I remember when I worked at an ad agency that did a lot of work with pharmaceutical companies. They had great revenue, had a decent assistant manager, and also would occasionally order sushi for the group. The starting pay was $17 an hour, and despite all of this, they had a hard time keeping the place staffed.
This was because the CEO, also the head manager, was one of the most misogynistic and awful human beings I've ever encountered. Nobody could stand being around him for more than three months, aside from a very beleaguered assistant manager with the patience of a Buddhist monk.
He regularly would hire unqualified women based on their appearance, tried to have sex with them, would call overweight employees fat, and just insult everyone who worked for him. At the time, I was 230 and recovering from a major illness—which made me his personal punching bag.
I tried to stick it out. I really, truly did. I sat through at least three sexual harassment suits directed at him during my tenure. After about three months on the job, I quit. But, not before telling him, "You're a bad boss and an awful person."
I stand by those words; he's the type of person who, when he dies, everyone will just breathe a sigh of relief and dump his body in a garbage can. At the very least, I can say I learned a lot about management and what a workplace can do.
The fact is that I learned a lot about what management should not do through his behavior. If you're a boss in a struggling business, I strongly encourage that you look for signs that your management could be the reasons why.
Wondering if the problem is you? Check for these warning signs.
Morale in the office is perennially low.
Low office morale is one of the most common signs of a toxic workplace—and if it's not a sign you're a bad boss, it's definitely a sign that your company's culture is not working out. Unhappy employees are not productive employees, nor are they employees that will stick around.
If you notice that your office is one that seems perennially tense, morose, or sullen, ask yourself if you may have contributed to that issue. Things like temper tantrums, insulting employees, or promoting a culture of fear can all be reasons why your employees aren't feeling it.
When a manager turns a workplace toxic, it can and will affect company profits. If you notice these issues, it may be time to try to fix your toxic company culture and address the issues that caused this to become so dire.
Multiple former employees have threatened to sue you—or have actually sued you.
Though a salty employee doesn't always mean you're a bad boss, there's something to be said about a pattern of lawsuits being filed against you by former employees.
If you regularly find yourself having to deal with lawyers due to things you know you have done to employees, ask yourself why this is. Are you being unnecessarily cruel to your employees? Are you actually treating them fairly, or would you balk if someone treated you the same way?
People have straight up told you that the way you behave with them is unacceptable.
If it gets to the point that people have started to tell you that your behavior is out of line, then it’s almost certain that you’re a bad boss. The more people who actually approach you about your behavior, the more likely it is that your company is suffering due to your behavior.
Should you hear this remark from customers, chances are that the treatment of your employees might be bad enough to harm your company's reputation.
You know you pay far below market value.
As much as we hate to say it, you can't be a good boss while paying people less than what they are worth. This is because having outstandingly low pay will cause people to get resentful and leave.
You can be kind, sweet, and caring, but if your employees aren't able to make ends meet while you're driving a BMW, they can and will resent you.
You often let your anger get the best of you.
When you're dealing with a tough order or an employee who just grates against your moods, do you have a tendency to explode? Do you regularly catch yourself thinking that employees "should already know this" despite never teaching them this concept?
A wise manager will never lose their cool. Fiery tempers may get results at first, but after a while, it just ends up turning your company into a toxic environment where people will begin to react by simply dropping out.
Your company acts like a constantly-revolving door.
One minute they're hired, the next, they're fired. Or, you hear about an employee quitting every other week. Either way, you've given up pulling the "Now Hiring" ads off Indeed and have even started to talk to recruiters about what you can do about attracting new talent.
Sound familiar? A high turnaround, particularly in an industry that is known for steady work, is often an indicator that you're a bad boss. Most people want a stable living.
Getting a job isn't always easy. If your employees are constantly leaving, you have to ask why they're willing to risk their livelihoods so that they can avoid working for you.
People have told you that you're a micromanager or a snoop.
Micromanaging remains one of the worst traits a manager can have, and that's one of the most common reasons employees will call it quits despite an ample paycheck. The worst part about this is that it's often done out of true concern for your company, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You might feel like the only person who can do the job right is you, but that doesn't mean you can hover like a helicopter on steroids. You need to learn to let go of the reins and put trust into your employees. Otherwise, your business will fail.
If you were honest, you have a tendency to play favorites.
It's only human nature to prefer certain people over others for reasons that may not make sense—but that doesn't mean it's the right (or wise) thing to do. Companies tend to work best when they are meritocracies.
Playing favorites is an easy way to discourage hard workers, encourage catty behavior, and also just turn your office into a rerun of Mean Girls.
You can't say "no" to employees, and you don't confront problems when they arise.
Managers are people who often have to deal with tough situations—under-performing employees, layoffs, and problems with customers, for example. The rough stuff about dealing with tough situations is that they are best confronted head-on, ideally before they get out of control.
If you are the type of person who can't confront people head-on out of fear of being mean or upsetting them, chances are that you struggle with this quite a bit.
Most people will be able to overcome this urge, but if you can't, don't be surprised if people tell you you're a bad boss. This is actually one of the worst management mistakes to make—even if it's one of the most well-intentioned.
Your employees can't fix their issues if you don't call them out on it. They also can't participate the way you want them to if you are too scared to give them the heads up.
You've literally said, "Do as I say, not as I do."
True leadership isn't about just talking the talk; it's walking the walk alongside your employees. This means that a wise boss will stay late alongside their employees, if they ask their employees to stay late at work.
Part of project management—or any kind of management, really—is learning how to lead by example. A terrible boss will expect others to stay late and do extra work, even though he has a 20-hour workweek himself.
If you can't do that, you're a bad boss in the sense that people won't be able to take you seriously.