Everyone has a weak- or bad-boss story. We hear about those common and cringeworthy management behaviors that lead to disengaged employees and turnover. What's yours?

In previous articles, I've documented study after study after study that support with conclusive evidence what most organizations already know: People leave managers, not their jobs.

And yet here we are in the year 2019, still talking about how only one-third of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their jobs.

What needs to change? Not a simple question, but one big first step is to hire more people-centered leaders and fewer autocratic managers.

To that end, my recommendation is to first identify whom you should consciously avoid hiring or promoting into influential roles. I'll narrow it down to seven weak behaviors. 

1. They are incompetent.

This may be the boss who was promoted too soon or hired carelessly and holds a position that is beyond his or her capabilities. People reporting to this individual may have expertise the boss should have but sorely lacks. Consequently, research has found, the less competent the employees rate their boss as a leader, the higher the confusion and added stress on the employees. 

2. They are inconsiderate.

Popular Stanford University professor Bob Sutton explains in his book The Asshole Survival Guide that when weak bosses treat people like crap, it destroys their focus and motivation. In turn, people are three times less likely to contribute at a high level. 

3. They are secretive.

In one longitudinal study of 3,100 men over a 10-year period, researchers found that workers' risks for angina, heart attacks, and even death rose along with having worked for controlling bosses who hoard or withhold information. The survey statement, "My boss gives me the information I need," when answered in the negative, was most predictive of serious cardiovascular risk. 

4. They don't listen skillfully.

The lack of active and respectful listening and two-way communication (sending without receiving) is a clear shortcoming for weak bosses. The focus here is having the willingness to listen to constructive feedback--especially the kind you don't want to hear. Many weak bosses don't want to listen to the ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback of others. They operate in an ego-system, not an ecosystem. Unfortunately, if you've ever worked with this type of leader, it can be exhausting.

5. They rule with bureaucracy.

Want to see a weak leader operate in a top-down management structure? Just look at the approval process to get a purchase order for a box of pens. In a hierarchy, there are so many levels of approval, and so many layers of management and steps required to make a final decision, employees get their motivational wind knocked out of them and ultimately suffer from the bureaucracy. It clearly communicates to them, "We don't trust you."

6. They are invisible.

The invisible boss is the one who's often missing in action when he's needed the most, and that's just weak. Most of the time you'll find him hibernating in his office with the door shut, having "important" conversations with his closest allies--other leaders who are also MIA. Such a leader avoids personal interaction, especially when things are going south. He will manage by email and text, and avoid communicating in person for fear of facing conflict. 

7. They take credit for an employee's work.

An employee survey conducted by BambooHR asked more than 1,000 U.S.-based employees to rate 24 "typical boss behaviors" from 'totally acceptable" to "totally unacceptable." They found that the worst behavior a boss can have in the workplace is taking credit for an employee's work.​ Sixty-three percent of respondents said hogging credit was unacceptable, or something they would consider worth quitting over. Women felt even worse about their bosses wrongly taking credit, with 71 percent of them calling it the worst behavior. 

Published on: Jan 11, 2019
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