November 22, 2022 | 5 min read
25 Signs Of A Bad Manager (And How To Be A Better One)


Regardless of your career path, you’ve likely worked with a bad manager at some point. And as you step into a management role, those bad manager examples are often whispering in the back of your head, “Here’s what not to do as a manager.” However, each bad manager has unique characteristics, and one type of bad manager does not match another.

Whether you have good intentions or not, unfortunately managers are human. As a result, it’s impossible to be a perfect leader all the time—or ever. Especially when you have one singular idea of what a bad manager can be, you might be blind to other ways managers can let their employees down. We picked out 25 habits of bad managers to dive into those characteristics that drive your employees nuts. If you are a manager, chances are, you are guilty of at least one of these.

Read Also: 6 Steps To Improving Your Management Skills

While identifying with a few of these habits doesn’t make someone a bad manager, relating to several of these may point to a bigger problem. So, what are the key signs someone might be a bad manager—and what can you do to fix it?

They’re controlling

Exercising control in the workplace can surface in several different ways. While some are worse than others, all of these are signs that you may need to let go a bit:

  • Micromanaging: the most common form of control (and the most obnoxious to your employees) is micromanaging. If you’re constantly checking in on your employee’s progress and critiquing minute details about how they are working, you might lose them before they actually finish a project.
  • Being a rule stickler: In any workplace, there are always a set of norms that are followed. If you don’t allow for out-of-the-box ideas, or if you say the common phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it,” you might be stifling some great ideas from your team.
  • Not offering development: If you’re a control freak, you may often think to yourself that since you can complete a task faster or better, it’s easier if you just do it. However, this robs your team members of critical moments to develop their own skills.
  • Monopolizing the conversation: If you’re meeting with team members and you’re doing most of the talking, you may need to take a step back. Meetings should be a great place to share ideas and get feedback from your team.

Does this sound like you?

If any of these characteristics sound like you, it might be time to take a chill pill and exercise more trust in your team. While you know you have great ideas and can execute well, it’s time to give the reigns to someone else. And if they fail, be there to help them pick up the pieces. While it may take more time, showing confidence in your team’s potential and taking extra time to guide them through learning new skills will pay off in the long run.

They lack objectivity

No manager is perfect, of course, but remaining objective about your team takes a lot of work to continue to understand how each of your team members are contributing. Here’s a couple of signs you may need to step back and look at your team from a different angle:

  • Playing favorites: While you may have bonded with one of your employees, it’s important to still ensure you can accurately assess their work. It’s easy to cross friendship and management lines at times, and it can make it more difficult to accurately view your team dynamics.
  • Taking credit: When managers take credit for their employees’ ideas, it can vary between accidental and malicious. Regardless of whether you intend to take credit for an idea, the action itself means you aren’t considering your team’s contributions.
  • Not being inclusive: Take a look at the makeup of your team. Do you hire people from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences? Are you asking for ideas from people who aren’t like you, or are you simply hiring a “mini-me” to agree with you on everything?

Does this sound like you?

If you’re being too subjective in your work and management style, you may need to take a step back and think about your team as a whole. Do you actually have a clear picture of what your employees are working on or how they interact with each other? Do you make space for new ideas and opinions? If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to start fresh; spend some time with each employee and get to know them a bit better. And when the opportunity is presented to hire a new employee, consider how that person can add to your culture and make it better rather than fit in a mold you’ve created.

Read Also: Why You Should Be Hiring For Culture Add, Not Fit

They’re not open about feedback

Feedback is a critical part of managing people. As such, it takes a special manager to be open about feedback—from all angles. Here’s a few ways bad managers struggle with feedback:

  • Only giving negative feedback: If your employees only hear from you when they’ve done something wrong, you’re not going to build a very motivating rapport. They will start to dread meetings with you and feel like they can’t do anything to please you.
  • Not listening to feedback: When a piece of feedback is offered to you, it’s very important that you don’t dismiss it outright. Even if you feel that criticism is misplaced, it still reflects how someone feels, and you need to get to the root of why your employee feels that way.
  • Not asking for feedback: While you may think you exercise an open-door policy with your employees, they’re not likely to frequently offer feedback to you. If you never ask, it will take much longer to learn how you can improve and simultaneously mitigate any employee concerns.

Does this sound like you?

Feedback is often an overlooked part of management, but don’t worry! This is easily repaired with simply adding feedback into your routine. When your team does something great, don’t be shy about letting them know—maybe even pull out a confetti emoji! And when you’re one-on-one with an employee, ask them for honest feedback. You may be surprised by their response!

