How to hire a bad boss

April 22, 2020
How to hire a bad boss

You’re probably fed up of articles telling you ‘how to hire a great manager’, when all you really want to do is hire the worst boss possible who will destroy productivity and morale. Today is your lucky day, because I’m going to be giving you the ultimate guide on hiring a bad boss. I’ve even interviewed people who have worked for some truly horrible bosses, so that you can be sure to hire the types of people who will make awful managers for your team.

Disclaimer: If, for some reason, you want to hire an effective manager, then you should probably do the opposite of what you’re about to read.

1. The person you hire must constantly criticise

You don’t want a boss who goes round ‘praising’ people when they do good things. After all, that would encourage your employees to do good things more often! So instead, when hiring a bad boss, you should look for somebody who only knows how to constantly criticise. Especially one who can criticise where criticism is not needed. With any luck, this will cause employees to lose faith in their own abilities, and leave the business.

“Karen was always critical of everything I did” recalls engagement consultant Stan Kimer, thinking back to his 31-year career at IBM. “Nothing was ever good enough for her. When I completed a project, Karen told me the work I did was a piece of crap. This happened over and over again, despite the managers higher up raving about my work. After working for her for 9 months, I found myself another position within IBM.”

Criticism isn’t a standalone evil, by the way. A good boss can usually find a healthy balance of criticism and praise. As long as criticism is used carefully and tactfully, it can contribute to personal development and continuous improvement. But if you want to hire a bad boss, you should look for somebody who has only one mode of feedback: constant criticism.

2. Make sure your bad boss has no people skills

If you listen to the likes of Professor Sir Cary Cooper, you’ll know that hiring managers with people skills is more important than hiring managers with technical skills. But Professor Cooper only knows how to hire ‘good managers’ – and we don’t want that!

“In 2013, I worked as the HR rep for a tech startup that previously had no HR presence” says Jennifer Walden, now Director of Operations at WikiLawn. “The team was headed by somebody who was a very talented software engineer, but an awful boss. He didn’t work well with others. He didn’t like having his work questioned, and would brush off attempts to collaborate, just going back and redoing everything himself. He had a very short fuse and a habit of dressing down employees in public. It was possible to hear him screaming at someone through the walls, something HR obviously had to address.”

It would be a real shame to accidentally hire a boss who knew how to talk to people with empathy and respect, so don’t ever do that!

3. Under no circumstances should the boss care about their team

Michael Alexis, the CEO of Team Building, says that one of the worst traits a manager can have, is apathy – i.e. a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. And when I spoke to Michael about this, he shared his own experience of an apathetic manager.

“Functionally, he was a manager and I would report to him for various tasks” said Michael. “However, there was nearly zero time allocated to professional development, team building, mentorship, or even a meaningful social connection between us. The result was I felt a disconnect between the work I did, and how it contributed to the organisation as a whole.”

Good managers focus on more than just the workload put in front of their team – they focus on the development and engagement of each individual that makes up that team. Bad managers, on the other hand, are apathetic.

4. A bad boss rules with fear and intimidation

We have talked before about how humiliation is a bad way to improve employee performance. Fortunately, there are many managers out there who are more than willing to use fear, humiliation, and intimidation, to give you the real ‘bad boss’ experience.

The reason why fear and intimidation work so well when you’re trying to hire an awful manager, is because they don’t scare people into producing good work – they scare people AWAY from producing good work! It’s genius really, and Laura McAdams, an HR Manager at Resume Companion, can explain why.

“One of the worst managers I’ve had, perceived everything anyone suggested as a personal attack on their authority” she told me. “If you came up with an idea, they would immediately shut it down and spend the next 15 minutes explaining why you were wrong. Any questions about their process, no matter how diplomatic, immediately caused them to get defensive. As a result of this manager’s insecurity, innovation in the office was completely stifled. It was impossible to suggest anything new without fear of retaliation. All new employees became afraid to broach fresh ideas.”

5. The boss you hire must take credit for other people’s hard work…

One of the most important characteristics of a great bad boss – does that phrase even make sense? – is that they need to know how to take credit for other people’s hard work. As one anonymous source from California told me:

“My worst manager was an insecure credit grabber. She would not mention other people’s contributions in group chats, and was quick to steal credit or discredit others. Most of my former colleagues resigned because of her.”

Bad managers are afraid of giving credit where credit is due, because they fear that they will never be seen as useful or important. In reality, they will probably just push top talent away from them – maybe even away from the whole business!

Good managers, on the other hand, are always happy to shine a spotlight on members of their team. Partly because they know that this will encourage more of the same, but also because they know that when their team members produce good results, it reflects well on their leadership skills.

6. …and should blame other people when their own ideas don’t work

Of course, as well as taking credit when things go right, when things go wrong, your bad boss should always place blame onto anybody but themselves.

“My previous boss was very loud and incompetent” remembers Anh Trinh, who eventually left regular employment to set up GeekWithLaptop. “He always barked orders and he would put the blame on his employees if things went wrong. It’s normal to blame employees if it’s their fault, but my boss made it a priority to make himself look good at the expense of others.”

The reason you want your bad boss to blame anybody but themselves, is because it fosters a culture of blame, instead of a culture of innovation. Good bosses will accept responsibility for the mistakes they make, which not only sets an example for team members to do the same, but which also sends a clear message that making mistakes is an important part of learning how to improve.

7. Insist that the new boss tracks each and every minute

If you hire a boss who values results, then your company is probably going to be more successful. So when hiring a bad boss, make sure you hire one who is more interested in less meaningful metrics instead – things like how long employees spend in the bathroom.

“The worst bosses I’ve had have been obsessed with tracking my time and with time management, and have not been concerned at all with performance or results” says Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing. “I remember feeling stifled and anxious because of two specific bosses’ obsession with tracking how I spent each minute of my time, one even telling me he noticed on the timesheet that I was going outside to eat lunch, and how I needed to eat at my desk while working instead. I perform much better and feel less stifled in environments where results are prioritised over minute-to-minute time tracking.”

Giving employees a little freedom with how to spend their time at work is a sure-fire way to foster a healthy working environment, where ideas flourish and results are achieved. So make sure your bad boss does the opposite.

If you have any further tips on how to hire a really bad boss, please leave them in the comments section below – I am sure I have left a lot of really good ones out.

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