10 Personality Traits of Bad Bosses | Leadership

When bad bosses are company CEOs, there is not much that can be done, apart from choosing not to work for them. But if you’re in a position to promote people with these personality traits into leadership roles, or you are wondering why a manager’s department has low morale and high turnover, this list could point to the reasons why you might need to remove people who should not be in leadership roles.

personality traits of bad bosses



I recently read ’10 personality types you should never hire’ on BusinessNewsDaily.com and as I read though the list, people started coming to mind. Only they weren’t bad hires, they were bad bosses, instead.


Top ten personality traits you don’t want to find in your next boss.

If you are currently job hunting, remember that you have a unique opportunity not only to choose the type of work you most want to do, and the type of organization you want to work in, but you also have the chance to evaluate a prospective boss in light of the traits you want to see. As you evaluate and interview people during your job hunt, think about how often prospective bosses exhibit some of these poor leadership personality traits.

Bad Bosses: 10 Personality Types You Don’t Want to Work For

The Braggart

This individual wants you to know that they have done it all, and done it better than everyone else. If there’s a good idea in the room they thought of it first. If they didn’t think of it, they made it possible for someone else to do so. The hot air this individual puts out could launch a thousand balloons.

The problem is that this person’s ego is so big that it cannot make room for anyone else. Driven by jealousy and insecurity, they can’t bring themselves to let anyone else shine. If they can’t take credit for a good idea or a good outcome, chances are, they will try to bury it.

The Complainer

Nothing is ever good enough for this individual. The office is too hot or too cold, never just right. Your work was done too fast or too slow, never in good time. Their boss is too hands on or too hands off. Their spouse is too attentive or not attentive enough. Whatever the topic at hand, they just can’t catch a break.

When it comes to bad bosses, these individuals rarely have a good thing to say about anyone or anything. You can’t make them happy. They say that misery loves company, but they never tell you how the company feels. Trying to cheer up a complainer will be exhausting – and a thankless task to boot.

The Self-Absorbed

If a tree falls in the forest it doesn’t make a sound unless the self-absorbed individual is around to hear it. This person can’t see the world around them apart from how it impacts their own life. Unless they know what’s in it for them, they are not willing to get on board. They are prone to protect their turf and look for opportunities to get ahead without caring about whether others get hurt in the process.

They lack empathy and concern for the people that work with them and for them, and have a propensity to make decisions based on how a situation impacts them over the organization as a whole makes this person a poor choice for leadership.

The Coaster

Doing just enough to keep themselves in the game (and on the pay roster) characterizes this individual. Unwilling to go out on a limb, they rarely challenge the status quo and are not likely to get excited about entrepreneurial and innovative ideas that require hard work to accomplish.

Satisfied with ‘good enough,’ the coaster is not a good choice for leadership for companies that want more than just good enough. They don’t make for good strategists and are likely to frustrate their direct reports by squelching creativity.

The Naysayer

No good can come from putting a negative personality type in a leadership role (pun intended). The overly-negative individual is so sure that nothing good can come from anything that nearly everything they communicate feels sour. After a while, managers stop asking them for anything and their direct reports quit trying to do the impossible: please. Whether their negativity stems from insecurity or narcissism, they have an uncanny ability to deflate, demoralize and depress those around them.

Individuals with negative outlooks rarely make effective leaders. They rarely encourage or inspire. They don’t, nor do they want others, to look on the bright side or hope for the best. Not only do they lack enthusiasm for corporate initiatives, they may even derail them just to make the point.

The Proud-to-Be-Humble

Wolves in sheep’s clothing, any time someone tries to impress you with their humility or couches bragging in humble statements (e.g., “my biggest weakness is a tendency to work too hard,”) you can be sure that you are probably dealing with a braggart in disguise. Sooner or later, the narcissist, negative, self-absorbed complainer within will reveal themselves and ruin the day.

Being too self-deprecating is just as bad as being too self-assured. This is usually an MO (modus operandi, or mode of operation) that has been adopted because the individual has used it for pay off in the past. This is the same type of personality who everyone thinks is “a great guy” or “a great girl,” but cannot explain the trail of failed relationships in their wake. Since they often have a need to be thought of as superior to others in some way, they spend more time protecting their reputation than getting things done. All show and no go.

The Blame-Shifter

Always willing to deflect accountability, the blame shifter stands ready to reject criticism and suggestions no matter where they come from. And they’re not too picky about where this deflected blame lands. This individual is reluctant to take risks or ownership of initiatives where failure could reflect poorly on them. Failure traced back to their department is sure to be blamed on a team member, who will be left to face the music (or the firing squad) alone.

The blame shifter never really has any skin in the game. They are not willing to take a chance on ideas that might not work, and their support will disappear any time things start to look like they might fail.

The Unbeliever

Individuals with low self-esteem don’t believe in themselves or others. As with other types of bad bosses whose behaviors are ironic, while they are often able to point out their own shortcomings, they will be very quick to take offense when criticized and quick to abandon ship when things go wrong.

They can also find criticism in the words of others where it does not exist or was not intended, and they are more than willing to misinterpret not only the words and intentions, but even the motivations of others. Unlikely to stand up to others, they will usually avoid confrontation and may be unwilling to do the right thing when that means taking a stand or taking on a strong personality type.

The Closed-Minded

If it quacks like a duck and walk like a duck, it’s a duck. Except when it’s not. It’s not uncommon to come across an individual who has achieved some measure of success in a leadership role or who is even the top dog within a successful company, who is nevertheless closed-minded when it comes to new ideas. Though perceived as entrepreneurial because of their rise through the ranks, they trust the tricks that got them to the top, and like an old dog, aren’t all that keen on learning new ones.

Unlike successful leaders who embrace innovation and ambiguity, these individuals have a hard time admitting that there might be more than one way to get a job done. Ultimately, their inability to allow for other ideas will limit creativity and innovation, and entrepreneurially-minded staff will move on.

The Change Resister

You may have noticed that none of the bad bosses on this list are good choices for leadership in organizations where change and innovation is the pathway to success. Nearly all lack the ability to get on board, be enthusiastic, take risks, be supportive, and leverage resources to ensure the success of initiatives or the organization.

Change resisters come in many forms, but it comes down to this. They choose to protect what they have, or perceive that they have, rather than choosing to go after what they want – or what is in the best interests of the team or the organization.

The Tie Between Bad Bosses and Marketing

But wait – isn’t this supposed to be a marketing blog?

If you are wondering what all this has to do with marketing, it’s this: everything. Bad bosses have the ability to derail marketing initiatives at every level. Bad bosses have the ability to limit staff participation, stifle creativity, strangle innovative ideas and shred morale. They can sabotage programs and plant self-fulfilling prophecies for failure. Put the wrong people in leadership roles and bad morale quickly turns into bad customer service as employee engagement suffers. The bad reviews left by disillusioned employees can be just as devastating as the ones left by their poorly-served customers.

Bad bosses have everything to do with marketing success. From CEOs to department heads to unofficial leaders who influence others in the organization, the personality types you work with – and work for – can make or break organizational success, and yours.

You might also like: How do you measure up against these traits of good leaders? 


365 days of marketing ideas for small business365 Days of Marketing by elizabeth kraus is the marriage of low-cost, creative, practical marketing ideas with the ‘how-to’ of ‘what to do’ when it comes to marketing a real business, in today’s real world.

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  1. […] of a variety of factors that can result in higher turnover. From a bad fit on the team, to a bad manager or a need to redefine a position’s responsibilities, organizational areas where you find higher […]

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