Your Bad Boss Is Your Problem (Part 1)

There is one thing that is never written in any job description: complaining about your boss. How often you do this is very individual. Some do it only when things get really bad, some do it as a sport, while others don’t do it at all. They all blame the bad boss.

Why is this?

Locus of control

locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control 

The concept is part of personality psychology. It was initially developed by Julian Rotter back in 1954. In other words:

Do you believe that your destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces (such as fate, god, or powerful others)?

How could this abstract psychological concept have anything to do with your bad boss? Well, as the title says, most of your issues come from simple psychology. Some individuals have an external locus of control. They believe their behavior is guided by external circumstances (read: bad boss). Others have internal locus of control. They believe behaviour is guided by personal decisions and efforts.

Who is a bad boss?

If you start to ask around all your friends and colleagues you will get wildly different answers. I say “wildly” because the more conversations you have the more answers you will get. Now, the best things is that each and every one of the people you talk to will be confident in their depiction of a bad boss.

Theoretically speaking there are some common bad boss characteristics. They can be summed up in the following categories:

No human approach

disrespect for personal needs, being sick is not an option, 24/7 availability

Corporate goals (and individual) should never come before any human needs. No matter what position someone holds, a boss must first and foremost treat employees as human.

Bad bosses take employees purely as assets. They have no regard for personal time, physical and mental health. When people finally break, bad bosses simply want them replaced.


always present, knows everything, is better than everyone, no thrust and empowerment, no employee responsibility

Micromanagers are probably one of the worst bosses around. Their habits come from their lack of trust in the team to independently achieve goals. A micromanager never “sees the forrest from the trees.” Negativity is their “middle name” because most of their time is spent on finding flaws rather than providing support.

Lack of job related skills

lack of knowledge for job related processes and tasks, unable to understand and set goals

Sometimes companies have flawed human resources practices that lead to inappropriate positioning of employees. A manager is expected to have both the technical skills needed to understand the job, and the managerial skills to lead the team to success.

Other times, companies promote managers for a variety of different reasons – loyalty, family ties, “yes men”, as a reward and many other. This position is particularly damaging when employees are aware of the situation, but have no power to act upon it. After all it was the decision of their manager’s manager and the HR department. How can they expect help from those who should have prevented this in the first place.

High performing team members are immediately pushed even further, often smothered by boring and repetitive tasks. Soon they begin to jump ship.

Lack of leadership traits

low transparency, no clear vision, disregard for moral and ethical standards, status quo is always a good idea

Leadership traits are hard to learn and even harder to measure. If done right, they can be used as a competitive advantage. But bad bosses (sometimes unaware) lack these traits.

A leader works with a vision. It is their job to see the path, communicate it and set the team free to do what needs to be done (mission). As part of this process, the leader is expected to be transparent and just, respecting boundaries set by company policies and general ethical standards. He is there to teach the members so they can achieve goals beyond their expectations.

Bad leadership has the greatest influence on culture. Bad culture cripples the company. It looses innovational capacities, flexibility and soon begins to experience “brain drain.”


a true egomaniac has a psychological disorder that makes him believe he is the greatest, most important person in the world. 

Sounds familiar? This type of bad boss behavior goes hand in hand with stubbornness. Managers are expected to do extraordinary things. When they achieve them, society begins to worship them for all the wrong reasons. Somehow, these practices create the feeling of superiority.

Employees feel very disengaged and see no perspective. Most of the time they are treated as an inferior army with a sole purpose to execute tasks set by this boss.

Management issues

Basically, management is divided into planning, coordinating, leading, motivating and controlling. In reality, the process is never clear because functions overlap. Additionally, one cannot expect for a manager to be prolific in all functions equally.

Now, a bad boss is bad in most. In everyday terms:

  • “everything is a priority” – bad planning
  • “conflict is bad” – lack of control
  • “everyone for himself” culture – bad coordination and leadership
  • disengaged employees – bad leadership
  • no clear structure and goals – bad planning
  • “we don’t have the budget” – no planning and control
  • too much politics – lack of leadership
  • manage with fear and disciplinary actions – lack of leadership get the idea.

How to find out what your boss is?

The natural thing you are probably asking yourself now is:

is my boss a “bad boss”?

Of course he/she is!

If you remind yourself of the locus of control you will realize that a bad boss has everything to do with YOU AND YOUR EXPECTATIONS. To really answer the question, one must first look into himself with the help of the following excersice:

  1. What do you expect from your boss?
  2. What would you expect from the perfect boss?
  3. Which areas match? Which do not?

To be continued…

Join me next week when I give you tested techniques to approach your bad boss problem.


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