6 Types of Bad Bosses and How to Spot Them in Your Organization

Are bad leaders driving away employees at your company?

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upset boss with employee
The most common types of bad bosses, how to spot them, and why they need to go

Have you ever worked for someone you didn’t like? Chances are the answer to that question is a passionate“Yes!” Perhaps you worked for someone who was antagonizing, arrogant, belligerent, or just plain mean. Though working for someone you don’t like in high school isn’t that traumatizing, having a bad boss at the corporate level is, well … soul-crushing.

It’s easy enough to walk away from your job at a frozen yogurt shop when you’re 17, but it’s much more difficult to pack up your cubicle when you have a family and a mortgage to pay.

Bad bosses can be like a cancer to an organization, making even the most loyal employees look for employment elsewhere. 57% of employees quit their jobs because of their boss, according to a study from DDI. The sad part is that many workers like the company they work for and their job role — they just can’t stand their manager, the person with which they likely have the most contact.

In fact, many adults spend more time with their boss than they do with their own families, so if that relationship is sour, it can significantly affect their mental health. Employees may become detached, unmotivated, unproductive, or they may decide to leave the organization. All of these consequences come with a price tag. Employee Benefit News (EBN) reports that it costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement, and disengaged employees amount to $450 billion to $550 billion in losses, according to a Gallup poll.

So how do you spot bad bosses within your organization? Keep reading.

57% of employees quit their jobs because of their boss.

The Narcissist

Narcissistic bosses always look out for #1. They are less concerned about their direct reports’ happiness and more focused on what’s in it for them. Instead of coaching, leading, and supporting, they like to boss people around and take credit for their achievements. Narcissists may steal sales leads away from their team members or take all of the glory for a big project that was a group effort.

The Micromanager

Micromanagers lead their team with an air of paranoia. They don’t trust their workers to make decisions or complete tasks correctly, so they often interject, require busy work from their reports, or take projects away entirely. Micromanagers may have to review every milestone of a project or require employees to make bulleted lists of their daily tasks.

The Drill Sergeant

Drill sergeants don’t respect work/life balance. They email, call, or text their employees at all hours of the day with no sense of boundary. They tend to work well into the evening, often firing off urgent emails to their team at 2 am. This bad boss has a “nose to the grindstone” mentality with zero affinity for workplace culture, bonding, or happiness. Drill sergeants are likely to cancel a team birthday lunch or call their workers during their vacation.

The Criticizer

Saying things like, “You have no strategic leadership skills,” and not giving details or an improvement plan isn’t just demoralizing to employees — it’s a waste of energy.

Criticizers like to make damaging remarks with no helpful solution. Their critiques are often unprovoked, vague, and unhelpful. Saying things like, “You have no strategic leadership skills,” and not giving details or an improvement plan isn’t just demoralizing to employees — it’s a waste of energy. Criticizers often shut down follow-up questions or change the subject when prodded for more details on their critique.

The Promiser

Promisers tend to have rose-colored glasses when it comes to their organization. They “count their eggs before they’ve hatched” and make grandiose promises that usually fizzle out. For example, in the hiring phase, they may tell new employees that they should expect thousands of dollars in sales commissions even if that isn’t likely to happen or promise new clients things that their team simply cannot achieve.

The Time Waster

Time wasters like to schedule lots of meetings, phone calls, or “brainstorm sessions” that, more often than not, end up being unproductive time sucks. They want to schedule meetings to plan other meetings or spend 30 minutes telling you their thoughts on renewable energy during a phone call about payroll issues. They have an overall lack of awareness and respect for other people’s time.


Over half of employees leave their jobs because they dislike their boss. An employee who was once thriving and productive will wither under the thumb of a bad boss, which is costly to organizations over time. Lack of productivity and turnover cost billions each year, so it is imperative that business leaders know the most common types of bad bosses and how to spot them. Bad bosses come in many forms, but the main things to watch out for include narcissism, micromanagement, bossiness, overpromising, non-constructive criticism, and time wasting. Avoid these 6 types to keep productive employees thriving in your organization.

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