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Are You a Bad Boss?

The American National Bureau of Economic Research did a study looking into the bottom-line impact of bad bosses. The tldr; of the paper looks something like this:

  • 65% of the surveyed employees stated they’d rather have a new boss over a pay raise.
  • 30% of employees will deliberately slow down their productivity or make errors on purpose to mess with a bad boss.
  • Even if they’re not deliberately messing up, 33% said they don’t put in what they consider to be their maximum effort.
  • 25% took longer breaks.
  • A full 50% who aren’t inspired by their leaders intended to look for new employment within the next year.
  • The bottom line – poor leadership costs the U.S. economy about $360 million every year in lost productivity.

Indicators of poor leadership

The above numbers are pretty scary, but you’re fairly certain you’re not a bad boss. You think your team likes you. You don’t think that your leadership is costing your firm productivity. Right?

Well, if you’re not 100% sure here are some pointers you can look out for in your routine to see if you’re a bad boss.

You rule through fear

If you hold to the idea that it’s better to be feared than to be loved good luck on maintaining employee loyalty. Even if the financial compensation for your employees is high, remember these two points:

  • Someone else can always pay them more than you can.
  • As noted above, 65% of the surveyed employees stated they would rather have a new boss over a raise.

If your team members fear you they’re highly unlikely to try to think outside of the box in an effort to improve your firm. In fact, they won’t think about improving your firm at all; they’ll be too busy trying to not be noticed. Instead, cultivate an atmosphere of respect for your employees. They’re going to be much more likely to put effort into improving and growing with the firm. They also won’t be hesitant in pointing out mistakes they made, errors which can otherwise be left to fester if they’re afraid to bring them to your attention.


You hired employees to take some of the firm’s workload off of you. But if you micromanage, then what you’re really doing is swapping the type of work you’re doing with the micromanagement, with a minimal amount of work reduction on your end.

Micromanagement also has the added disadvantage of making your employees feel like they’re not trusted to handle their job.

Your employees aren’t just aides to help you get through all of your firm’s work. They are there to take over sections of your workload. Delegate!

You don’t train your employees enough

The best way to not want to micromanage is to have confidence that your employees can handle their specific tasks. You gain this confidence by frontloading your own efforts when the employee first arrives at your firm; in other words, you train the heck out of them and then you leave them to it.

Without proper training your employee is not going to have a clear idea about what is expected of them and how they should go about meeting your expectations. This leads us back to your having to micromanage them and all the lost productivity that micromanagement entails.

You don’t make your expectations clear

Carrying on with the previous point, your employee can’t give you their maximum effort if they don’t know exactly what it is they’re trying to achieve for you.

Here’s a simple test – if you were to ask your employee to rank their duties in order of importance to the firm, would their list match up with your own? If you think the answer is no, have a quick meeting with them to lay out your list and explain why you ordered the items’ importance in the way that you did.

You require employees to bring in sick notes

It may surprise you but some bosses still require this antiquated form of justification for missed days. There are three big problems with this:

  • Going to the doctor’s office takes away from recuperation time.
  • It discourages employees from staying away from your firm when they’re sick. They’re more likely to bring in their sickly germs and spread them to your other employees.
  • It makes employees feel like they’re being treated like children.

You don’t communicate enough

Employees need to know when they’re on the right track, or when they’re making mistakes. On the critique side, the longer you allow mistakes to fester, the more likely they are to impact other areas of a client’s files, or be repeated when that employee goes to work on another client’s file.

On the praise side, a pat on the back goes a long way. And if you celebrate when an employee goes above and beyond, this not only makes that particular employee feel like they’re made a real difference, but it also encourages the rest of your team to try to attempt the same.

You’re not looking into alternative work situations

Specifically, you’re against the idea of telecommunicating. You think that if you can’t keep an eye on your employees that they’re going to slack off and hurt your firm’s productivity.

However, a study by Stanford University shows that employees that telework can be up to 13% more efficient.

While this won’t work with every employee (some need an office environment to get into and maintain their work groove) you should consider giving it a try.

Added bonus – employees won’t have to take an entire day off in order to go the dentist’s or to wait for the plumber. Also, you can possibly save your firm some overhead by not having to deal with extra bodies in the office.

You don’t keep up-to-date on employees’ needs

Do you know if your employee’s computer is able to keep up with today’s software? Could a particular employee use some extra training in giving presentations? Does the office get unbearably hot in the main room because the air conditioning isn’t able to keep up?

Are you aware of anything and everything that is getting in the way of your team’s productivity? If not, make it a part of your routine to get updates on your people’s needs. You’ll boost productivity, and you’ll help employees get past any shyness they might have about bringing up such issues with the boss.

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