concerned-employee-questioning.pngRecent research has shown — not surprisingly — that dealing with a difficult boss can have an extremely detrimental effect on company culture and retention.

While the impact of a having a bad supervisor may not be a complete shock, the amount of workers who have been in that situation is somewhat astounding: 87 percent of people, according to a survey conducted by the LaSalle Network, have had a bad manager at work.

A 2015 Gallup report found difficult bosses are responsible for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores, and one in two U.S. adults have left a job to get away from a difficult boss at some point in their career.

Hard-to-work with supervisors can clearly be a pressing problem; however, does your HR team know what conduct can signify there’s an issue?

The following indications may mean you need to quickly intervene — or risk losing valued employees:

concerns-hr-professionals-lose-sleep.pngDevaluing employees’ efforts

A recent survey found employees feel taking credit for their work is the most aggravating bad manager behavior. The older employees get, the worse they think it is: While 57 percent of workers age 18 to 29 say bosses who take credit for their work are unacceptable, by age 60 and over, 77 percent feel it’s an intolerable situation.

Acknowledgment matters. A recent survey of HR leaders found recognition programs can provide the best HR initiative ROI. Get tips to strengthen yours in our post on creating the ideal employee recognition program.

Inconsiderate Actions

If your organization isn’t currently offering sensitivity training, it may be time to start; in the U.K., a Glassdoor survey found four percent of employees have experienced racist comments from a bad supervisor, and 10 percent have been offended by inappropriate humor. Forty percent of female employees felt their supervisors were disrespectful, and nearly one in 10 bore the brunt of sexist comments.

Demanding impossible outcomes

Work-related pressure has increased in recent years; now more than half of workers say they’re stressed on a day-to-day basis. Bad managers’ unrealistic expectations were one of the top three concerns, according to a new survey. (Heavy workloads and looming deadlines, along with attaining work-life balance, were the other top anxieties.)

In addition to examining the chain of command to ensure managers aren’t receiving and just passing on unrealistic requests, companies can provide training to help supervisors effectively address work distribution and take steps to reduce workplace stress.


Bad managers’ enthusiasm — or lack thereof — may be at the root of the problem. Just 35 percent of managers in the U.S., for example, are engaged, according to Gallup research; 14 percent are actively disengaged.

We know disengagement can have vastly negative effects on morale, productivity and potentially profitability; just one disengaged employee can cost an organization more than $2,000 a year.

As such, when disengagement is prevalent in bad supervisors — who, as part of their role, are responsible for giving employees encouragement and motivation to perform — the fallout can be significant.

However, it doesn’t have to be. Disengagement, while potentially damaging, is often identifiable. Like employees, disengaged managers may show several telling signs, such as withdrawing from their team, exhibiting reduced energy and/or output and increasingly taking breaks or finding other ways to shorten the work day.

For additional insight into both dealing with a difficult boss and disengagement, check out our blog posts on the three things your employee engagement program needs, four ways company pride can invigorate engagement, hiring the right manager and the effect innovation can have on employees’ engagement and the way they perceive their employer.