mean boss

Photo: 123rf

As a boss, it’s quite impossible to lead without being tough on your employees at some point or another, but has that morphed into insensitivity and nastiness? 

You probably never set out to be mean, but perhaps power, performance pressure, and exhaustion from the job have unwittingly brought out the worst in you, causing you to disrespect your employees or treat them in a passive aggressive manner. 

Just like any other human being, you’re probably having some difficulty evaluating your own performance or identifying the episodes where you’ve been mean. We’ve rounded up eight ways to tell if you’re horrible boss, so you can limit the damage done, contribute to a healthier working environment for your team, and save your reputation. 


mean boss

Photo: 123rf

1.You put your direct report down in public, so that others on your team don’t make the same mistake 

To criticize someone in public would destroy their morale and whatever trust you have built up with them. As a rule, when you have constructive criticism, tell it to the person in private as they are more likely to handle it better behind closed doors. 

2. On the other hand, you know that expressed anger is frowned upon in workplaces, so you behave in a passive aggressive manner 

Rather than express displeasure, you display behaviour that “punishes” someone without them realizing that you are upset. Have you intentionally withheld information out of anger so someone can’t do their job, delayed your e-mail response on purpose, or purposely left someone out of a meeting that is key to their job? Passive aggressiveness is toxic because the hostility continues to fester. 

3. You don’t give them credit for their work 

Some managers take credit for their employees’ ideas for fear that they will be outshined. In reality, you’ll get tons of credit when your team does well, it’s all part of being the leader. Give your employees as much credit as possible and they will admire you for your generosity. Use company-wide meetings to give praise as it motivates people to work harder for the people around them. 


mean boss

Photo: 123rf

4. You play the blame game 

Refusal to accept blame and pinning it on someone else may save your job in the short term, but when you’re in charge, you are largely responsible for what your direct reports do. In fact, it may be beneficial to take some blame, as it shows that you’re in control of your team and the situation. 

5. You treat them disrespectfully 

You may frequently call for last minute meetings, asked for something to be done when your employee is on holiday, or cut someone off during a conversation, even if you didn’t set out to be mean, all these examples demonstrate a lack of respect.


mean boss

Photo: 123rf

6. You play favourites 

Sure, it’s only natural to get along with some people more than others, but has this led to giving one person more responsibility or travel opportunities over others? You should be able to show that your decisions are motivated based on performance and not preference. 

7. You don’t think before you speak 

If you don’t run through the points you would like to get through before each conversation, you may find yourself saying something you don’t mean or have something come out completely wrong. Taking time to collect your thoughts before each meeting with your direct reports will help you choose the right words and behave in a way that is considerate of their feelings. 

8. You raise your voice frequently 

You may think that it will get someone to listen, but it only breeds hostility. Try and play closer attention to your own behaviour during the next conversation, if you raised your voice at any time, stop yourself and make a conscious note not to do it again.