They’re unavailable

When a department is stretched thin, management is often pulled in too many directions, and it can be difficult to be fully present when your employees may really need your support or guidance. While this can be difficult to navigate, these are a couple of signs that you’re not as available as you might think:

  • Your direct reports self-manage: If you’re lucky enough to have employees who need little guidance and do excellent work, that’s great! However, they should still be getting your feedback and thoughts on their work every now and then.
  • You frequently reschedule meetings: If you often find yourself unable to make previously scheduled meetings with your employees, it’s a sign that perhaps too much is being asked of you.
  • You’re surprised about what employees are working on: Have you ever been in a meeting where your employee says they’ve completed a major task or project—and it surprised you? You may not have a strong handle on what your employee’s major priorities are, or your priorities may even be misaligned.

Does this sound like you?

For unavailable managers, these scenarios may be all too common, and you’re often at the mercy of people above you. However, there are some steps you can take to increase visibility and show up more for employees. To increase transparency and lessen the need for meetings, consider investing in project management tools like Monday or Asana. Additionally, make time for regular feedback, even if it’s in small doses. Don’t have time for a weekly hour-long call? Try for a weekly 20-minute call and let your employee come to you with what they need.

They lack vision

The most frustrating thing for an employee is to wonder, “Why am I doing this?” It’s difficult to be motivated when your employees don’t know where they’re going or why. If you’re a manager who lacks vision, you may suffer from the following:

  • Not showing impact: When your team members complete big projects, does it disappear into the abyss, never to know the results of their hard work? Employees like to know what happened after, and it’s up to a manager to offer that visibility.
  • Disorganized vision: When you have a plan for something, is it easily readable or accessible to your team? Do you walk them through your goals, or do they have to piece it together themselves?
  • Inconsistent goals: Some managers have big goals, but they need to be more realistic about the timeline for achieving these, as well as how they should be prioritized. Don’t come to a team member one day with a top priority and then switch goals and priorities to something else the next day.
  • Poor communication: Related to showing impact, it is important to offer context and background on your assignments to team members. If you’re not able to communicate a “why” or a “how” properly, you won’t get the results you want.
  • Not planning for development: In addition to your long-term goals, what are your long-term goals for your employees and their careers? Have you thought about the growth opportunities they should get, or had open conversations with them about what they want?

Read Also: 6 Ways To Provide Growth Opportunities For Your Staff

Does this sound like you?

If this sounds like you, you may simply react before thinking through a plan. Next time you have a big goal, take a step back and think about:

  • Why this is a priority
  • How you plan to accomplish this with your team
  • How you can offer development opportunities through this process
  • What context your team needs to be motivated to complete this
  • How you’re going to show impact to your team

They lack assertiveness

Growing into a management role can be a difficult transition for some people. You may have to deal with uncomfortable situations, and navigating these new challenges can be a real struggle. For managers who lack assertiveness, you might:

  • Be a “yes” person: When you’re getting direction from above you, it may be instinctual to say yes to everything. However, it’s important to know the capabilities of your team and know when to say, “No.”
  • Avoid conflict: As a manager, there will be difficult situations that arise, and you’ll need to step in and communicate effectively to resolve this. Avoiding conflicts will only exacerbate tensions and cause more issues.

Read Also: Millennial Managers: 4 Ways To Develop Your Leadership Skills

Does this sound like you?

There’s no shame in being a team player, but it can bleed into being over-accommodating to everyone. Practice your communication skills, and start by simply saying, “No,” next time, and remind yourself that work is not personal. Over time, this will get easier and become second nature to you!

They don’t respect boundaries

One of the easiest ways to drive an employee away is to blur lines between personal life and work life. As a manager, establishing healthy boundaries can be critical to maintaining a professional—yet fun—environment. If you struggle with boundaries, you might:

  • Disregard personal time: If you’re guilty of a 10 p.m. email to your employee or asking for work to be completed during PTO, your team likely feels that you are over-stepping into their personal time that should be used to recover from work.
  • Lack empathy for personal issues: When employees are in crisis, it is your job as their manager to help guide them through and help them manage their work. Whatever the issue, it’s important to start in a place of understanding and guidance rather than evaluating whether they have a real problem.
  • Gossip: If you participate in the office rumor mill, this can be extremely irresponsible as a manager.

Does this sound like you?

Healthy boundaries around work are helpful for both employees and managers. Be sure that you are respectful of your employees’ personal lives and giving them space to enjoy life or handle crises outside of work. Additionally, be a sounding board and guide for your team in moments of need, and always be a source of truth surrounding company news.

They don’t have fun

On the flip side of boundaries, some managers may prefer more strict boundaries between work and home life. Once again, boundaries can be a healthy thing! However, it can also be taken a little too far. If you don’t allow yourself to have fun at work, you might:

  • Always talk work: When you’re meeting with your employees, do you ask about their weekend or their evening plans? If you don’t have a grasp on who they are outside of the context of work, you might want to reevaluate.
  • Avoid team building activities: Once again, some personal boundaries are great, but if you never show your face outside of work, there are real consequences to your team’s morale and comradery.

Does this sound like you?

If you operate with strict boundaries around work, you don’t have to tear all the walls down. Start by asking your team members about their weekend, and try to show up to the occasional company-sponsored event.

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