Anybody who's worked anywhere knows that the behavior of their boss makes a huge difference in how much they get done and how good they feel about the job. Toss out bad behaviors and workers will flee in less time than it takes to fry a pancake. But which behavior infuriates workers the most?

According to a new survey by human resources software firm Bamboo HR, workers ranked a boss taking credit for employees' work as the absolute worst thing a boss can do.

Why credit stealers are so maddening

A boss taking credit for what someone else done is frustrating first, of course, because it robs you of a chance to show your potential and skill. If you can't do that, good luck getting promoted, granted a raise or bonus or noticed by other companies. It has a direct influence on your career and all the things related to it, such as getting the chance to meet other professionals or having the financial status for a good mortgage. But it even can mess with your self-esteem and motivation, making you feel invisible, hopeless and depressed against "the system". It's not only a legitimate threat, but a violation of your moral sense of fairness, too.

Age matters when it comes to what people tolerate

But Bamboo HR also found two other interesting data points. The younger employees are, the more likely they are to look the other way when a boss acts up. Workers age 18-29 disagree with bosses taking credit at 57 percent, but 77 percent of workers who are 60 years or older say they the behavior isn't acceptable. One reason for this difference might be that, given that they face a tougher job market and other issues like heavy debt, younger workers might have developed a different view on how far to push to stay secure or get ahead. It's worrisome because, as more and more younger workers take the helm, their attitude of acceptance might make it harder and harder to find a workplace with truly respectable ethics and culture, simultaneously increasing tension and forcing workers to tolerate a new "normal".

For bosses, it's not that big of a deal

The survey also found that there's a big disconnect between what employees and bosses think about taking credit. Compared to workers, 20 percent fewer managers say that taking credit for employees' work, not trusting or empowering employees and overworking employees is OK. That disconnect can lead to retention issues if the boss doesn't acknowledge the workers' concerns. It also suggests that some leaders get where they are by being a little more self-serving, stepping on others to get where they are, or that once they have some power, they're corrupted by it.

What else raises everybody's blood pressure?

While the survey results honed in on bosses taking credit, it clarified other boss no-nos, too, including (in order of detestableness)

  • Doesn't appear to trust or empower you
  • Doesn't appear to care if you're overworked
  • Doesn't appear to advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation
  • Hires and/or promotes the wrong people
  • Doesn't back you up when there's a dispute between you and one of your company's clients
  • Doesn't provide proper direction on assignments/roles
  • Micromanages you and doesn't allow you the freedom to work
  • Focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths
  • Does set clear expectations

The boss people are looking for

Looking at everything on this bad behavior list more broadly, the lesson is that what people really want from you is a supportive, reciprocal relationship where you acknowledge who they are and what they contribute. They want to be able to go to work knowing you'll pull them up to the next rung of the ladder if they work hard, not to feel like they have to fight and claw past you. While a lack of clarity or being overbearing stinks, a lack of trust is far worse.

Published on: Feb 21, 2018