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How Bad Bosses Kill Employee Engagement

– Guest blog article by Peter B. Stark

If you’ve ever worked for a bad boss, you’ve probably uttered these famous words …. “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this crap!” Bad bosses destroy morale and employee engagement and, more often than not, they brighten up the whole company when they quit or are finally fired. So what makes someone a bad boss? The following 15 behaviors are a few of our favorites:

  1. Doesn’t trust their team: Not trusting their team makes it impossible for their team members to get things done. When managers do not trust their team, they tend to not delegate and end up doing the tasks themselves. With little trust, they justify their command and control management style. The end result is usually a lack of communication with the team, resulting in delayed projects.
  2. Do not value a work-life balance: These bad bosses have little respect for team members’ personal time. These managers feel that since they are the boss, the employee should feel grateful to have a job. With a commodity type of attitude, these managers assume they should have 24-7 access to placing demands on the team members.
  3. Tell, don’t ask: Bad bosses tend to make demands on people without gaining input from the person they’re managing. These bosses tend not to listen well and are not good at taking feedback. Eventually, this bad boss is making decisions on only half of the information available because their team gives up hope that communicating important information will be valued by the manager.
  4. Takes credit and passes the blame: Employee engagement killers love to take the credit when things go exceptionally well…especially when the boss did not do any of the work. On the opposite side of the fence, bad bosses never take responsibility when things don’t go well and feel best when they are throwing someone under the bus and passing the blame.
  5. Practice the “need to know form of communication:” Bad bosses are always too busy to take the time to communicate to the people who will be impacted by the information. They withhold information as a form of power and justify the style as only communicating when people “need to know.”
  6. No recognition: Bad bosses are way too busy to take the time to recognize people for what’s going well or right. But, they always have the time to let someone know when the results don’t meet his or her expectations.
  7. Ungrateful: Bad bosses treat people like a commodity. They couldn’t care less if it is you or someone else who gets the job done, as long as the job gets done. They place almost all their value on the task and very little value on the relationship with the people who are doing the task. Bad bosses have a hard time saying two of the most powerful words in the English language, “thank you.”
  8. Uses disrespectful communication: Bad bosses feel that it’s alright to communicate to someone in a disrespectful manner. This could include swear words or inferring that someone is stupid or didn’t think before they made a decision. Either way, disrespectful communication makes many people feel inferior or inadequate as a team member. Last, disrespectful bosses have the bad habit of giving a team member negative feedback in front of others on the team.
  9. Lie: Bad bosses tend to communicate what they think they need to communicate to accomplish their goal, rather than telling people the truth. The outcome is that team members do not trust anything the boss says because it’s impossible to know when they’re telling the truth.
  10. Brown nose: Bad bosses are great at kissing up to their boss or others in power. To try to make themselves look good, they treat people below them poorly, in hopes of getting even more done.
  11. Always say “I” and seldom say “we”: Bad bosses sound like they are warming up for the opera… My, my my, me, me, me, I, I , I. What bad bosses have trouble saying when great things have been accomplished is we.
  12. Hire mediocre performers: Bad bosses don’t like to be outshined, so they hire people who are not as smart, gifted or talented as they are. Plus, when someone is not at the level of the bad boss, it makes it even easier to talk down to him.
  13. Promote mediocrity: Bad managers don’t encourage people to learn, grow, develop and take risks. They prefer to operate in a status quo environment. One of the bi-products of this is bad managers usually have fewer direct reports who are promoted to other areas in the organization. These managers lack the skills to take on additional responsibilities in the organization because they have been raised in an environment where growth and development has been punished, not rewarded.
  14. Exhibit frequent moodiness: Have you ever worked with a boss where you had to check with others before going into their office to talk with them because you never knew what type of person you were going to meet that day? Sometimes they were happy and a joy to be around. Other times, they were downright nasty. Moody people are one of the most difficult types of people to work for because you don’t know which side of the bed they woke up on.
  15. Play favorites: Bad bosses define loyalty differently than great leaders. Bad bosses define loyalty as how loyal you are to them, no matter what the situation is. They then treat people differently, based on who they determine to be loyal. One way this difference shows up is some people on the team are held accountable, while other poor performers are allowed to slide.

If you haven’t done it recently, take our bad boss quiz that was published in The Only Leadership Book You’ll Ever Need.

So here are the behaviors that will kill employee engagement. Can you imagine working for a boss like this? I don’t know about you, but I would quit. No one gets paid enough to put up with that crap.


See the original post here.

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit


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