Larry Bloom: Use these five signs to see if you may be a bad boss

Larry J. Bloom, Columnist

Larry J. Bloom, Columnist

One thing that most bad bosses have in common is lack of awareness that they’re bad bosses. With so much at stake personally, nobody wants to believe they are the problem. Not only is that bad for decisions, it’s bad for careers and employee health as well.

It’s no surprise — bad bosses are toxic. According to an independent study by Florida State University College of Business, employees stuck in “bad boss” relationships experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust. They also were less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their job.

Many experienced HR professionals have noted: “People don’t leave their jobs in a company; they leave their managers.”

Compared to the obvious tirades, bad boss behaviors can be more subtle and include unreasonably discounting input, the “silent treatment,” failing to give credit when due, not keeping promises, blaming others to cover up mistakes or embarrassment, making unwarranted negative comments and obsessive micromanagement. Many are simply unaware of the huge negative impact of some of their behaviors and resist any thought that they are wrong — until it may be too late.

The real problem

The problem is that left untrained, we are all susceptible to making errors in judgment based on blind spots in the way we perceive reality. My experience is that once bosses are afflicted they may subconsciously shut down the very thing that can help: diversity of thought. So even if you are convinced that you are the greatest manager around, you would still be wise to check for bugs in your own thinking. Here are five signs that you may be a bad boss.

1. Do you act in ways that discourage questioning of your views and assertions?

2. Do you tend to distance yourself from responsibility for error?

3. Do you check with your subordinates to see if your communications are inconsistent or ambiguous?

4. Are you inclined to blow off ideas that are not consistent with your point of view?

5. Do you seek and reflect on feedback from others regarding your behavior?

Avoiding blind spots

Identifying blind spots in our thinking is essential to making quality decisions. Yet few bosses have the intellectual courage to ask their subordinates to rate them in these areas. That creates a paradox. How can someone have all the answers before they ask the questions? The idea that bosses and supervisors would rely on intuition for something this important makes little sense.

So here is an idea. Ask your team to anonymously rate you in these five areas. Compare with your own rankings and discuss improving your blind spots with the team. And note: If you have the immediate reaction to dismiss this exercise, you may have a blind spot!

A new kind of leader

Companies want employees who can systematically pursue important goals, recognize and analyze significant problems, communicate essential meanings, and assess their own performance on the job.

The responsibility of leadership is to create a culture where these behaviors can thrive. That requires a mastery of ourselves rather than command and control of others. ●

Larry J. Bloom spent 30-plus years helping grow a small family business to more than $700 million in revenue. He is the author of “The Cure for Corporate Stupidity: Avoid the Mind-Bugs that Cause Smart People to Make Bad Decisions,” consultant, board member and owner of a start-up media and software company that promotes better thinking. He was born and resides in Atlanta. For more information, please visit or contact Larry at [email protected]


Fed’s Lockhart says mind not made up on easing

ATLANTA, Tue Aug 21, 2012 – Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart said on Tuesday he had not yet made up his mind on whether further monetary easing is warranted.

“It’s a cost-benefit calculation to consider more monetary stimulus and someone like me has to do his best to really carefully weigh the costs and benefits,” Lockhart told reporters after a speech. “I’m not finished with (that) processs.”