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Career Expert Warns of Three Surprising Traits of Bad Bosses

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Aug 16, 2023

iStock-538324564 CFO Chief FInancial Officer Signing Paperwork

While bad bosses have always existed, a workplace expert has identified three surprising traits to look out for and offered tips on what employees can learn as a result, reported.

While many are familiar with the toxic bully or the micromanager, "there are traits of bad bosses that are unexpected and more insidious," said Kevin Legg, the founder of Sage, a company that helps design and develop training curriculula at work. These traits are undermanaging, over-talking and faux friendliness.

“All these traits not only seem harmless, but even desired by many employees,” he told, but they can often have negative implications for team cohesion, morale, respect and efficiency.

“When difficult decisions need to be made, the overly friendly boss will lack the credibility to make those decisions,” he explained. “The undermanager will experience decision paralysis, making a bad situation even worse. The over-talker will suddenly find his or her instructions fall on deaf ears [because] employees stopped listening a long time ago.” 

Undermanaging is more common than overmanaging, Legg said. Someone who says, “my door is always open” is often a “lazy boss who lacks the courage or work ethic to really coach and lead.” Such a manager causes dysfunction, as workers lack clear direction and guidance, may get passed over for promotion due to those deficiencies, and may ultimately leave.

The over talker “typically has an “inflated opinion” of himself or herself, believes that he or she is smartest person in the room, and “love[s] the sweet melody of their own voice,” Legg said. The constant talking perpetuates a culture in which people stop speaking up “as a reflex” and results in “employees stop taking their boss seriously,” he said. “This means that the truly valuable bits of advice or experience get thrown out with the rest of the verbosity.” 

Having an overly friendly boss is actually harmful, Legg said, as the tactic of behaving and speaking as a peer is both shallow and ineffective. Not drawing clear boundaries can cause confusion, "as a friend should not be dictating workload, promotions, or writing references," he said. 

Employees who have experienced any of these managerial traits can learn from them and apply them should they ever become managers themselves.

“A first-hand account of what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do,” Legg said. “Having these models in the back of your mind as you progress through your leadership journey can steer you right, especially combined with habits learned from better leaders.”