9 Core Beliefs of Truly Horrible Bosses

The worst managers have a fundamentally broken understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. Don't make these mistakes.

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

A year ago, in 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses, I contrasted the great bosses with average ones. Many readers commented that what I described as an “average” boss was actually an awful boss.

Not so! Truly horrible bosses have beliefs about work and management that are so dysfunctional that they can’t even be measured on that scale. Based upon my experience and observation, the absolute worst bosses believe the following:

1. Management is command and control.

Horrible bosses think their job is to order employees to do things and make certain that they do them.

Smart bosses know that the job of managing is mostly helping employees be more successful and making difficult decision that employees can’t make on their own.

2. Employees should WANT to work long hours.

Horrible bosses are convinced that employees who don’t want to work 60-hour work weeks are slackers and goldbricks.

Smart bosses know that numerous studies have shown that any attempt to consistently work more than 40 hours a week reduces productivity.

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3. I manage numbers rather than people.

Horrible bosses put all their energy into making certain that the numbers come up right, even if it means changing the numbers.

Smart bosses know that the only real way to get good numbers is to help your people make their numbers.

4. If I really need something done, I do it myself.

Horrible bosses think of themselves as the star performer who can fix any problem by yanking back authority and responsibility.

Smart bosses realize that true leadership entails motivating people to own their own successes and failures.

5. I don’t decide until I have ALL the data.

Horrible bosses are so risk averse that they require mountains of information before making any important decision.

Smart bosses understand that there’s a point (and it usually comes fairly quick) that additional information merely muddies the waters.

6. I own the success and you own the failure.

Horrible bosses take the credit when things go well and point the finger when things go poorly.

Smart bosses know that their real job is to 1) fix the failures before they happen and 2) publicize the wins that employees achieve.

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7. I like to keep them guessing.

Horrible bosses play their cards close to the chest and never let employees into the decision-making process.

Smart bosses know that decisions are more successful when those tasked with the implementation of them are involved from the start.

8. The salary review is the perfect time to coach.

Horrible bosses sandbag their complaints, criticisms, and advice until the employee’s performance review.

Smart bosses realize that employees panic when they’re bushwhacked and can only change behavior when they’re coached gradually and regularly.

9. I’m so important I don’t have to be polite.

Horrible bosses are so puffed up with grandiosity that they can’t be bothered to control themselves.

Smart bosses know that corporate bullies eventually get what they deserve–a staff of lickspittles whose lack of talent destroys the company.

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Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts@Sales_Source
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7 comments
insysx2010
insysx2010

Ha ha ... Worked for a 9 out of 9 horrible boss (I knew it!). Then I quit and started my own company.

DVisMe
DVisMe

Good start, but if you'd really like to become a horrible boss, it takes 23 lessons to get there. GetHorrible.com

StephanieKaye
StephanieKaye

Great ideas, poor writing. Please proofread, folks. Ex: Number 8. Bushwhacked? He means ambushed.

newcamd_server
newcamd_server

i don't agree with second point

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Sherm
Sherm

@newcamd_server I second the motion.. I've never met a truly successful person who only worked 40 hours.  Doesn't mean you have to, just don't expect the same raises, promotions or career opportunities of someone who goes above and beyond.

John
John

@newcamd_server My last boss, before I retired firmly believed employees should want to work long hours.  I didn't mind working long hours is I had a deadline or an important project, but she thought working long hours was something you should want to do out of gratitude for having a job!