HR Strange But True!
April 19, 2012

In a recent study, Clint Longenecker, University of Toledo professor of Management, researched the characteristic of “really bad bosses.”

The qualitative research study sampled 187 business leaders from cross sections of U.S. manufacturing and service enterprises. Participant managers were asked to “identify the worst boss that they had ever worked for during their career.” They also provided descriptions of behaviors, practices, and characteristics that made these bosses ineffective.

“When people were asked to chronicle their worst boss, they either cited lack of character or competency,” said Longenecker. “When we teach leadership, we now focus on character and competency. The list of bad traits leans very heavily towards character issues.”

Here are Longenecker’s 12 characteristics of really bad bosses:

  1. Are arrogant, prideful, inflexible, and always right.
  2. Are unprincipled, untrustworthy, misrepresent the truth, and lie.
  3. Fail to create clear direction and clarify performance expectations.
  4. Are ineffective at providing effective performance feedback and recognition.
  5. Are really bad communicators.
  6. Are erratic and have unpredictable behavior and moods.
  7. Take credit and avoid blame.
  8. Do not plan effectively and are crisis driven.
  9. Do not develop their people or help them get ahead.
  10. Do not solve problems or improve processes.
  11. Are technically incompetent and lack talent.
  12. Make unwise, ill-informed, and ineffective decisions.

“Managers, CEOs, and anybody involved in business or industrial management would be making a mistake by not thinking about and acting on the characteristics of bad bosses in their networks,” advises Longenecker. “Taking action can happen at three different levels of people: individual managers, employees of bad bosses, or organizational leaders who employ bad bosses.”

For more information about Longenecker’s study, including an analysis of each characteristic, read Characteristics of Really Bad Bosses.

Sources: Institute of Industrial Engineers,

What do you consider the worst characteristic a boss can have?

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