Having been on both sides of the issue, here’s my take on What Really Makes a Horrible Boss, as opposed to just your average, everyday crappy boss who acts out his childhood issues and insecurities on innocent, unsuspecting employees just trying to do their jobs:
Incompetent or incapable of performing the job. It doesn’t matter if he’s a CEO, VP, manager, or an individual contributor, if he’s incompetent, doesn’t have the capability or qualifications to do the job, or simply doesn’t do the work, he’s horrible, whatever his job title is.
Commits criminal or civil offenses. Assault, battery, accounting fraud, securities fraud, sexual harassment, gender or racial discrimination, I can go on and on. If he breaks the law, he’s a horrible boss in my book. It’s surprising how many people continue to work for bosses who have no respect for the very foundation of our society. We are, after all, a nation of laws.
Circumstance. If employees feel trapped or helpless, that can be enough to turn a bad boss into a horrible or intolerable one. Perhaps the best method for dealing with a bad boss is to quit and go somewhere else. But in a tough job market with high unemployment, that’s pretty much off the table for most of us. It’s no coincidence that the movie is coming out now.
Consistently poor decision-making. The most important thing a boss or manager does that has the greatest impact on the company and its business is make decisions. If her decision-making is consistently poor and has a materially negative impact on the company, management should get rid of her. If they don’t, I wouldn’t stick around.
Generates consistently poor results. At the end of the day, bosses are paid to manage an organization and generate results of some sort. If they consistently fail, regardless of the reason, that makes them horrible bosses. They may be nice people, but what good is that if the company goes under or the group doesn’t perform its function as a result of mismanagement?
Consistently lies, misleads, is disingenuous, or fails to meet the company’s documented standards of business conduct. It’s one thing to BS from time to time or make a mistake or two, but if misconduct is consistent, he should go.
Mentally or medically unfit to manage. It’s easy to throw around overused labels like psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, or any number of disorders that none of us are qualified to use. And words like dysfunctional are simply too subjective. Nevertheless, some people are simply mentally unfit to manage. Then of course there’s drug and alcohol abuse and a myriad of other conditions that would adversely affect anyone’s ability to perform their job.