How to Tell if You’re a Terrible Boss

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One of the hardest things in life, sometimes, is knowing how you’re being perceived. It can be difficult to take a step outside yourself and see how others see you, and especially if you’re the boss and have a corner office or even just a door to distance yourself from everyone else. Even if you have an open-door policy, though, it doesn’t mean you’re a great boss.

So what makes for a bad boss? Well, according to the Harvard Business Review “the offensive actions so often associated with being a bad boss make up less than 20% of the behavior that actually defines the worst bosses.”

The HBR analyzed the behavior of 30,000 managers and came to the conclusion that bad bosses are bad because of the things they don’t do, and not because they go around intentionally doing “evil” things. I’m sure we’ve all had bad bosses here, and the list of 10 behaviors described in this list are likely to conjure up memories of the people we all used to work for. Shudder.

The big ones that hop out at me have got to be a lack of clear vision and direction (“poor leaders... are unwilling to communicate about the future, leaving their subordinates with no clear path forward”) and a failure to walk the talk (“saying one thing and doing another is the fastest way to lose the trust of all your colleagues”).

Give the full list a read and see if any of these sound scarily familiar. If they do, maybe you should do something about it.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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