Being a good leader is no easy task. While there are a lot of characteristics that make a boss great, there are just as many things that make bosses absolutely terrible. And, if you yourself have ever had a terrible boss, you know that employees in a similar situation aren’t inspired to do their best.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Quit

Unfortunately, a lot of bad bosses don’t even realize they’re making it hard for their employees to get their work done. And because of this cluelessness, they're not just hurting their employees, they’re jeopardizing their business with their bad habits.

But if you yourself are a bad boss, how do you know you're being ineffective? You may think that the dynamics and protocol in the office are working just fine when really there are problems that employees don’t bring up -- and reasons employees are afraid to speak up.

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So, what can you as a bad boss do? Here are some of the more common warning signs that there may be a problem.

1. You don’t trust your employees.

Sometimes, bosses are terrible because they think they’re too “good” to do certain tasks, or they just push everything on to their employees. That can be incredibly frustrating and irresponsible, but it can be just as bad when a boss wants to do everything.

Employees may find it hard to get anything done if the boss is constantly stepping in and trying to hold their hand when they really don’t need it (or, worse, chiming in with opinions about something he or she is completely uninformed on).

If you’re a boss having a hard time not micromanaging your team, you might try things like being totally clear about your expectations or hiring people in the first place whom you know you can trust to get the job done.

Even if you have the best intentions when you’re trying to help, there’s a point where those intentions aren't helpful anymore and are just slowing things down. Letting go of that control can be really hard for some people, but so long as you have the right people on your team, things will run a lot more smoothly when you do.

Plus, when employees feel that you trust them, they'll be a lot more likely to offer up new ideas, take risks and grow in their role.

2. You don’t respect your employees’ personal boundaries.

There are a lot of ways this particular habit can manifest. You may be calling your employee at all hours of the day, every day of the week, when they shouldn’t be expected to be on the clock. Or you may be asking them to put too much time and energy into their job, well beyond what’s reasonable to expect.

There are ways to push your employees without making them hate you or working them to exhaustion. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to make employees work when they’re tired or sick, either physically or mentally.

And then of course there are bosses who push their employees’ boundaries emotionally, making them uncomfortable, being demeaning, unloading on them about their personal lives, etc.

Abusive bosses are typically narcissistic, denigrating, arrogant and unsupportive of their employees, which, let’s be honest, isn't something we can fix in this article. If you think you might be abusive in that way, you need to look into addressing those underlying issues.

Related: The 6 Most Familiar 'Bad Boss' Types and What to Do About Them

3. You talk at people, not to them.

Communication is huge when you’re talking about what skills and characteristics make for a good boss.

When a boss doesn’t communicate clearly -- in email, face-to-face or text messaging -- confusion and needless back-and-forth can occur. Employees then waste time doing something they didn’t need to do, or something important doesn’t get done correctly or on time.

There are also bosses who just bark orders at their team. People then feel uncomfortable asking for clarification or help. In that case, even if the job gets done, it’s hard for employees to have any kind of growth.

By creating a comfortable, open communication with your team, you’re not only making it easier for your employees to get their jobs done and done right, but you’re making a healthier, more fun office environment for everyone.

Besides, there are tons of benefits to having a fun, social workplace, including higher employee satisfaction, less stress and less turnover.

4. You never congratulate your team.

Employee recognition is super important, but many bosses fail to see the benefits. An authentic thank-you or effort to acknowledge an employee's hard work on a project, and great job, can create more confidence, increased future performance and better professional relationships.


Being a boss requires a wide range of skills, and even the best bosses can still work on honing some of those.

Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel comfortable letting their boss know when there's a problem. Even well-intentioned bosses may be creating a toxic environment without realizing it.

Related: 7 Signs a Great Employee Might Be a Bad Boss

By paying attention to some of these warning signs, you will recognize any mistakes and bad habits you’ve fallen into and take action to reverse them.