Finance News & Insights

Bad boss? 5 ways to tell


Being a good manager isn’t a popularity contest. But if employees perceive their bosses negatively, everybody suffers. The worst part? You might not even realize you’re doing anything wrong!

It all comes down to respect. Have it from the people who work for you, and you’re golden. Don’t and you’ll have an uphill battle on your hands every step of the way.

The problem is, many of the things that might undermine your respect with your staffers are done with the best of intentions.

Bad bosses blame others

Clearly it’s out-of-bounds for a supervisor to blame a subordinate when something goes wrong. But what if it’s another department or a supplier that’s shouldering the blame?

That can be just as bad. If every time there’s a problem it’s presented as someone else who caused it, staffers will start to wonder whether you just cannot take responsibility. (It also sets an example that it’s OK to pass the buck.)

Bad bosses drag their feet

Granted, there are a lot of serious decisions that need to be made right now that impact not only Finance but the entire company. And you don’t want to make rash moves.

But too much hemming and hawing or inaction sends a bad message. Good leaders take action. You might think it comes across as thoughtful that you take a while to make up your mind, but it can send a message of wishy-washiness.

Bad bosses can’t be trusted

Remember how the characters in Seinfeld would take private information and put it “in the vault”? That’s what you need to do when a staffer comes to you with a problem.

And these days there can be a lot of sensitive issues (like people’s financial woes). Pass on someone’s confidences to another colleague — even with the best of intentions at heart — and you can bet it will get around. Once it gets back to your staffer, you’ll likely lose their trust forever.

Bad bosses get (and accept) a free pass

Everybody makes mistakes. But if you’re a leader and you screw up, there need to be some consequences and the people you work for need to know about it.

It’s no one’s business what’s going in your personnel file. But people do need to realize that you don’t get a pass because you’re high up in the organization.

Bad bosses are credit hogs

Everyone’s seen those awards acceptance speeches where stars explain they’re nothing without “the little people.” And you’re probably careful to explain that all Finance successes are a team effort.

But to make sure staffers realize you truly believe that, make it a point to talk specifically about their contributions, both in public and to them individually. Praise comes across as significantly more sincere when it’s as concrete as possible.

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  • sherry seffens

    How do you deal with an employee who shows no respect, but is the owners neice

  • Larry

    You missed a couple: (6) Bad bosses berate their subordinates in public. (7) Bad bosses don’t communicate with their staff and then invoke #6 when things inevitably go south.

  • Mariah

    You’re dead-on correct Larry.

    How about bosses who give you partial information to complete a project, expect you to be a mindless drone and do it, then berate you when your results do little to help them make their case to their higher-ups?

    Or a boss who asks for an explanation and then interrupts as you try to give it?

    Or a boss that is SO SURE she gave you that important file which you must have misplaced because it could not possibly have been her? And then does not apologize when she finds it underneath her mess? Or similarly is SO SURE she told you to do something even though you have NO RECOLLECTION of it whatsoever.

    Or a boss that gives you a hard time whenever you ask for a day off (well within your allotted time) to take a sick child to the doctor and asks you why you always take your child to the doctor immediately whenever something is wrong? Or gives you the day off, but asks you to complete something beforehand that is absolutely impossible for you to do in time? Or a boss that reacts suspiciously when you call in sick and thus creates an atmosphere wherein you and your co-workers come to work sick and infect everyone else?

    I need a new job 😉

  • Jackie

    In most work, those who do the most work make the most mistakes. The boss makes it his job to find other’s mistakes and do as little work as possible. These anal retentive qualities, meet the criteria for the position. The boss’s title shouldn’t be CFO etc. but rather Internal Auditor. It must be nice to always be right.

    You can always tell when you’re talking to a boss, even if it’s not your own boss. They are rude, don’t listen, interrupt and don’t care what anyone else has to say. I am so impressed.

    Careers are like football games, you’re either trying to win or you’re running out the clock.

    A boss thinks he is as wise as King Solomon. He couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag without his employees.

    The world needs more company Christmas parties, less Ebenezer Scrooges.

    A job is like Sweet and Sour. Every job begins on a sweet note and ends with a sour one.

    There are only 3 reasons to go to work each day. 1. Lots and lots of money, 2. A wonderful friendly atmosphere where friends and acquaintances meet and 3. To get away from the wife/husband for a while. The desire to go to work each day is for the pretender.

    Government job? It’s your money or your wife.

    Its only when you never suspect the worst, the worst surprises you. Its only when you expect the best, that some A—hole comes along to snuff out your finest efforts.

    Beware of the thief that steals your ideas and minimizes your position.

    Beware of the person who is always talking with the boss. He’s not putting in his time for nothing. He is not to be trusted. Eventually, with patience, he’ll be calling the shots.

    If you’re new and you walk into a lunch room or otherwise a group of employees and you see someone sitting by himself, if it’s not the boss and he’s been around a while, avoid him at all costs. If you are that person, lighten up would you?

