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3 Signs You're a Bad Boss

By Randy Hall

Last updated: December 9, 2022

Signs you're a bad boss

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I read an article in The Wall Street Journal titled Five Signs You’re a Bad Boss.  This article listed some of the signals that show your people just aren’t that into you as a leader.  It made me think about all the subtle signs that managers miss about how they need to improve.

The Wall Street Journal had a good list, but I wanted to add some of my own observations. After working with hundreds of managers, I’ve compiled three more warning signs that you are a bad boss.


You Get Mostly Good News

Your people have learned all about your reactions and how you take bad news. Maybe you can handle it and usually help address the issue in a constructive way. On the other hand, perhaps you don’t handle it well and often shoot the messenger.

If you’re a “shoot the messenger” manager, the news you get will be sugarcoated at best, and a lie at worst. You can’t make good management decisions if they are based on lies.

I once worked with a manager who spent hours telling me about how his people trusted him. He told me at length how his team looked to him for guidance when they ran into problems. But, I learned quickly that the best way for the team to get problems resolved was to convince this manager that everything was fine and then fix it themselves.

The team knew that if the manager got involved, someone would get yelled at and the fix would take twice as long. Needless to say, they painted a rosy picture for him whenever possible. If your team doesn’t deliver bad news to you or you feel like you have to dig to get it, then they don’t trust you to handle bad news like a grown-up.


You Think Most of the Good Ideas Are Yours

We’ve probably all worked with managers who had to have any idea be theirs before it gets implemented.  When this happens, people adapt pretty quickly. Either they keep ideas to themselves or they spend too much time trying to help the boss come to the idea on his or her own. 

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In these cases, employees wind up spending much of their time “managing up.” Consequently, leaders create a team who cares more about the boss’s perception than the success of the practice.  Ultimately, your employees will become frustrated when what they really want is to get their work done and make a difference.  


You Wouldn’t Hire Your Team Today if Given the Opportunity

Start by asking yourself the question, “Would I hire the people on my team again today?”  If the answer is no, you’re a bad boss. That may sound harsh, but it’s the reality. Your job as a manager is to recruit, develop, and coach the best team who can contribute to the success of the practice.  If they left tomorrow and you wouldn’t chase them, you haven’t created this kind of team.  

People on your team may be high-performing, tenured employees or incredible, young talent that you are developing into superstars.  Both are necessary and both are valuable. But in all cases, you should believe that they have enormous potential to be successful. If you believe this, you need to keep these employees.  

However, if you don’t, then these employees need a leader who can help them succeed. And this usually means these employees need the opportunity to move on to a different hospital. You owe people the opportunity to work for someone who believes in their abilities and can help them be successful.

Wrapping Up

I like to think there are no bad bosses. There are simply people in different places on the journey to becoming great leaders. What’s important is that we are moving in the right direction. Sometimes these signs help us learn where we are on our leadership path and to change course when needed.

If you think you might be a bad boss today, that’s just an observation of your current state. However, if you feel like you are still a bad boss six months from now, that was a choice.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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