Good Lessons From a Bad Boss

The Office

In my career, I’ve been pretty lucky to have had some great bosses.  Bosses who have really mentored me and help be grow.

But, like most people, I’ve also had a few bad ones.  It’s really tough to have a bad boss.  It just makes it hard to walk into work every day.

But, when I look back at my bad boss experiences, I have to admit that I learned a lot.  To be honest, I probably learned more lessons from my bad bosses than the good ones.

You see, the value of having a bad boss is that they teach you what NOT to do when it comes to managing your employees. Sometimes, knowing what not to do is almost as valuable as knowing what to do.

So, here’s my list of “dont’s” that I learned from a few bad bosses:


1) Don’t be insecure

It’s great to have talented people on your team.  As a boss of emerging rockstars, you may have the tendency to be a bit insecure at times.  It may feel like your reports are outshining you.  But, as a leader, it’s critical that you don’t feel threatened. Instead, embrace it.  Having a great team is actually a sign that you’re doing something right as the boss.  Give your talented employees the opportunity to shine and let that reflect on you.

2) Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due

People generally like to be recognized if they do good work.  Whenever you have the chance, give the people on your team a shout out.  Talk about their accomplishments.  Brag about them in front of their peers and executives.  It will make your team feel great and it will also make you look good as the boss.  It shows that you don’t take the credit for other people’s work.  You’d rather give up the spotlight.  It will make you look like a strong, confident leader to your superiors and help you build stronger relationships with the people on your team.

3) Don’t let issues fester

I had one boss who had some issues with me.  But, he would never address them with me directly.  Instead, he would let those issues fester over long periods of time.  Then usually out of nowhere, he would just unload on me.  He would bring things up that happened many months ago.  There were times when I didn’t even remember what he was talking about.  He would say things like, “remember when we were in that meeting and you cut me off mid -sentence?”

But, obviously I did something that really bothered him at the time.  And when he would finally confront me, it was just awful.  This taught me that you have to address issues with your employees when they happen. The longer you wait, the more frustrated you’ll get.  As frustration grows, the likely outcome of the eventual conversation with the employee will be bad.

And, it’s really not fair to your employee.  You’re much better off having more frequent conversations than letting things build up into one epic thrashing.

4) Don’t get upset if your employees want to explore other opportunities in the company

There will come a time when someone who works for you will be ready for a change.  People want to grow their careers and get new experiences.  They can’t always do that in their current role.  The bad boss will be upset by this and may even see it as a betrayal.  The bad boss won’t lift a finger to help you find a new role.  On the other hand, the good boss will be supportive and will may even help you find that new role within the company.  Because the good boss knows that your value to the company goes beyond your current role.

5) Don’t treat employees badly if they leave for another job

I worked for a company for several years. I was generally happy in my job but I got a great opportunity presented to me so I decided to make a move. When I resigned, my boss was furious. He basically didn’t even acknowledge me for my last two weeks on the job. He really left me with a horrible feeling about him and the company I was leaving.  That was a shame because I had a rewarding experience working there. It was a great lesson. Now when employees leave my team (which fortunately doesn’t happen very often), I really try to treat them well out the door. I want them to feel like they were appreciated. Maybe they’ll come back someday. Or at least, they’ll speak highly of their experience at the company which could help you attract a good candidate to replace him.

6) Don’t be a jerk

I’m sure there are people who have worked for me in the past who may not have great things to say about me. But, in general, I think just about everyone who has worked for me will say that I’m a pretty nice guy and I wasn’t an jerk to them. People probably spend too much time at work. It’s a huge part of a person’s life. That’s why you have to treat your co-workers with respect. You don’t want to be the person they “have to work for”, you want to be the one they “want to work for”.

So, if you’re working for a “bad boss”, hang in there. It won’t last forever. And you’ll learn some valuable lessons that may actually make you a better manager in the future.

What lessons have you learned from a bad boss? Let me know on Twitter at @jeffperkins8.


%d bloggers like this: