Toxic bosses: Five ways to identify the boss from hell

Oh, what a difference a good boss makes.

If only they could all be like Bark Lorang, the founder of US Firm FullContact. He has just offered his staff a bonus of £4,800 on the condition that they use it to take a holiday and promise not to work while they are away.

We can all dream - but, sadly, the reality for most of us is rather different. Most bosses come across as more devil than saint.

So, employees see if you recognise the common traits of bosses from hell. Bosses - if these traits sound familiar, for heaven’s sake try and do something about them.

The Dictator

The ‘no-nonsense’ boss who rules by fear (and talks a lot of nonsense).

Common traits:

  • Treating the workplace like a battleground and employees as soldiers under his or her command
  • Raising his voice in meetings to richter scale levels (and with a few choice insults to boot)
  • Mentioning high unemployment rates and the recession at the drop of a hat
Common catch phrase: “You are lucky to have a job at all…”

The Ditherer

The antithesis to The Dictactor - but just as annoying in the workplace.

Common traits:
  • Avoids having to make a decision, making sitting on the fence into an art form.
  • Is great at promising the earth as long as that doesn’t turn into any sort of commitment in any sort of reasonable timescale.
  • Runs away from conflict to the point where they are not managing things at all.
Common catch phrase: “Ooh, I don’t really know…”

The Manipulator

Charming, personable - and a politician through and through.

Common traits:
  • Somehow gets others to do their dirty work  - and even makes them feel grateful for being allowed to do it
  • If an idea flies, they quickly claim the credit, if it flops they quickly spread the blame
  • Is set on personal advancement, whatever it takes
  • Always blames somebody or something else for not giving you that pay rise - the board, the economy, the weather….
Common catch phrase: “Put in this extra work and it would be great for your career…”

The Control Freak


A fierce determination and passion that manifests itself in a dedication to...micro-management.

Common traits:
  • The parrot approach to management - looking over your shoulder all day
  • Re-writing whatever you have written
  • Makes 'delegation' into a dirty word
  • Never introduces you to any other members of management (what does the company do again?)
Common catch phrase: “If I want to get something right, I have to do it myself…”

The Pin-Up

Looks nice, but clueless when it comes to so many things. 

Common traits:
  • Promoted above their skills and easily manipulated by others
  • Nice but dim - making it impossible to get a sensible decision
  • Reactive rather than proactive - going with the flow and so nothing really gets done
Common catch phrase: “That sounds like a good idea…”

So there you have it. Have you got a toxic boss? Or are you a toxic boss?

Work doesn’t have to be hell on earth. So come on, horrible bosses - there must be another way….perhaps a holiday…

Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growth businesses reach their potential including Huddlebuy, Europe’s largest business deals website. Follow Andy on Twitter: @smallbizhelp Follow Huddlebuy on Twitter: @huddlebuy