff feeling excluded. This will very quickly lead to a dysfunctional work environment.

4) Allows bullying in the workplace

Handling a bully in the office can be difficult enough, even without the bully having the support of a manager. Or even worse, the bully is the boss! I think it goes without saying that a good manager would never bully or allow bullying to occur in the workplace.

If you think that you are dealing with a bully in the workplace I highly recommend you read my article on dealing with a bully in the workplace.

5) They break their own rules

This happens all the time. A good manager should make rules that apply to the entire office, themselves included. All too often the boss feels that they are above rules that they have put in place. Usually, this is an insecure manager who is on a power-trip and wants everyone to know that they are in charge.

I have heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” way too many times from bad bosses. And the truth is that leading by example goes much further in the eyes of your staff members.

6) Micro-management tendencies

A boss that micro-manages can be extremely harmful to an office or workplace. Often the micro-managing is just a frustration for staff and usually results in almost every task taking much longer than necessary.

Unfortunately, these managers are not natural leaders, and although they may develop these skills in the future they are obviously lacking at the moment. They are probably subconsciously aware that they do not process the required leadership abilities. And feel that the only way to get staff to complete the assigned work is to check on every task.

7) Never says thank you

There are some managers that believe every employee should be grateful just to have a job. These managers will generally never say thank you or provide positive feedback to any staff. In fact, they will only ever provide negative feedback.

This is the quickest way to ensure that staff feel under-appreciated and demotivated.

A good manager knows how far a simple “Thank you” or “Good job” can go. By simply acknowledging the effort an employee has made can make all the difference. It is very easy to do, so there is no excuse for a manager not to praise staff when earned.

8) Will never admit mistakes

A manager that can not admit when they have made a mistake can be not only annoying for a worker, but also detrimental to your career.

For example, a manager might ask you to complete a task in a certain way. When it is discovered that it is wrong, they will not admit that it was their mistake. In fact, they may even try to pass some of the blame on to you. They will often do this behind your back when talking to the big boss. This will result in you coming across as incompetent, when in fact, you were just following orders.

9) Do not encourage your career growth

Yes, you should want to better yourself and move your career forward. This is natural and you should never feel bad for wanting the best for yourself. In fact, a good manager knows how valuable staff are that want to upskill themselves.

If you have a manager or boss that does not encourage or even actively discourages growth within the organisation you either have a bad manager or are working for a bad organisation.

There are many more signs of a bad boss that we could actually cover, however, these 9 tips on how to identify a bad boss are probably the most common. However, if you are interested in this topic please let me know in the comments below and I will put together a list of 21 characteristics of a bad boss for you guys.

One of the best strategies to avoid working for a bad boss is to recognise the warning signs during the interview phase. So in order to avoid working a boss that makes you feel demotivated a few months down the line here are three tips to guide you.

How to identify a bad boss during an interview.

1) Know what kind of boss you want to work for.

This is actually quite important but seems to be overlooked by almost every job seeker that I speak to on the subject. So how can you go about identifying the type of boss you would like to work for? Well, this is actually incredibly simple and can be done during the interview preparation process. (I hope you are preparing for interviews correctly!)

When you start your job search you should take some time to identify what management styles have worked for you in the past and which have not. Make a list of managers that you have work for in the past and try to sum up their management styles. Also, try to identify what you liked and disliked about their management styles.

Use these past interactions with managers to guide you in understanding the type of manager you work with best.

2) Ask questing during the interviewers

It is very easy to become focused on simply trying to answer all the questions directed at you when in an interview. But you must always remember to ask questions of your own to show your interest in the vacancy, and importantly assess the work environment.

One of the best times to ask questions will be at the end of the interview as most hiring managers will ask if you have any questions for them. You can use this opportunity to ask strategic questions such as:

  • If I was wildly successful in this role, what would be happening at the company because of me, in the next 6-12 months?
  • What would my day-to-day look like in this job?
  • How does the teamwork together?

These questions will help you understand how involved your boss is in your day to day-to-day procedures. This is a great way to assess the work environment without being to blunt about it.

3) Meet you potential colleagues

This goes beyond the interview room. If after the interview you are feeling confident about the work environment and manager, your final step could be to reach out to your future potential colleagues.

There are many networking opportunities available, LinkedIn is probably the best know. If might be worthwhile checking if you have any connections to any staff at the organisation. If you are able to start a genuine dialogue with current employees you will quickly be able to assess whether or not they dislike the corporate culture.

A great opening line could look like this:

  • “I am really looking for an opportunity to learn more about [insert field of work]. What have you found the most helpful in growing your career?”
  • “What part of your job at [COMPANY] is most enjoyable for you?”


At the end of the day, a bad boss will inevitably result in job dissatisfaction. Life is short and given the amount of time you spend at the workplace 5 days (or more) a week, shouldn’t your work bring you some joy?

There is no reason for you to continue at a job where you are unhappy. So if you have identified any of the characteristics of a bad boss in your boss, and these are making you miserable then it is probably time to move on. I’m not saying just hand in your resignation immediately, but most definitely start the process of searching for a new job.

Get all the best job search advice along with discussions surounding Labour law and work from home / Side hustle ideas.

* indicates required


The information contained on this website is simply aimed at providing readers with guidance on labour law in South Africa. This information has not been provided to meet the individual requirements of a specific individual. Bizcraft will always suggest that legal advice be obtained to address a person’s unique circumstances. It is important to remember that the law is constantly changing and although Bizcraft strives to keep the information up to date and of high quality, it cannot be guaranteed that the information will be updated and/or be without errors or omissions. As a result, Bizcraft will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable, for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top