Research on leadership and management has focused on best practices – what makes a leader exemplary. Unfortunately, many of us work for bosses who fall far short of the “leader” label. In fact, it has been suggested by psychologists Robert Hogan and Robert Kaiser that the majority of bosses are incompetent, primarily due to poor selection practices – the wrong people get to be bosses.

Here are the top six reasons why bosses fail:

1. Doesn’t Treat Employees Like Human Beings. The most hated bosses view employees as a means to an end. Bad bosses neglect employees’ feelings and concerns, and never get to know employees on any sort of personal level.

2. Has Completely Unrealistic Expectations. Some bosses believe that workers should be completely dedicated to their jobs, working 24/7 for the company, and reaching extraordinary levels of performance. The problem is, however, that the boss does nothing to build employee dedication, and rarely shows appreciation (or appropriate compensation/rewards) for employees’ extraordinary efforts.

3. Fails to See His/Her Own Shortcomings. Many upper-level leaders are narcissistic (they didn’t get ahead by being shrinking violets). The most hated bosses are poor role models and they fail to own up to their own shortcomings or the mistakes that they make. [Read more about leader narcissism here].

4. Punishes First and Asks Questions Later. Punitive bosses are the very worst. They fly off the handle and start pointing figures when something goes wrong, instead of calmly analyzing the issue and fixing it.

5. Is a Bully. Bully bosses pick out specific employees for cruel and unusual punishment. They enjoy badgering and bullying these targeted employees, and justify their bad behavior by saying they are “making an example” of the individual in an effort to keep everyone in line. [Read more about bully bosses here].

6. Is Dishonest and Inauthentic. A boss who lies, takes credit for others’ work, and who “cooks the books” is always a disaster. However, two-faced bosses can be just as bad. Some of the most hated bosses appear honest, forthright, and fair, but will stab you in the back or throw you under the bus at a moment’s notice.

So what is the solution for dealing with bad bosses? It’s not easy, and it basically amounts to having courage – having the courage to call out bad behavior, to not stand idly by when a boss is out of line, and going over the boss’s head to file a report. If there is no action taken, it takes courage to move on, but the best course may be to seek a transfer or a job elsewhere. For companies, it is imperative that they put effort into good selection practices that weed out potential problem bosses, and monitor leaders’ performance closely to ensure that they are leading effectively.

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