Not all bosses are equal. In fact, in somewhat comical Office Space fashion, many company leaders miss the mark by a long shot. There are extremely few among us who have not lived through this at some point.
Being a bad boss doesn't just mean employees don't like your management style. There are actually real, verified, scientifically proven traits that ineffective leaders share.
Here's what makes up the worst kinds of bosses, according to science.
1. The Passive-Aggressive or Micromanaging Boss
A passive-aggressive boss can undermine efforts to succeed in the workplace without crossing the line into harassment or abuse.
These people avoid in-person discussions or confrontations. They provide unclear feedback. They stir up office drama. They withhold important information and disguise hostility as humor.
Some of this behavior may arise because you think you can do your employee's job better than they can. A recent study by Comparably polled more than 2,000 tech sector workers about the biggest complaint they had about bosses.
Being a micromanager was first for 39% of respondents followed by "overly critical" (22%). disorganized" (16%), "know-it-all" (14%) and "impatient" (9%).
If you're still holding on to workers' job duties, you have to let it go. As long as you try to do their job for them, you're preventing yourself from devoting energy to more important, bigger-picture projects. That's only slowing the progress your company needs to make.
2. The Narcissistic Boss
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology finds that some narcissism can be a positive trait in leaders, but too much can tip the scale toward being a selfish boss who cares only about him or herself.
A healthy amount of narcissism could result in a boss who is confident and assertive. Too much, however, leads to counterproductive work behavior and the perceived undermining of others.
An older study (2013) published in the International Journal of Economics, Business and Management Studies found that if a boss's narcissism level increases, employees' lack of commitment at work increases. Lack of motivation also increases and there's a noticeable deterioration in behavior and attitude.
Narcissism may become a growing problem as millennials or "Generation Me" (those born in the 1980s and '90s) step into leadership positions. This demographic is said to exhibit stronger qualities of entitlement, self-centeredness, and neediness.
Such traits tend to interfere with the effectiveness of leadership. It looks as though future employees will experience no shortage of narcissist bosses.
3. The Power-Hungry or Machiavellian Boss
There are negligent bosses, and then there are "dark bosses." Seth M. Spain, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Concordia University, coined this phrase in Stress, Well-Being, and the Dark Side of Leadership.
While some bosses might have poor management skills, it doesn't mean they they have ill will toward employees. Dark bosses, on the other hand, represent those who can be mean, harassing, and abusive.
Dark bosses enjoy employees' pain and suffering and aim to make daily life difficult in the workplace. They are often comfortable ignoring ethics and ditching morals to get something accomplished or to gain notoriety. Dark bosses might take credit for someone else's work, make up lies to undermine coworkers, or be mentally or physically abusive to subordinates.
4. The Psychopathic Boss
A psychopathic boss is perhaps the most toxic for employees. Traits such as lack of behavioral control, manipulativeness, and impulsivity can point to a psychopathic boss. Psychopathic people are often described as having a lack of empathy.
According to three studies by Abigail Phillips, a PhD researcher at the Alliance Manchester Business School who focuses on organizational psychology, an increase in levels of psychopathy and narcissism in the workplace directly correlates with an increase in workplace bullying.
Previous research from the same group found that bosses high in psychopathy tended to have a lack of empathy. This could result in being overly critical of employees, taking advantage of them, and all-around behaving aggressively in the workplace.
Psychopathic bosses also have a reputation for being workplace bullies. Because of a psychopathic boss, many of the 1,200 employees in the studies reported varying levels of depression, stress, and job dissatisfaction.
Let's make this part simple because how to take action could be the subject of another long post. If you have one of these bosses, consider going to higher-ups about him or her, or getting a new job. Working for a bad boss isn't worth your time, energy, or effort.
If you are one of these managers or bosses, you have some work to do. Maybe you're just a bit of a micromanager, or the problem goes deeper and you don't have much empathy for workers. No matter what the issue, talk to a mentor or a counselor about what's at the root of your behavior. Your company and your career will be better for it.