How Do You Know You Work for a Toxic Manager? They Will Do Any of These 8 Things Daily

Marcel Schwantes

One study finds that 50 percent of employees leave their job to get away from their manager.

Randstad US, a provider of HR, legal staffing and recruitment services, recently conducted an employee engagement survey to reveal more bad news about the state of the American workplace (with some findings that you just can’t help but laugh at):

According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), who reported on the Randstad study, unhappy workers admitted that while on the job they:

  • drank alcohol (5 percent)
  • took naps (15 percent)
  • checked or posted on social media (60 percent)
  • shopped online (55 percent)
  • played pranks on co-workers (40 percent)
  • watched Netflix (11 percent).

Before you cast employees in a judgmental light and say they’re to blame, let me be clear: These results are part of a trend of burnout and job dissatisfaction — common human reactions to stressful environments that managers, not employees, are primarily to blame.

Who Are Your Managers?

In one Gallup study of 7,272 U.S. adults, it found that 50 percent of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

Gallup CEO Jim Clifton once summarized in a succinct sentence the bottom line of why your company’s employee turnover may be high. He said:

The single biggest decision you make in your job–bigger than all the rest–is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits–nothing.

Over the years, I have observed firsthand many counterproductive behaviors in middle and upper management. Eight traits I have recognized as toxic really stand out.

1. A manager who only looks after himself.

These managers aren’t concerned with driving the company mission, or aligning team goals to organizational objectives. It’s about their individual performance and getting that annual bonus. Managers with this attitude are playing for the name on the back of the jersey and are only concerned about their accomplishments and how they look to their superiors.

2. A manager who steals the spotlight.

The team puts together a wonderful product and rolls it out on time. The client is giddy with joy about how much money and time the new system will save. And then it happens: The manager takes all the credit for the work. No praise for the team, no celebration of everyone’s success, no recognition of team members for their contributions. This type of manager will hog the spotlight and when that happens, team morale plummets.

3. A manager who is never wrong.

Ever work with a manager who’s always right and you’re always wrong? He has a hard time taking blame or ownership for things and will never admit to having made a mistake. He’s more concerned with preserving his reputation and saving face.

4. A confused manager who doesn’t know the direction he/she is headed.

Team members don’t know where they stand as communication is often cryptic; this manager will say one thing on Monday and change direction by Wednesday, often without telling the team.

5. A manager who likes control.

This person micromanages to the last detail. The work environment is overbearing and stifling because she wants control over decisions; she distrusts the team and doesn’t delegate. In such a scenario, there’s hardly room for group discussion or input because the leadership style is autocratic. Creativity or learning something new is absent under this dictatorship. Loyal workers trying to find meaning in their jobs are left with nothing but taking their marching orders.

6. A manager who’s a bully.

The effects of bullying in the workplace are huge and costly for businesses and is not in the employee’s favor. Baird Brightman, a behavioral scientist, consultant, and writer, reports that “aggressiveness (both verbal and physical) undermines safety and requires people to divert resources from productive work into defensive operations such as fight and flight.” Babs Ryan, author of America’s Corporate Brain Drain, says, “Only 1 percent of bullies are fired; action is usually taken against the [bully’s] target. Your only choice may be to leave as quickly as possible — especially if the company supports that bully repeatedly and has already exited several of the bully’s targets.”

7. A manager who is missing in action.

They’re checked out physically, mentally, or both. If they’re in the building, they’re behind closed doors most of the time to avoid personal interaction, especially when things are going south. You’ll note they are conveniently “busy” when their input or direction is needed at crucial times, and often take shelter in incessant meetings that are really facades to mask their insecurity or fear of facing conflict. They are only interested in good news, because they’re not able to handle anything more. Got a problem? Talk to someone else.

8. A manager who is a narcissist.

This is unfortunate for both manager and employee. For the manager, it’s an actual mental condition known as narcissistic personality disorder that requires medical attention. For the employee, a pathologically narcissisticmanager could ruin his or her career. Joseph Burgo, author of The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age, says this person “often relies on contempt to make others feel like losers, proving himself a winner in the process. He will belittle your work product or ridicule you at meetings. When he needs something from you, he may become threatening. At his most toxic, he will make you doubt yourself and your ultimate value to your employer.”

Any thoughts? Let's be constructive!