How ‘Bad’ is Your Boss?

How your Boss Affects You

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)


In this post, I am going to review four types of so-called ‘bad bosses’ and examine the consequences for you, their team member. There are more than four types – my own inventory currently lists 14 types! The point here is not to blame your boss for how ‘bad’ he/she is: it’s about understanding what makes your boss tick and what this means for you so you can find a solution to your boss problem.

Let’s start with a type that I am sure many of you have come across: the Control Freak. The term indicates a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. But let me be clear that the Control Freak is not always a Micro-Manager (though they share traits), another ‘bad boss’ type which I won’t elaborate on here. The Control Freak has trust issues and that means they don’t delegate. The implication for you is that you don’t get as much new and/or interesting work as you should and your development is slowed down by a lack of opportunities. And if you don’t develop, you can’t progress in the firm. The Control Freak is also usually not great at communicating so you’re likely to feel isolated, out of the loop, because your boss does not tell you what going’s on.

Another ‘bad boss’ is what I call the ‘Nice Person, Bad Manager’ type. This is when a deserving individual is promoted for his/her technical expertise or his/her commercial talent. Suddenly, that person is landed with a team to supervise without having being trained in team management. Some of us have a natural ability for leading others, tracking performance, rewarding talent but most of us would benefit from specific tuition which is too often simply never forthcoming. When that happens, everyone suffers. The manager usually has a sense that he/she is falling short but has no clue what to do about it while his/her team members do not get the right support, problems are not tackled proactively, communication is again poor within the team. For you, it means a lack of guidance, a lack of inspiration even, no one looking out for your career and personal development.

Let’s look at a third type, the Incompetent. This is when a new boss is parachuted into managing a team whose mandate that individual has no previous experience with. This happened to me: I was part of a sales team selling futures and we got a new line manager who had been a private banker. He had experience dealing with rich people but not with institutional investors which was my team’s client base and he didn’t know our product! It was a nightmare! With an incompetent boss, the issue is that you, as team member, will not only lack support from a pragmatic angle because your boss can’t advise you about something that he/she does not know about but that your boss may actually create problems due to his/her inexperience. Again, this will slow down your professional development, inhibit your potential learning and even possibly land you in trouble!

The fourth ‘bad boss’ type I thought I would share with you is the Absentee Boss. There are a number of ways your line manager can be an Absentee Boss. First, he/she can be located in a different building or city than you and they don’t come round to visit and they don’t have you over. Second, your boss may be in the same location as you but he/she is shut off in his/her office (that is to say, that their door is closed signifying ‘keep out’!) or they are in back-to-back meetings and never have time for you. Third, they’re always travelling. Whatever the form it takes, your boss is not there for you. The implication for you? You cannot enlist their support for your initiatives, you cannot ask for their advice when you face problems, you have no opportunity to show your unique abilities and get recognized for your special talents…

Phew, it’s no fun talking about ‘bad bosses’ is it? And I’ve only talked about four!

To end on a more positive note, let me say that I hope that this brief discussion of the types of ‘bad bosses’ out there shows you that there is hope – you don’t have to be stuck with your ‘bad boss’. And the solution does not automatically have to be that you must leave your company, especially if you enjoy your work. So if you have trouble with your boss but you like your work and you like your team, then let me help you!

Understanding your boss is the second step in the BOSS© model (click here to go to the article which details the model) which I have created to help you look at your relationship with your line manager if it is not as good as you wish.

I have created several other programmes which address a wide range of workplace issues: click here to have a browse and start imagining the transformation in your career!

As usual, I would really like to know what you thought so do leave me a comment on my website or email me directly at

That’s it for this month and I will look forward to seeing you next month for another video series. In July, we’ll talk about how we make decisions, how hard that can be sometimes and therefore how to make it easier on ourselves to make those tough calls.

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  1. Good fun to read… I also thought about hybrids 🙂 a little of many type 🙂

  2. Larissa says:

    Interesting but not actually my boss type. 🙁 Another thing is that there is always interaction between your bosses which affects their interaction with you (you might (not) know about that). The actual model should be more complicated, that’s my feeling.

    • Alexandra says:

      Hi Larissa, these are only 4 of the 14 types of so-called ‘bad bosses’ so your boss may well be one of the other 10 types – or, who knows, a 15th type which I need to add to my ever-growing inventory! The 4 types I chose to discuss seem to be most frequent but we all know the limits of averages… You are right to flag that your boss’s behaviour may itself influenced by his/her interaction with even more senior colleagues, among which his/her own boss. That is actually covered in the BOSS© model, at the stage 2, the ‘O’ component: I only shared the model quickly in order to keep the video to a reasonable length hence the lack of detail but I am sure you will be reassured to know that this important dimension is included. Many thanks for your thought-provoking comment! Alexandra

  3. Hi Alexandra, glad to hear that this important dimension is included. Do you also propose tools to deal with that? It is not always the case that you are able to interact directly with the senior manager who is affecting your boss’s behaviour. Most often you only have your boss who is behaving strange with you and you don’t know the reason for that.

    • Alexandra says:

      Hi Larissa, I have strategies for investigating a boss’s behavior from a multiplicity of angles and clients I have supported in this arena were able to find information they first thought would be out of their reach. This allowed my clients to decode their line manager and finally be able to make sense of what was going on. On that basis, it became possible for them to draw up a plan of actions (sometimes involving others’ support) to start working improving their relationship with their boss. I hope this clarifies the process within the model for you. Thanks for your question! Alexandra

  4. Sara Dewar says:

    Hi Larissa,

    Do you podcast these on iTunes – I would like to follow you in that format if possible as I would tend to watch on the move rather than at a desk.
    Interesting content 🙂

  5. Sara Dewar says:

    Sorry – Alexandra, I misread the name from the post above!

    • Alexandra says:

      Hi Sara, thanks for your kind words. I’m interested in your suggestion to podcast on iTunes and will look into it. Might you have any advice on how to proceed for me? Thanks! Alexandra

  6. Louanne Quito says:

    Thanks for your insights. After looking through the internet and coming across strategies which were not helpful, I felt at a loss. Your website is very useful. I’m able at this time to look ahead to my future. Thank you very much for this specialized and effective guide. I will share your site with others who will benefit too.

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