3 Bad Managers who are Actually Awesome

We’ve all worked jobs we didn’t like, whether it was a temporary gig, or the job went on entirely too long. Often, it wasn’t necessarily the work itself that was the worst, but rather the horrible boss that oversaw daily operations. In fact, “bad bosses” are cited as the number one cause of multiple workplace problems, such as:

  • Constant turnover
  • Declining morale
  • Lower productivity

The disastrous results of bad management all seem to be shared across the board, regardless of whether the manager in question was an unrelenting bully or obliviously nice. Despite their failings, there are lessons to be learned from them, especially for those who are starting their own business. Below you’ll find a description of three bad managers, and the important lessons that can be learned from each one.

The Nice Guy/Girl

For those who have never had a boss that was “too nice” this may come as a shock, but nice bosses can also be a part of a bigger problem. In their effort to appease their colleagues and team members, they tend to embody the seven deadly sins of the too-nice boss, which include:

  • Having their ideas overshadowed by more assertive leaders
  • Avoiding conflict of all kinds, hoping they’ll simply disappear
  • Not challenging their underperforming subordinates
  • Delaying change in an attempt to keep people within their comfort zones
  • Doing other peoples’ work when complaints are lodged
  • Never speaking up in any situation
  • Losing respect over time from colleagues, bosses and staff

Despite multiple warnings from colleagues and bosses, these managers continue to go overboard appeasing their employees, even if it’s at their own expense, to the point that it becomes habit. A business can’t expect to move forward if the person at the helm agrees with everybody, but even the “too nice” boss has a lesson to teach: camaraderie.

The Lesson

Nobody can match the “too-nice” boss at being tuned into the unique situations of their employees. Though knowing the unique motivating factors for each employee gives any leader a distinct edge, it behooves nobody to be a pushover. Hold employees accountable, know what personally drives them, and provide honest, consistent feedback for the best results.

The Bully

Bully bosses are more than just a pain to work for; they also have a tremendous negative impact on an organization as a whole. The more obvious ones are typically caught before they have a chance to climb too high up the corporate ladder, but the more savvy ones tend to bully in more “tactful” and sustained ways. Further, many don’t even show their true colors until they get into a position of power.

Some of the actions that bully bosses display include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Verbal abuse, sometimes in front of others
  • Constantly questioning the adequacy and commitment of their employees
  • Sustained intimidation
  • Undermining employee work to cause failure

Though their specific behavior has not been heavily researched, 35% of workers have reported being bullied at some point in their professional lives. Considering the multiple physical and mental ills that a bully boss can cause, it’s hard to imagine that they could teach anything of value, but…

The Lesson

“Successful” bully bosses do teach us that they aren’t completely without emotional intelligence. They are able to selectively pick which situations are most appropriate to launch their tirades, which could be channeled by applying that selectiveness tomore efficient behaviors, like:

  • Active listening
  • Team building and effective communication of objectives and performance metrics
  • Generating buy-in from their employees

So in essence, bully bosses possess what could be excellent leadership skills, if only they directed that energy toward team-building and group goals, instead of personal advancement.

The Micromanager

This is the boss that hovers over everybody’s shoulders, honing in on even the most minute detail of their employees’ work. Of course, the elements of the job that they typically obsessed over are not only outside the scope of their managerial duties, but also serve to stunt their employees’ development and demoralize them. The micromanager tends never to be satisfied with the work that’s produced and effectively becomes the dreaded bottleneck in daily operations.

Micromanagers typically:

  • Get easily frustrated when an employee doesn’t complete a task in the same way they would
  • Ask for updates too frequently
  • May even take great pride in their obsessive level of scrutiny

A major problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity to every situation that can occur, whether warranted or not. Despite their obvious insecurities of relinquishing even the smallest level of control, micromanagers teach us that…

The Lesson

Micromanagement, in small doses and on necessary occasions, can be a positive trait. For example, when a new employee is brought onboard, it helps when the manager is readily available to answer questions until the employee is comfortable with the level of work they are performing. And that’s the key: a savvy manager will know when a situation calls for a more “hands on” approach and most importantly, know when to turn it off to allow the employee the chance to develop.

Through Their Combined Powers…

So what if you combined the positive traits of each of these poor management styles? They are more of a hindrance to an organization than an asset by themselves, but imagine a manager who has:

  • Awareness of their employees’ emotions
  • The mental fortitude to see projects through
  • The patience and time-management skills to be available to employees when need be

The one trait that the three styles listed above have in common is that they are based on some form of personal insecurity on the part of the manager. In contrast, an effective leader possesses positive qualities such as:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Eagerness to Learn and Adapt
  • Empathy
  • Honesty and Integrity

If you are a manager and display any of the negative traits listed above, it’s time to stop. Trusting your own people and not being afraid to offer constructive feedback are necessary in their development as well as your own. And if you see a manager engaging in these activities, be upfront and tell them about it. You may be just the inspiration they need to change their ways.


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Robert Conrad is a former Business student who graduated with a 3.91 GPA. The courses he most excelled in were Marketing and Diversity training. Robert has received multiple accolades for his dedicated contributions to improving team morale and training methods. One such past honor included an invitation to attend a company focus summit whose guest list included higher-ranking managers, marketing executives and the CEO himself. He truly believes that an engaged and happy team makes the difference between a business’s success or failure. After becoming a husband and a father, he gave up the fast-paced lifestyle of a trainer, and now works as a mentor for at-risk youth and also cooks part-time at a local juvenile facility. Robert truly believes in the power of persuasion, compassion and camaraderie in the workplace, and regards employee mistreatment as the chief cause of businesses failing to meet their financial and employee retention goals.

  • Christy Glesing

    I love your blog, but bolding the links is distracting. Have faith in
    your content. If it’s good and of interest, people will go to it.

  • Sally Speonk

    I disagree with the lessons learned and find them not accurate. I have worked for 2 micromanaging bullies who lost some of the top revenue producing talent, they never listened, tore the team apart, made employees ill/hospitalized and upset customers causing deals to fall apart of slip into another quarter. Please do not encourage bad behavior with these false positive outcomes, this does not help our society.

    • Brookhaven

      Ditto for myself – if it is allowed to go on for years the impact on the department can be tragic. Ironically the management thinks he is doing a good job, but they cant figure out why the morale is so poor. Anyone who speaks up is ostracized. Please don’t encourage this behavior !

    • Robert Conrad

      Thanks for your thoughtful response, Sally! The pure forms of either one of these personalities are a nightmare, but can be highly effective with the right coaching. Many of my colleagues who climbed the corporate ladder with me had the false impression that their learning was officially over after the promotion, but nothing could be further from the truth. Coaching is something that is continuous. I used to wonder to myself how some of these “terrible” people became managers, but after my 10+ years in the service industry, I’ve started to see how almost anybody could be great if they had the right coach. Food for thought, but thanks for reading! :-)

  • Joel Skolnick

    Office based incivility and bullying is an area that Social Workers need training and expertise as many of our clients whether individuals, groups or businesses are seeking interventions in this area. An excellent on line accredited CEU course can be found at http://bit.ly/1JRCSOh
    This course presents frameworks to understand and impact incivility in the workplace.

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