    If you want to keep a job for very long you must roll with the punches.

    A job is like a pizza pie. You must enjoy your slice without letting it get old and stale.

    When it comes to a beautiful girl, you just never know what a boss might do, like blow you off in favor of the criminally insane.

    If you get a boss who is jealous of you because of your girl, forget about it, start looking for another job. Next time keep her in the closet.

    Boredom at work equals fat employees.

    Bosses must always find a way to feel important, so if you’re not kissing butt, you’re chances are good your boss will find for you a less desirable way for him to feel important.

    Most Civil Engineers don’t know that donuts are a good bridge builder.

    An old weasel once told me, play down your part in any problems and subtly shift the blame to others. Example: “Apparently we have a problem in this area. So and so has been working on it.” Note that this does not explain how the problem occurred in the first place or if the person working on it is fixing your mistakes, his own, the bosses or someone else’s.

    One thing’s for sure, a boss won’t take the blame for anything.

    When a boss moves up to the top he will overstaff in the area he came from with one exception, Accounting. They will cut corners everywhere they can, especially accounting. That’s just one of the many reasons accountants are so miserable.

    A good boss will gather all the information he can about your job. For job protection, many employees try to protect their job by disclosing as little as possible about what they do. This makes it difficult if your job is complex because you need notes as reminders. I have always kept copious notes and have even lost jobs upon my boss finding them.

    “HARA” an anal retentive asshole who works backwards. In a class by himself.

    Yeah, what can I say about the boss. It’s all about him/her.

    I’ve never worked in a place when I wasn’t told by someone else that I worked in a sewer or the people I worked with were jerks or something similar.

    The best money to be made is in areas that most people deem too difficult, weird etc.

  • Evie Long

    Outstanding article! From my many years in many different organizations I have been able to observe that the traits mentioned above ALWAYS were manifested by poor bosses and managers. Thanks!

  • Evie Long

    To Sherry Seffens: If the owner practices nepotism there’s very little you can do. Maybe you can find a discrete way of helping him/her realize that all too frequently nepotism is a significant drain on businesses in many ways. Family members typically feel “entitled” and do not give the organization an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Their poor work ethics demoralize the rest of the employees and this has brought to ruin many otherwise good businesses. Large corporations do not allow nepotistic practices–they know why.

  • I agree Mariah:

    I am the one who gets blamed when e-mails fall through the cracks and the e-mail was never sent nor forwarded to me in the first place. I come to my desk, and the e-mail was sitting there basically belittling me, and I’m looking at this like WTF!! This was the first time I had ever seeen this e-mail. It was sent to my supv and the CFO, not me! Of course, my supervisor just says she let the e-mail fall through the cracks, but I never received a formal apology.

    I also hate it when I get blamed for a transaction that was processed and I was out of the office at the time. No one goes and investigates to find out who processed the transaction without placing the blame on me. Believe me, I’ve been looking for another job. It is time to go!

  • Angila

    To Pissed off:
    Where do you reside so I can make sure your attitude isn’t hired in my office? Seems like there’s quite a bit of give and take issues throughout the email threads, has anyone tried communication?! Telling people how you feel in a professional way goes far instead of acting inmature!!!!!

  • Angila,

    Does it matter where I work at? If you read my note, that is what I was basing it on is poor communication inside our office, and yes I have spoken to my supervisor about this. I did not type all of my info on this blog, just basing the facts of what I have put up with!!! Yes, I did respond back to the e-mails from my supervisor addressing the issues of the e-mail not belonging to me. I work in San Diego, CA if you really want to know!!! I am a very mature employee, and no I am not immature. I just work with some immature people!!!

  • Joe Monaghan

    OMG…..Larry, do we work at the same place?

    I found the best ‘bosses’ of which I was senior, are actually Leaders and Lead by example. I found the best Leaders, which may be a surprise to many, during my military career. You truly depend on each other, respect each other and must trust each other in the ultimate way. I was responsible for 922 soldiers prepping for the ‘desert’….That is the ultimate responsibility and you have to be a good ‘boss’ beginning with respect of 922 soldiers who are spouses, children and parents of someone who hopes and prays you respect & honor their loved one. Many of the ‘bosses’ and fellow managers I have seen in civilian life would never make it in the military….not understanding their most important asset, their subordinates, would not allow them to get beyond their narsistic ego

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  • Kattracks

    Mariah, yes you do need a new job! I worked with one crazy boss at a payroll service and was about to leave when she left. I wrote “Deposit Only, the account number and company name” on the back of a check I deposited. She lectured me for over 30 minutes that I did not have the authority of endorse checks for deposit, did I really expect to keep my job and that I would have to repay the company if the check was not deposited in the company account, when check deposits were part of my job. Argued with me over a payroll process, would not admit she was wrong after I provided the information to prove she was wrong, and then based my yearly evaluation the next day on this argument. She also told me she based the evaluation on the argument because I was disrespectful to her. I just wanted to make sure the employees were paid on-time because they would not have if the process was not done correctly.