A bad boss is someone who lacks character rather than credentials according to new research.
A professor of management has analysed years of seminar data from workers describing their worst bosses, and it turns out some pretty obvious and consistent traits separate the merely difficult bosses from the truly awful ones.
"When people were asked to chronicle their worst boss, they either cited lack of character or competency," said Clint Longenecker, a professor of leadership and organisational excellence at Ohio's University of Toledo.
"When we teach leadership, we now focus on character and competency. The list of bad traits leans very heavily towards character issues."
Longenecker, who has conducted leadership seminars for nearly 12 years, said he always asks participants to think of their worst boss and then write a description of him or her.
"About a year and a half ago I decided to take those answers and analyse them," he said. His findings were published in a recent issue of Industrial Management, a publication of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.
The findings ended up being what Longenecker describes as the "dirty dozen" - the 12 most frequent traits of a bad boss.
Heading the list: a boss who is arrogant, prideful, inflexible and always right.
Number 2: a boss who is unprincipled, untrustworthy, who misrepresents the truth and lies.
"What's particularly interesting is to get people talking about their worst boss. It quickly turns into a 'Can you top this' sort of thing," Longenecker said. "It is somewhat unbelievable that any organisation would allow people to function like this, if these encounters are in fact true."
However, recognising a bad boss is just part of the problem. The other half, Longenecker said, is deciding what to do about it.
"If your boss is doing something unethical, you have to get out of there immediately," he said.
"But if your boss is someone who is bad and you're in an environment where jobs are very scarce, you have to brush up on your coping skills."
Most workers will reach a "tipping point" at which they make a conscious effort to seek employment elsewhere, Longenecker said.
"The good thing is it's easier to find a job when you have a job."
Other workers, he said, will decide to stick it out and a bad boss can have a very negative effect on those workers both professionally and personally.
That deteriorating relationship also may make it difficult for a bad boss to get the desired results from their workers.
Longenecker said he was approached at a recent seminar by a participant who recognised some of the traits in himself.
"He said, 'Well, I'll be honest with you. I think I'm a bad boss. My vice president made me come here. I've always been successful and always gotten results'.
"I asked him, 'What's changed?'
"And he said, 'I think people don't want to work with me anymore'," Longenecker said.
Longenecker said he often talks about "emotional intelligence" at his seminars.
The concept, he said, is about a person having the ability to empathise with others and be self-aware of his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
"What you'll find with most bad bosses is a lack of ability to connect with other people," he said.
"If you're working for one, understand how it affects you," Longenecker said.
"And if you're working for one and realise it's affecting you badly, get out of there quickly."
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- from the Toledo Blade/AAP