Psychologist Robert Hogan estimates that there are more bad leaders than good ones. Bad bosses range from the merely incompetent to the destructive and toxic ones. Think of the worst boss you ever worked for. He or she probably falls into one of the following categories:
"My-Way-or-the-Highway" The Authoritarian Boss. Give some people a little power and they run wild with it. One employee told me her boss was so over-the-top that he once told her, "I am your superior. You do not breathe unless I tell you to." The authoritarian leader fails because of a belief that "I know all the answers," and most often doesn't.
"I do as little work as possible." The Laissez-Faire Boss. A friend told me that her newly-appointed department head just said this. You might think that the do-nothing boss is relatively harmless, but when a group is leaderless and important tasks like budgeting are ignored or done poorly, everyone suffers.
"Me, me, me, me, mine" The Narcissistic Boss. This bad leader takes credit for others' good work and tries to hoard all of the resources and rewards for him/herself. Although there are some narcissistic leaders who get things done and are successful, the very best leaders are focused on employees and on shared gains. Of course, the narcissist can drive you crazy socially, because "it's all about me."
"You are worthless" The Bully Boss. The bully takes delight in tormenting and tearing down others. I've written extensively about bullies in the workplace, but the worst bullies are those who are the superiors of their targets (although peer bullies in the workplace can also be horrible).
Here are some resources for help in dealing with bad bosses.
Gary Namie & Ruth Namie (2009). The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job (2nd ed.), Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks.
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