8 Warning Signs That Your Supervisor is Incompetent

Characteristics of bad bosses, and what a good one should look like.

Posted Mar 28, 2018

We have all had bad bosses, but how do we know if our supervisor is really a bad one? Here are 10 warnings signs that your boss can’t do the job, along with ideas about what a great supervisor should look like.

1. Never Has Time for You. Is your supervisor “too busy” to meet, even when it is important, or does he or she cancel when a meeting has been scheduled? Good supervision means being responsive to supervisees—giving them the time they need to get information, understand assignments, and especially receive clear feedback.


2. Micromanages. Does your supervisor insist on checking every bit of your work? Does he or she over-control so much that you think, “why didn’t you just do this yourself?” The very best managers know how to empower subordinates to help them take on responsibility, show some initiative, and grow and learn on the job.


3. Is Untrustworthy. Are you afraid to be open and honest with your supervisor because he or she might use the information against you? Does your supervisor say one thing and do another? Good supervisor-supervisee relationships are built on trust.


4. Puts Me First, You Last. Does your supervisor spend all of his or her time on their own career, and show no interest in your advancement? The very best bosses take a genuine interest in their employees’ career growth and development. Truly great leaders are like good parents. They take pride in the accomplishments of those they supervise.


5. Can’t Manage the Workload. Is your boss incapable of handling his or her own supervisory workload? Are decisions and assignments always made late, or not at all? Great supervisors make sure that they can manage their own workload and also spend the time necessary to effectively manage and lead their direct reports.


6. Focuses Exclusively on the Negative. Is your boss always pointing out what you are doing wrong, and ignoring what you do correctly? Does every speech from your boss take a negative tone of "what’s wrong?" The best bosses focus primarily on the positive (and keep a motivating, positive attitude and outlook).


7. Thinks Punishment is Motivating. Are you always looking over your shoulder waiting for the boss to lower the boom? Punitive management is always a bad idea. It de-motivates people and gets them to focus on avoiding mistakes rather than getting good things done. And, punishment is a major, debilitating stressor for employees.


8. Can’t Communicate Clearly. Is it difficult to determine what your boss really wants? Do you find that your boss rarely listens to you? Effective communication is the key to good management. Giving clear directions and listening to subordinates are crucial to success at work.

There is an old saying that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. While that may not always be the case, in many instances the supervisor is responsible for making the job a good one. Good managers make jobs interesting and rewarding, and they work hard to make their supervisees better.

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