Do Bad Bosses Breed Bad Bosses?

Have you ever wondered where bad bosses come from? Were they dropped out of a spaceship in the middle of the night or were they brainwashed and conditioned by other bad bosses to continue bad behavior? According to the Association for Psychological Science (2006), the unconscious transmission of actions or emotions from one individual to another is possible. In other words, if someone observes a certain behavior that person is susceptible to behave in the same manner.

Bad bosses come in all shapes and sizes. The following is a list of the top 5 characteristics that make up bad bosses and how you can deal with their behavior.

1. Non-Communicative
Being able to communicate is essential in any setting. Bad bosses like to withhold information from their employees or expect their employees to be mind readers and already know what they’re supposed to know.

How to deal with it: If you work with someone who does not like to share information or it seems as you are left in the dark, ask questions. Get the individual to talk to you by you talking to them. Don’t wait around the water cooler, listening to the rumor mill. Be proactive and get a dialogue established with your boss.

2. “Rules with an iron fist.”Some bad bosses believe that what they say goes and there is no room for negotiation. They are close-minded and do not believe in change or that there is a better way to do things.

How to deal with it:
These types of managers believe in facts and statistics. Show them the benefits to changing or revising a procedure and explain how the company and your department will be more productive. If possible submit the plan in writing.

3. Unorganized.
So your boss approaches you at 4:50 p.m. and tells you that he needs a report by 10 a.m. tomorrow for a meeting at 10:30 a.m. and you don’t arrive until 9 a.m. This is not a simple report and you will probably need to come in early to have it completed on time. This is frustrating because you have other projects you need to accomplish and you don’t like working last minute.

How to deal with it: If you keep your bosses calendar, you can ask him ahead of time if he needs anything in particular for the meeting or if you know the agenda you can suggest information your boss can take to the meeting and have it prepared. If this occurs frequently and you are unaware of your bosses calendar, then during your next staff meeting or performance review politely express your concern that you would prefer to receive tasks and projects ahead of time so that documents can be fully prepared and reviewed before being presented to a group, especially upper management. Again, explain the benefits to requesting projects ahead of time and put it in writing. Sometimes emergencies occur and can’t be helped so determine how frequently your boss makes these requests and make necessary suggestions on how you and he can be more productive and efficient.


4. Lack of trust.
These are the micromanagers; they don’t trust their employees to do the job or that the task will be done properly. These kinds of managers want proof that you will do the job effectively.

How to deal with it: In this situation you must prove that you are capable of completing the task and don’t need someone standing over your shoulder. As tasks or projects are assigned, give 110% attention, check and double check for accuracy. Remember micromanagers seek out “micromistakes,” so if there is a comma or number out of place or missing, you will have to start over in establishing trust.

5. Opposed/resistant to the professional development of their employees.
Have you ever asked your supervisor to pay for a training or workshop that would enhance your professional or personal development only to get rejected saying there just wasn’t enough money in the budget?

How to deal with it:
Provide written materials and information about the training or workshop you wish to attend. Include how the company and your department will benefit by investing in you – their most valuable asset. If the manager insists that the budget is tight, suggest that you would pay half of the cost; this will show the manager that you are willing to invest in yourself. If that doesn’t work, think about paying for the training out of your own pocket and then show your boss how effective and productive you are afterwards by using what you learned. Then the next time you wish to attend a training, they may more open to paying the costs for you attend because they will know how beneficial the last training was for the you and the company.


We know that bad bosses don’t miraculously drop out of the sky and they weren’t born to be bad – they were made. Unfortunately, behavior can be contagious (good and bad) and most times we don’t realize we have “inherited” such behavior. The best philosophy to live by is, “treat others as you would like to be treated.”




Wang, S. (2006). Contagious behavior. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved February 2, 2010 from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=1931

1 comment:

TexNYQueen said...

I am glad (most days) that I work for a good boss. He can be a bit unorganized (those last minute report requests) but he lets me run my own projects without all that micromgmt crap!