How Bad is Your Boss? New Survey Finds Five Worst Traits

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Based on more than 2000 responses to date from an ongoing survey of which bad boss behaviors would make an employee leave their job, the top five "worst offenses" are: - Belittles people in front of others (identified by 40.5% of the respondents) - Lies (34.2%) - Condescends or demeans (31.5%) - Humiliates and embarrasses others (23.9%) - Micromanages (21.9%)

The online survey (at is based on two best selling books by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans,Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay and Love It Don't Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, both published by Berrett-Koehler (2005, 2003).

“The most frequently cited reason for quitting a job is a bad boss,” the authors say. “With a serious labor shortage looming over the next few years, no organization can afford to have bad bosses if it wants to keep its best people.”

Survey respondents, regardless of age, gender, occupation, or location, consistently selected the same bad boss characteristics with a few interesting variations:

  • Whereas males cited micromanaging more often than females, females were more intolerant of “humiliates and embarrasses” than males.
  • Generation X respondents, regardless of gender, also focused on micromanaging more than other generations, ranking it as their #3 hot button.
  • “ Lying” was ranked as the top bad boss behavior by members of the Baby Boomer and Silent generations (ages 39-70), as well as international respondents and those residing in the Southwestern United States.
  • Respondents from the Southeastern United States were the only geographic region that selected “uses fear as a motivator” as one of the top five characteristics of a bad boss.

Is there a solution for employers of bad bosses, short of firing them? Can bad bosses change?

The authors think so.    Â“Just as you can learn new leadership skills at any age, you can stop behaviors that make you a bad boss and then hopefully replace them with more effective behaviors,” they say. Their suggestions to bad bosses include:


  • Get honest feedback from others. There are situations where a boss displays behavior simply because he or she doesn’t realize it is perceived as bad behavior. Ask which specific behaviors they believe stand to be eliminated or improved.

  • Make sure you see the reasons for change. What’s the payoff for others? For you? When you’re clear about the payoff, you’re more likely to get serious.
  • Commit to change and begin by working on one important behavior. When you’ve succeeded at that change, try another.
  • Seek out coaches, counselors and self-improvement workshops and seminars. You don’t have to go it alone.
  • Exercise. Eat well. Sleep more. Breathe.
  • Ask others to monitor your progress and give you feedback as you try to change.

“In today’s competitive environment, it is critical that organizations keep their stars and successfully recruit needed new talent. Bad bosses are unable to do either!” warn the authors. “Given the cost of voluntary turnover, changing their own negative behaviors can be the most important action a bad boss can take to positively impact the company’s bottom line.”

Dr. Beverly Kaye, founder and CEO of Career Systems International, a leading talent management provider headquartered in Scranton, PA, is a nationally recognized authority on career issues in the workplace. Her ground breaking talent retention, career development, workplace satisfaction and mentoring programs are being implemented worldwide.

Sharon Jordan-Evans is president of the Jordan Evans Group, Cambria, CA, an executive coaching and leadership development firm. She works with executive teams, high potential employees, and senior leaders on effectiveness, retention and productivity issues. She is a keynote presenter, and Professional Certified Coach.

Their two most recent books are Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay and Love It Don't Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work both published by Berrett-Koehler.

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This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: on behalf of the company listed above.

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Helen Bensimon
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