7 Reasons Your Team Thinks You’re a Terrible Leader

If you’re in any kind of leadership position, chances are you don’t go into work every day telling yourself, “I’m going to be the worst boss I can possibly be. Yes! Today is a new day to truly suck as a leader!”

Yet, somehow, your team believes that is exactly what you must be doing.

You’re one of those kinds of bosses that they gripe about at happy hour. You’re the boss that they equate with Attila the Hun, Nurse Ratched and Dunder Mifflin’s Michael Scott.

You may be discouraged that your team doesn’t hold you in high regard. It may make you angry. It may surprise you. But however you’re feeling, you need to push it aside and figure out what has gone wrong.

Because if you don’t fix it, you can bet that your rotten leadership will eventually hurt your career because a team that doesn’t like the leadership will be less productive, innovative and collaborative.

And who will senior leadership hold responsible for that lackluster performance?

You.

So, let’s look at what you’re doing that makes your team think you are such a ghastly boss and the consequences of your actions:

  1. All you need is a crown. You believe it’s your job to give orders, and the team is there to hustle off to do your bidding. Aren’t they lucky to have a job? They are paid to do what you tell them, right? Then why all the whining and snarky faces? The problem is that your snooty attitude is not only unprofessional, but demeaning.  Your “loyal subjects” will quickly be looking for a way to stage a revolt and won’t offer any new ideas or solutions since you act like such a royal pain in the arse.
  2. You’re a clock watcher. You’re not watching for 5 p.m. to roll around so you can leave. You’re watching closely to see who leaves on time so that you can make them later feel like a slacker for not staying late. You also make a point of noting if someone takes an extra 10 minutes at lunch, expect people to answer your 11 p.m. emails immediately and generally treat your workers like they’re schoolchildren. Your behavior lets them know that you don’t trust them to use their time wisely so they remain guarded in offering any innovative solutions, feeling like they’ll be rebuffed by the belittling boss. Your insulting behavior is demoralizing and has them looking for jobs during their lunch hour.
  3. You believe coaching and feedback are synonymous with criticism.  You believe your job is to point out what an employee is doing wrong. After all, how can the worker improve if you aren’t pointing out his or her mistakes?  While it’s true that workers need to be told when they’re headed in the wrong direction, they also need to be told when they’re doing something right. If your feedback is nothing more than a chance to micromanage, then you’re setting up a negative culture that slows down processes and leads to an inefficient team that feels defeated by your constant harping.
  4. You fix the blame, not the problem. If something goes wrong, you immediately look for who is responsible (or think might be responsible) so you can write it up and stick the report in the person’s personnel file.  By not taking the time to figure out the problem and a way to fix it, you pretty much guarantee that it will happen again.
  5. You never do more than scratch the surface. Not only could you not give three pertinent details about an employee’s personal  life, but you don’t care about anything they do outside of work. Someone is crying at lunch? You don’t care. An employee looks really upset and haggard for weeks on end? Too bad.  You believe your job is to manage, not babysit. But your lack of interest is seen as a lack of interest by the company overall, and employees don’t feel compelled to offer any effort above what is required. Your lack of caring will ultimately hurt the bottom line, and then you’ll have to answer to your boss about why your team is ineffective and disengaged.
  6. You won’t admit what you don’t know. Maybe you lack some leadership or technology skills, but they say you should fake it until you make it, right? So you bluff your way through key decisions, refusing to solicit ideas or feedback from more seasoned or skilled workers, despite their willingness to help you. If you refuse to learn and rebuff any attempts of aid, then don’t be surprised if your team doesn’t alert you of an impending disaster and are willing to watch you sink faster than the Titanic.
  7. You’re secretive.  You keep your office door closed, huddle in the stairwell talking on your cellphone quietly, won’t reveal your schedule to anyone and are mum about any corporate or industry happenings.  While such traits may be valuable for a CIA agent, they’re frustrating for a team that is counting on you to keep them on the same page and moving toward the same goal. Such behavior makes you look paranoid, immature, unprofessional – and just weird.

What are some other leadership traits that make workers miserable?














Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • Michael Shelton

    The inability to share leadership effectively is a team spirit killer. Many leaders don’t know how to carve up significant pieces that can be delegated to the right people. We all want to grow.

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  • Guest

    WOW! These points describe the jerk I formerly worked for, until I got canned. Even now, unemployed, I have a better mental outlook than when I had to deal with that person. My former co-workers have commented on my ‘glow’ when I meet them for lunch. Unbelievable that people like this person exist and that they can survive, but hey, with enough pictures of people with a goat, anyone can survive and hold a job…

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  • Patricia

    Absolutely agree! It’s terrible when you have a clock watcher boss specially in meetings when you realize that the clock deserves more attention than you!

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  • Piya

    I knew someone like the one described in the post. He thought just because he didn’t have a life beyond work others too don’t have right to live. He worked on Sundays and even on other holidays…and expected others to do the same.

    He was by no means a leader because i don’t think leaders complain 24/7 that too without cause or their main aim is to get sued for harassment. I’m sure one of these days someone will sue him for mental harassment.

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