The bad boss: Further insights for a healthy and productive workplace

Jan. 9, 2012

By Jim and Matt Finkelstein

Not all bosses are created equal. Anyone who has ever had a bad boss, or a really bad boss, knows this all too well.

We have discovered that good bosses listen, empower their people, mentor, teach, coach, inspire innovation and creativity, and have fun. It is the flip side of these positive behaviors that we explored. These negative bosses are the ones to look out for and work with constructively.

Because no one is truly perfect, we hope these insights will inform and enlighten you to explore the full productivity of your workplace and workmates.

Here are five bad bosses:

1) The Talkers –
These are the bosses that don’t give any space for employees to speak or learn through conversation. They are often thought of as a big mouth, braggart, gossiper, or lecturer. They talk and talk and talk and never listen. They interrupt others and are overly self-involved with their thoughts and expressions. The Talkers only listen to themselves and disregard anything offered by their subordinates. Resenting their employees’ input, they stifle creativity and productivity while cultivating widespread discontent amongst their team. The Talkers are bad bosses because they miss out on opportunities for their own development and that of their employees.

2) The Disenfranchisers – These bosses restrain and suppress their employees from maximizing their true potential. These bosses are offensively dominating and oppressive. They restrict and subdue their employees across the board. The Disenfranchisers take their employees’ inspirations and aspirations and squash them into subordination. They offer no reasoning other than their position atop the hierarchy. Their employees are stifled, bored, and miserable. The Disenfranchisers are bad bosses because they deprive their employees of basic needs and future aspirations, forcing them into a hole of isolation.

3) The Disconnectors – These bosses close off and renounce their employees while destroying their confidence. These bosses isolate and obstruct their employees’ activities. They single out employees, and because they’re acutely aware of their situation, their isolation irks them to the core. The Disconnectors obstruct communication and reject suggestions from employees. They sit in their office, apart from their team, only coming out to intentionally break up projects and partnerships. The Disconnectors are bad bosses because they remove essential communication channels and are demeaning toward their employees.

4) The Square Dude or Dudette – These bosses are behind the times, straight-laced, and struggle to lead and inspire. These bosses, perhaps well intentioned and perhaps not, struggle to keep up with contemporary culture whether it is cool or not. Instead of quelling misunderstandings, they contribute to strife and friction. The Square Dudes or Dudettes stick to the old ways out of ignorance or contempt for the new ways. They force these old ways upon their employees and scoff when they’re met with resistance. The Square Dudes or Dudettes are bad bosses because they are out of touch with the times, stagnating in old ways and unnecessarily forcing these ways on their employees.

5) The Destroyers – These bosses squash or sap the strength and motivation out of their employees. These bosses are perhaps the ultimate bad bosses – not just rejecting employees’ needs and dreams, but utterly crushing them. All requests for support and guidance are met with sarcasm and blatant disrespect. The Destroyers rival their naval and starship counterparts on human-to-human terms, wrought with intensely directed malice toward others. These actions can be apparent but also hidden at times, adding to their effective destruction. The Destroyers are just simply bad bosses by nature.

These five bosses, as gnarly as they’re described, are not necessarily to be feared nor despised. Generally, most people are good and well intentioned, and do not strive to fit the category of bad boss. Granted, the few that do wholly fit their descriptions, and we must acknowledge that every one of us may slip sometimes. Perhaps these descriptions will help you reflect upon those few moments and help you explore maximizing your potential. Perhaps you may now see deeper into the mishaps of others and give credit when credit is due.

In any case, we support the values of an honest, meaningful and respectful work environment and hope you do too.

Jim Finkelstein is the president and CEO of FutureSense, Inc. ( and author of FUSE: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace™ (, published by Green Leaf Book Group Press. Matt Finkelstein, Jim’s son, is a part-time consultant at FutureSense and Farm Manager for the Four Elements Farm in Atascadero, Calif.