3 Types of Truly Horrible Bosses

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, Guest Post, Management Leave a Comment

They range the gamut from “the bully” to the “people-pleaser,” but they’re all bad. Learn about the three types of bosses that can make life miserable.

No boss is perfect. Yet some bosses really are bad and need intervention, from superiors, Human Resources (HR) or outside the company, to improve their performance and that of their team. Here are three types of bad bosses and, based on our firm’s experience coaching teams and their executive leaders worldwide, what can be done to help them.

No. 1: The Bully Boss

Bullies are brash, insulting and intimidating. Think Steve Jobs minus the genius. Jobs, however, was a much less common type of boss we call the Disruptive Innovator: visionaries who disrupt their industries and shake up people in the process. Disruptive Innovators are driven by a strong purpose that people tend to rally around despite the boss’ insults or demeaning behavior.

For every one true Disruptive Innovator, there are countless bullies whose force is not backed up by such talent. Our consulting firm spends 30 percent of its time coaching such leaders to reduce damage caused. Bully bosses can be identified by direct or anonymous complaints to HR or random reports of people crying in the restrooms, for example.


What to do: The bully and their team need to be coached closely and consistently. The bully needs direct feedback about how the team is being negatively impacted. What often gets forgotten, and what we always do, is to help the team go through a process of open, honest dialogue with the bully. This creates healing and forgiveness. Employees will forgive and move forward if they believe the bully is sorry and will change. If bullies don’t change, then they need to be fired as soon as possible.

No. 2: The Over-Sharer

This type of leader talks too much and shuts everyone else down. They find it difficult to share power or build teamwork. Employees become disengaged and won’t take action.

In one example, we worked with an executive in a Fortune 200 energy company. She called me because she felt people on her team weren’t excited about her new vision. Through coaching her and her team, it was clear she was so busy talking about and promoting her own ideas, that there was no space for her staff to contribute. We coached her to pull back, listen more and ask more questions. Now the others are taking action, coming up with ideas and implementing them. Making certain that every single person on a team is heard creates an atmosphere of respect and consideration that encourages innovation and achievement.

How can you spot an Over-Sharer boss? He or she may complain, “The people on my team are not stepping up to the plate.” Another sign is if you sit in team meetings and many present are very quiet. Both are clues that there is no space for the team to contribute. This points to the fact that either the leader hasn’t built trust or is eroding it.

What to do: Over-Sharers need to learn to ask more questions, listen more attentively and find out what people are thinking. When other team members start taking action, coming up with ideas and implementing them, that’s a sign that this type of boss is learning to better empower his or her team. The group’s stress level will dramatically decrease, and their productivity will increase.

No. 3: Compulsive People-Pleasers/Over-Empathizers

These kinds of bosses can’t say anything negative. They will do anything to look good and have people like them, even if it is detrimental to the company. Although they are very nice people, usually loved by their teams, they can’t say no and have a hard time giving negative feedback.

One sign you are dealing with this kind of boss: When it comes to performance reviews and bonuses, they will try to tell you everyone on their team is a top performer. They also have many excuses and seemingly infinite patience for their team’s transgressions.

What to do: Over-Empathizers need strong coaching and guidance on how to convey negative feedback. They also need someone, preferably their boss, to be firm with them and tell them they are expected to be more direct. Often this will make the difference, as the Compulsive People-Pleaser wants to please everyone, especially his or her own boss.

Leaders create the culture, positive or negative, that drives employee behavior. Bad bosses can do a lot of damage, but given proper coaching, feedback and support, many can become effective leaders. If the bad boss refuses to change, they need to be fired, sooner rather than later.



Executive team coaches Antoine Gerschel and Lawrence Polsky are Managing Partners at PeopleNRG.com. Since 2008, the firm has transformed the teams of more than 30,000 leaders across 11 industries in 30 countries on five continents. For more information, visit www.peoplenrg.com.







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