Man shouting at woman.

What are the tell-tale signs that you're a bad boss?

Many are out of their depth when they get promoted into management positions. I call it the competency trap. Good technicians and people who are particularly skilled in an area are turned into managers. The problem is that the qualities that made them a great technician – the ability to work on their own, think laterally and cut corners – are not the same as the skills required to be a manager. And then there are those who are promoted because they are smooth talkers who have sucked up to the right people and said the right things.

The problem is that many of them can’t tell whether they are a good manager or not. They don’t even think about it. Meanwhile the problems continue, staff will get unhappier and sooner or later, they are shifted. It can come as a complete surprise to them. So how can you tell whether you are a good boss or not? What are the signs?

Steve Tobak at BNet says there are seven warning signs: your group is underperforming, your superiors are putting you under more pressure, people you once thought were allies are now turning against you or avoiding you, the increased stress is forcing you to make bad decisions, you are behaving badly, your personal relationships suck and your employees hate you.

Tobak makes the point that slating these managers is not entirely right because we can all kid ourselves from time-to-time. “One thing most bad managers have in common is they’re not consciously aware that they’re bad managers. And if they are aware of it on some level, they’re probably not willing to admit it to anyone, least of all themselves. That’s because nobody wants to believe they’re the problem. It’s a common enough phenomenon that isn’t limited to bosses, but applies to people at all levels: executives, managers, employees too. I’m not a shrink, so I’m not sure why that is. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably got something to do with ego, denial, compartmentalisation, self-delusion, lack of perspective, that sort of thing.”

A business advocacy group has provided the New York Times with a handy checklist:
1 Have you ever publicly criticised an employee?
2. Do you take credit for your employees work?
3. Do your employees fear you?
4. Do you expect employees to do what you tell them without question?
5. Do you believe employees should know what to do without you telling them or providing guidelines?
6. Are you a yeller?
7. Do you demean employees as a form of punishment?
8. Do you play favourites?
9. Do you hate delegating?
10. Do you check everyone’s work?
 If you answer yes to a few of these questions, it’s a bad sign.

Management professor Bob Sutton has his list - you ride people hard, you feel you are babying employees if you thank them or try to understand where they are coming from, you cultivate only your star employees and ignore the rest and you take credit for all the good stuff.

Sutton writes: “The most crucial test of a boss is self-awareness. The best bosses are in tune with how the little things they say and do impact people, and they are adept at adjusting to bolster both performance and dignity,’’ Sutton writes. “Unfortunately, too many bosses think they are in tune with their employees, but live in a fool’s paradise.”

So how did you score? Or how do you think your boss would do on these tests? Are there any other points you would add?