Effective Leadership

World’s Worst Boss!

Screaming man

What to do when dealing with a bad boss. 

Live long enough, and I guarantee you have had at least one bad boss at one point in your career. We all have.

And when faced with this type of experience, what do all those leadership gurus say to us?

That old refrain “well, you can learn how to be a good boss by not modeling yourself after a bad boss.”

We are encouraged to absorb these life lessons with important takeaways that help us become better human beings.

True enough. However, easier said than done.

When you are under the wrath of a tyrannical leader or an ineffectual boss, life is not so grand.

Bad bosses come in many forms. Let’s review a few of these common debilitating leadership styles.

Lacks Courage

Courage backdrop

These leaders have no guts. They are not risk-takers and work to maintain the status quo. They are conflict avoiders and are unprepared to go to bat for their team.

In essence, they maintain the status quo and rarely challenge independent thinking.

Poor Delegators

boy pushing barrel in a Mexican desert, on his own, without any help

Control issues characterise these leaders. They become swamped in detail and ultimately cannot survive with greater scope.

Even worse, they never stretch their team. Team members are prone to get easily bored with minimal latitude.

Short Term vs. Long Term Focus

Woman looking through a telescope

Exceptionally planful, these leaders are outstanding tacticians.

What is lacking is a strategic focus where connecting the dots and anticipating unexpected consequences requires a much more broad-based attention. Growing an organisation is a challenge.

I could go on because there are as many bad bosses as there are personality types.

Let us though outline and call out the absolute very worst boss.

Abuse of Power

Abuse of power comes as no surprise

Power indeed corrupts. These leaders do not embody the organisation’s values. They can be disrespectful, dismissive and in worst-case scenarios instil fear amongst employees.

This corruption is a shame as we all need to feel valued.

Is your hard work being appreciated? Does going the extra mile or creating a platform of change result in recognition, whether verbal or performance-related?

Bosses also need to remember we all come from a context.

We all have families, and sometimes our families may be struggling whether it’s physical or mental health problems. Some of these challenges include ageing parents, financial distress, and many other sources of unrest and anxiety.

We do try to leave our personal and family woes at home; however, this is no easy feat.

As a leader, you must remember to communicate with understanding. Every one of us has a bad day or may go through a tough situation, sometimes prolonged.

Don't give up, you're not alone, you matter!

Treating others with disregard creates serious retention problems.

Employees quit and this disrupts overall team functioning. Even if employees don’t physically leave, as one of my esteemed colleagues likes to say “they trade their car in for a rental”.

These employees are no longer motivated; they lower their standards and produce much less.

If you have an emotionally explosive or condescending leader, you as an employee need to rise and start to make your voice known.

You must complain by going to HR or have the courage to talk to somebody in a position of power. Demand action by requesting an investigation.

It is rare for one employee to be singled out. Bad bosses defy good character. This form of bad leadership means that it is more than likely many others are getting treated in cruel or arrogant ways.

Short-sighted organisations fail to realise that reputational integrity is everything.

Statue of Liberty standing firm despite mist and clouds.

The world is way too small and connected in the digital age. Even organisations that were once considered hip or on the cutting edge who have abysmal leadership are found out.

If you as an organisation fail to respond to corrupt leaders, you are not just condoning unacceptable behaviors; you will have a hard time attracting great talent.

I urge every employee who has a bad boss to speak up. You may be nervous about the consequences, but life is too short to endure bad treatment.

If your organisation is not prepared to terminate your boss or move you to a different team, then dust off your resume. Take your time and do your due diligence, find a corporation or firm that has a great culture.

Remember you no longer are in the schoolyard. There is one thing and one thing only that counts, and that is your self-worth.

Classroom bullies who have moved from their little sandbox to their sizeable corporate office are still small. Make them tiny by calling them out and taking away their power base. You deserve more.

Arrogant leaders own both the home projector and the screen. Mobilise your self-esteem. Shut that down. Create a better narrative for yourself, your family, and every true leader that will be quick to follow you.

About the author

Cindy Wahler

Cindy Wahler

A Psychologist and expert in human behavior, Dr. Wahler's former leadership consultancy clients include British Telecom, Toyota, Ralph Lauren, and the Royal Bank of Canada to name a few. Dr. Wahler is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and Chief Executive Officer.