7 Signs You Have a Terrible Boss

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: December 1, 2014

Is Your Boss Actually Terrible?

Everyone thinks they have a terrible boss, but how do you know if it's actually true.

Do you like your job and company but dread your boss? Are you constantly taking the fall for your boss because of decisions you didn't even make? Do all of your coworkers agree with you regarding your assessment of your supervisor? Or could it be YOU who is the problem, not your boss?

It's important to determine because most people don't quit jobs, they quit bosses. So if you can pinpoint your boss as the cause of the majority of your distress -- especially during the job interview process -- you can start to plan your future and career path accordingly. So here are seven ways you can tell if you've got a dud of a boss on your hands.

7. Lack of Team Cohesion

If one person complains about a boss, that's fairly normal. But if every single one of your coworkers is up in arms about a boss, then that's a big tipoff that there's a major problem.

Look, bosses can't please everyone. If they did, they'd probably be doing something wrong. But at the same time, if an overwhelming majority of his/her employees are quitting or complaining, that's a gargantuan red flag. There needs to be at least enough cohesion and teammwork to get things done. If a boss can't muster up enough good will for employees to do the very basics of their jobs, then that's a bad boss.

6. Failure to See Employees as Humans

Yes, there is work to be done, goals to be met, and money to be made. No one is questioning that. But while the machine that is work must always be in operation, good bosses realize employees are not robots.

Workers are paid to work, but human beings have feelings. Sometimes the level of work suffers because of personal problems -- divorce, a new baby, death in the family, etc. Bosses who see a significant drop-off in employment from an otherwise productive worker should stop and ask themselves why it's happening. It's a tough tightrope to walk because bosses shouldn't pry unnecessarily into the lives of their employees, but at the same time it helps to be cognizant of whether something is wrong. 

It's far beneficial to give someone a few days off to get their affairs in order than to threaten a struggling employee with being put on a plan -- or worse, fired. A little compassion goes a long way, and could make that employee far more loyal and productive in the future. If your boss is heavy-handed with punishments while never seeming to care what's going on personally, you're in trouble.

5. Expects Everyone to be Like Him/Her

Your boss gets in early, stays late, and puts in constant amount of overtime. So therefore you should do the same.

Unfortunately, far too many employees talk about bosses who think just because they act a certain way, their employees should too. This, of course, is ridiculous. People are individuals with various personality styles and differing methods for getting work done. Some people require extra time so they show up early and stay late to complete the necessary work. But that doesn't mean someone else who can complete the work in half the time should be punished just for being able to work quickly. And while a bad boss wants everyone to emulate him/her, a good boss realizes the value of diversity on his/her team.

4. Has Unreasonable Expectations

Difficult goals that require hard work and dedication? Excellent ideas. Completely unrealistic goals everyone knows cannot be met? Potential disaster.

If your boss sets your goals (or assists you in setting goals) and simply says "quadruple sales every quarter" when that's never been accomplished in the company's history, you've got yourself a terrible boss. The bad bosses throw out random and often unresearched goals that are virtually impossible to meet, because they think it'll motivate you. However, what they fail to realize is it does the opposite. You work hard but realize you're not coming anywhere close to the goal, so you just say "the heck with it" and don't put forth the maximum effort.

Challenging goals are smart, but bad bosses throw out huge numbers without giving it the proper amount of thought.

3. Spending Too Much Time in the Trenches

It can be great when bosses roll up their sleeves and spend some time in the trenches, but it can also be disastrous.

Don't get me wrong, all bosses should be able to do the same work their employees do. But sometimes, if a boss is spending too much time there, it can devolve into a pretty bad situation very quickly. For instance, if a boss came from sales where they were a high performer, they might have a tendency to start micromanaging the existing sales staff. When managers start doing work for employees, it makes them feel like they aren't trusted or valued. 

Besides, a good boss needs to know how to delegate and when to let their team work on their own. If you have a manager who doesn't trust anyone else to do the work right, it's going to be a very frustating place to work.

2. Can't Admit Mistakes

This might be the most annoying aspect of a terrible boss.

How many times have you pitched your idea during meetings, only to be overruled by your direct boss. So you diligently play the part of a team player doing the work you've been ordered to do against your better judgment, and eventually you turn in a finished product. Only guess what? Suddenly your boss thinks the work is bad or the original strategy is flawed. Instead, he has a better idea -- your original one. Only now he's passing it off as his own. Not only that, you're now in trouble for substandard work even though you had a great idea in the first place and were just doing what you were directed to do.

You, my friend, have a bad boss. Bad bosses are notorious for never taking any responsibility when things go south, because they have to answer to their boss and you-know-what rolls downhill. Good bosses spread praise amongst team members during wins, and accept the blame when things go wrong. So if you have a boss who has never, ever, EVER been wrong or mistaken about anything and also has avoided any blame for backfires, you might want to think about going somewhere else.

1. They Don't Even Want to be a Boss

In the end, a part of me feels bad for some terrible bosses. Namely, the ones who never really wanted to be bosses in the first place.

Unfortunately, far too many executives at top companies still believe in the misguided idea that top performers will automatically be stellar bosses and managers. The thinking is that because they were rock stars at their jobs, they will seamlessly transition to a management position overseeing others doing the same job. Unfortunately, this is far from the case in many instances. Truth be told, some people either don't want to lead, or aren't good at it. Sure they were spectacular in their former roles, but that doesn't mean they're cut out to supervise others. Maybe the job they were doing was suited to their personality and didn't involve collaboration. Whatever the case, far too many people lunge at the increased salary and fancier job title, only to find out they have no business being in charge of others.

Your horrible boss might have fallen into this trap, and desperately wishes they could go back to the way things used to be. So try to keep that in mind.

You Can Hate Your Boss, But You Still Need to Negotiate

Whether your boss is the best or an absolute nightmare, the fact is you're going to have to go to him/her and negotiate salary. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.