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Empowered employees are ditching their bad bosses

Posted by Grace Townsley

February 3, 2022

Are the days of working for a bad boss finally coming to an end?

In November of 2021, a record-breaking 4.5 million people left their jobs. That’s nearly 3% of the entire U.S. workforce. Hospitality, healthcare, transportation and warehousing companies faced the worst quit rates. 

The Great Resignation has shown companies across the country that employees are tired of working for less-than-pleasant leaders. And now that the worker shortage has hit crisis-level, 10.6 million jobs remained open in November, these fed-up employees can be choosy about where they land next. 

Why the growing frustration with bad managers?

Workers have spent the past two years at home. They’ve had extra time to consider their careers, skillsets and working preferences. As a result, tolerance for jerky bosses is on the decline. For perhaps the first time in a long time, companies are taking a hard look at their leadership teams to determine who’s actually leading well – and who shouldn’t be leading at all. 

Do these jerky bosses sound familiar?

Bad bosses come in a few main types. There’s the demanding boss who expects productivity and connectivity at all hours of the day and night. Unrealistic deadlines and complete loyalty to the project are this boss’ calling cards. For workers who choose to work from home for its freedom and flexibility, this leadership style is a major turnoff. 

There’s also the bad-tempered boss. The smallest trigger can set them off on a multi-message Slack storm full of CAPS. They’re impossible to please and unpredictable to work around. No one does their best work around this loose cannon. 

Then there’s the King of the World boss. They walk on water and expect everyone to know it. Forget offering constructive feedback or sharing an idea. This boss is a genius in his or her own mind, and you’re either on board or left behind. The arrogance and pompousness is strong with this one.

Why poor leadership can be difficult to fix?

Some bad bosses cross the HR line. They violate the code of conduct, and their bad behavior is reportable. But when it comes to poor leadership, most companies don’t offer clear paths to share negative experiences. After all, being annoying isn’t exactly illegal. 

Unfortunately for many companies, employees simply don’t share their downline woes. Upper management may be largely unaware of middle management’s leadership ineptitude. This is especially true in the case of managers who “kiss up and kick down.” In other words, they work to please their own boss while belittling their subordinates. 

Many employees try to share their negative experiences with upper management, but find their feedback dismissed or ignored. Even worse, they may be told their manager’s bad behavior is the result of their own poor performance. 

Employees have never been so empowered

A few years ago, these disgruntled employees may have chosen to stick it out and keep punching the clock. But now they can often find a better job, with a better boss, and maybe even a higher salary plus a sign-on bonus. The massive quitting rebalances the job market. Great places to work are seeing a wave of applicants, while bad bosses are seeing their Glassdoor ratings tank.  

Instead of asking only about pay and benefits, employees are now asking about culture and work-life balance. They come into interviews with questions like: What are the diversity initiatives at this company? How do you prioritize balance and life after 5 p.m.? When am I required to be online and logged into Slack? What feedback mechanisms are set up, and how is that feedback addressed?

Companies can create a positive workplace culture, if they’re willing

It’s not hard to find the bad bosses in your company, if you know where to look. Anonymous employee satisfaction surveys are a great place to start. 

The first step to retaining and caring for your best employees is to be willing to make changes. The highest performing managers may also be the most difficult to work under. Companies may have to choose long-term team health over short-term results. But those choices will always be worth it in the end. A healthy culture with low turnover and happy employees always beats out the company with better short-term results and bad leadership.

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