7 Characteristics of Abusive Bosses

I hear it over and over again how workers today are having difficulty dealing with their boss.  Some of the comments include, “She’s creates drama”, “He shows favoritism”, “He yells and orders us around”, “She expects so much out of us”, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  And the list goes on.  These types of behaviors can create an environment of fear and insecurity among the workers, who eventually will become de-motivated and disengaged.  Productivity goes down while absenteeism can go up.

But I bet if you were to ask these supervisors they would deny any maladaptive behaviors on their part.  Here are seven characteristics of an abusive boss, or what is refered to in management theory as a Theory X manager. See if any of these apply to you – or to your work place:

  1. Micromanager – obsessed with details and perfection
  2. Lack of direction with decisive delivery – treats everything as a priority that requires immediate attention
  3. Mood swings – responses are unpredictable
  4. Obsession with loyalty and obedience – “You are either for me or against me”
  5. Status derogation – criticizes or ridicules their subordinates in public
  6. Arbitrary and hypocritical
  7. Exercises their power for their own personal gain

These traits often go along with power and position and are not necessarily applicable only to management.  Recognizing them can help you deal with them but you need to be aware of them in order to effectively handle them.  Self-management skills, like empathy and emotional intelligence, will help you be less stressed, more productive and happier.  It will make going to work less of a chore.   So what characteristics do you think of and how do you deal with them? Would love your thoughts!



2 Replies to “7 Characteristics of Abusive Bosses”

  1. I have coached countless people suffering from terrible bosses. The one thing I always told them when it was reallllly bad is that you cannot expect to win a fight with management, especially in the organization I was working in. Either suck it up and do your best or leave. The worst ones were tightly connected with the CEO, so it was a lost cause. In fact, knowing my role in the org., a particularly abusive female, beloved by the C.M., she did everything possible to sabotage ME. If she only knew the extent of how much her employees hate her!!
    But he was convinced she was the best thing since sliced bread because her work was her
    life. Even more important than paying attention to her wandering husband. You have to feel sorry for someone like that, even though she took great pleasure in making my tenure miserable.


    1. She probably conformed to the CEO’s way of behaving, which will lead him to choose her. I think that we can learn to control our emotions and not respond to how the other person wants us to feel (EI). Using empathy helps as well; I’m sure she was aware of her husband’s behavior, which she couldn’t contol, to the workers, who she could. Learning to use empathy and managing our own responses enables us to deal with these types of bosses. As you said, it’s either survive or perish. Thanks for your insightful comments. Sounds as if you have found your calling.


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