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Six Bad Boss Red Flags to watch out for

Navigating the workplace can be challenging, especially when dealing with a difficult boss. But how can you tell if your boss’s behaviour is a minor annoyance or a major red flag, and what can you do about it? From restricting your workplace interactions to taking credit for your work, certain behaviours can signal a toxic leadership style that might hinder your career progression and well-being.

In this blog post, we’ll explore six critical red flags that suggest your boss might be more than just difficult—they could be detrimental to your professional growth and well-being.

They won’t let you go to meetings or speak to people above their pay grade

This behaviour might indicate a boss’s insecurity about their position or fear of being outshone by their subordinates. It reflects a lack of trust and a desire to control communication channels tightly, which can stifle your professional growth and limit opportunities for collaboration and networking within the organization.

What can you do? Open a dialogue with your boss to express your desire for more involvement in meetings and decision-making processes. Explain how your participation could benefit the team and the project. If this approach doesn’t work, consider seeking advice from HR or a trusted mentor within the organisation who can provide guidance on navigating internal politics.

Asks you to do the work, puts their name on it and doesn’t give you the credit

This clearly shows a lack of integrity and respect for your contributions. Such bosses might feel threatened by your abilities or want to advance their careers at your expense. This behaviour can demotivate and demoralize, leading to a toxic work environment where contributions are not recognized appropriately.

What can you do? Keep detailed records of your contributions and, where possible, share your work directly with colleagues or during team meetings to establish ownership. If the issue persists, discuss it directly with your boss, focusing on the need for recognition to enhance team morale and personal career growth. If necessary, escalate the matter to higher management or HR.

Won’t admit when they don’t know something and try to blag it instead

This often stems from a fear of appearing weak or incompetent. A boss who can’t admit their gaps in knowledge is likely struggling with vulnerability and the idea that leadership means having all the answers. This can lead to misguided decisions, erode trust, and prevent a culture of learning and openness from developing.

What can you do? Regularly contribute insights and encourage open discussions to foster an environment where it’s safe to ask questions and share knowledge. If your boss continues to provide misinformation, tactfully offer correct information by citing reliable sources, which can help cultivate a culture of accuracy and learning. You can ask questions like, “How do we know this to be true?” and “What would be the impact if we are wrong?”

Keep asking you to do more and more work because they can’t say no to their boss and then blame you for not delivering

This behaviour indicates poor boundary-setting and an inability to manage expectations up the chain of command. It places undue stress on employees and can lead to burnout. This lack of advocacy for the team’s capacity and unrealistic workload distribution undermines team morale and productivity.

What can you do? Set clear boundaries and communicate your current workload transparently to your boss. Suggest prioritisation of tasks or ask for additional resources as needed. Document these conversations to record your proactive approach to managing workload and expectations.

Keep information to themselves to try and make themselves irreplaceable

This tactic is rooted in job insecurity, where the boss believes that holding onto crucial information gives them more power or job security. This approach hampers team effectiveness, stifles innovation, and creates bottlenecks, as others can only make informed decisions or progress with the withheld information.

What can you do? Encourage a culture of information sharing in the team by regularly contributing useful insights and fostering collaborative discussions. If your boss continues to withhold information, seek out alternative sources or colleagues who can provide you with the necessary details to complete your tasks effectively.

Use their specialist knowledge to bamboozle people so they can’t be challenged

This indicates a misuse of expertise to maintain control and avoid accountability. By making their knowledge seem inaccessible, they prevent others from questioning their decisions or offering alternative solutions. This can discourage team members from contributing ideas and halt personal development and innovation.

What can you do? Engage in continuous learning to enhance your understanding of the specialist areas relevant to your role. Ask clarifying questions during discussions and meetings to break down complex jargon into more straightforward concepts. Consider finding a mentor within the organisation who can help bridge the knowledge gap and empower you to challenge decisions constructively.

Conclusion

These behaviours are significant red flags indicating a leadership style not conducive to a healthy, productive work environment. They stem from insecurities, a lack of integrity, poor communication skills, and an inability to foster trust and collaboration. Recognising these signs can help employees assess their situation and seek support or consider ways to address these issues constructively. Leadership should be about empowering others, fostering growth, and building a strong, cohesive team. When a boss exhibits behaviours that undermine these goals, it signals that change is needed, either in the leadership approach or, for some, in their career path.

Are you struggling with a difficult boss? I can help you, having been there myself before.

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