Bosses are just a fact of life. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, you’ll be getting managed by someone.
As they have responsibility for you, and you have a responsibility to report your work to them, the relationship you have with your line manager is the most important one you will have at any company.
And yet, not all leaders have leadership skills. Indeed, managers with the right mix of skills and qualities needed to succeed in management are not as common as we might hope.
This needn’t always be a problem. Most managers do not have all the qualities one might wish for, but can nevertheless do a good job.
Occasionally, however, leadership skills may be found so wanting that the issue simply can’t be ignored.
Here we lay out the seven telltale signs that your boss is not cut out for management, and the seven ways you can change the situation for the better.
How to spot a leader without leadership skills
Bad management can be hard to spot at first, but by the time it starts to affect your job satisfaction, you’ll be in no doubt.
Life under a bad boss can be challenging to deal with. You might find yourself with more stress, less motivation, and low morale.
It might even lead you to question whether you want to stay in your job.
Spotting bad management before it starts to get you down can help you avoid these negative side effects, giving you time to do something about it before it’s too late.
Here’s what you should look out for from a bad boss:
1/ Getting angry
If your manager is stressed, overwhelmed, and unhappy in the job, they’re likely to be prone to anger.
Angry outbursts are one of the surest signs that your boss is not coping. And this is certain to make for overall bad management.
2/ Making threats
Good management involves creating strong, positive relationships. The task of a manager is to work with those beneath them in the hierarchy.
Threats and intimidation are the polar opposite of that and indicate that your boss is either unwilling or unable to manage with respect or foresight.
3/ Raising issues out of the blue
The most common problem in management is the lack of people skills. If your boss doesn’t take enough time to consider how to communicate with you and your peers, then they will often do so in a damaging manner.
Raising problems, issues, and concerns at inappropriate times may put people unfairly on the spot. It also shows a lack of trust.
4/ Ignoring you
As our line managers are the people we directly report to, it is them we look to for recognition and feedback.
A bad boss may ignore this fact, giving you little recognition and only the minimum of their attention.
5/ Mismanaging the workload
Another of the most critical skills a manager need possess is organisation. As other people’s work depends on their ability to manage the workload, this should be a key focus of their attention.
Failing to organise properly or delegate effectively are telltale signs a manager either isn’t coping or isn’t prioritising the work of others.
6/ Talking inappropriately
Managers are in a position of power. They can abuse that power by acting or talking in inappropriate, offensive, or insensitive ways, with little regard for those listening.
A boss that takes no care to treat others with respect is hardly one to inspire loyalty and gain trust.
7/ Pushing and pulling in different directions
Everyone wants to feel ownership over their work. We look to managers for leadership, direction, and guidance – and hope they can help us succeed in our work.
A boss that changes their mind too often – and, consequently, your workload and priorities – risks harming productivity and demonstrates little regard for the job satisfaction of others.
What to do about a bad boss
Once you’ve identified your boss as lacking in leadership skills, it’s essential to take steps to try to remedy the situation.
How much of a problem having a bad boss is for you, and what the best way to deal with it is, will depend.
But the important thing is to act. However, you choose to deal with it, taking positive steps to solve the problem will help lift your spirits and resolve, giving you the confidence to turn things around for the better.
Here are some of the most effective strategies for dealing with bad management:
1/ Give it time
Don’t jump the gun. Identifying the problem is a good start. It may be that your boss is in the process of becoming a better manager, and just needs a bit of time.
Some problems may be temporary or related to specific circumstances, so it’s worth waiting to see how long the issues you’re experiencing are likely to continue.
2/ Raise your concerns
Once you’re satisfied that a problem exists, and isn’t going away any time soon, it’s worth considering raising the issue.
Depending on the problem, and your relationship with your manager, it may be possible to raise the issue directly with them. If not, consider reaching out to an HR representative or someone higher up in the hierarchy – perhaps your boss’ boss.
Take care to raise the issues respectfully and discreetly, offering more solutions than complaints.
3/ Manage up
Raising your concerns may be either not possible or ineffective. If so, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.
One way to deal with bad management is to “manage up” – to manage the manager. Carefully observe what is causing the problems you’re experiencing and work to subtly steer your boss away from them.
This may involve communicating in a certain way, anticipating problems before they occur, re-prioritizing part of your workload, or offering to take on new tasks that may help everything flow more smoothly.
4/ Take your workload into your own hands
To ensure your job works out, despite the challenges of suffering a bad boss, it may be necessary to raise your game and take charge of your workload.
Focus on what your responsibilities are, and what you can contribute to the company. Ensure your work is seen to be valuable, even if this means ignoring your manager.
More secure in your job, you’ll be less beholden to the whims of your boss. You may then gain greater leverage to deal with the problems they are causing.
5/ Show your worth and ask for a transfer
If there is no hope of turning things around with your boss, you may be able to find another opportunity within the same company.
Ensure there are other senior staff members who are aware of your value to the company before asking for a transfer or a new challenge internally.
It may not be necessary to mention what has prompted your decision, but if you do take care to be discreet.
6/ Look for other opportunities
Too many people suffer bad management in silence. One way to restore confidence and a positive outlook is to find opportunities elsewhere.
You may even land a better job than the one you’re suffering in. But looking for opportunities elsewhere can also give you bargaining power. With the chance to move on, you might feel more comfortable raising your concerns.
The threat of your departure may even help resolve the issue.
7/ Walk away
Your work is a big part of your life. It’s not right to allow bad management to kill your job satisfaction, increase your stress levels, and land a blow to your confidence.
If a bad boss is ruining your experience of work, it may be the best course of action to simply resign. This act alone may help boost your morale.
Taking such a serious step may have the positive effect of highlighting the issues to others within the company – and may, in fact, lead to a resolution of the problems.
But look before you leap. Don’t take such a drastic step without a solid plan of action for what to do after you leave.