In the 90s, when I worked as a corporate drone at a large consumer electronics retailer, I reported to a boss who didn't understand my skills or expertise.
He would talk on and on about a large ERP install he was doing. I'd say "ER what?" and start talking about writing projects, a new usability and design lab we were building, and various employee conflicts. The underlying issue is that he didn't value my contribution or the contribution of my team. We were speaking different languages.
Interestingly, he didn't exhibit the number one trait that makes people quit, which might explain why I stuck around a few more years after that. (In fact, we learned to get along eventually.)
A new survey by a company called BambooHR polled 1,000 employees and ranked the top reasons they find another job. (They also found that 44% of those surveyed quit because of a bad boss.) Because these reasons for quitting are so common, I've added a few extra notes about why that bad boss attribute might be a problem--and how to overcome it.
1. Your boss takes credit for your work (63 percent)
One of the big findings is that employees really hate it when the boss takes credit for their work. And, older employees (those over 45) get even more irritated. Why is it just a trigger? Employees want to be recognized, and then challenged to complete other lofty goals. When they realize they won't get any credit or someone will steal it, they lose all motivation.
2. Your boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62 percent)
Trust and empowerment can change employee perceptions. When you show trust, you're essentially enabling the employee to succeed. Bad bosses don't understand that. They command and control, assuming an employee is going to fail or create conflict. To change, you have to demonstrate to an employee you are OK with small failures.
3. Your boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58 percent)
The boss is out playing golf or on vacation in Orlando. At work, the employees are stretched pretty thin. That's a problem because, from the perspective of the workers, there isn't an example of how to do the work, someone explaining how to finish tasks, or any time-table other than "get this done before the boss starts paying attention again."
4. Your boss doesn't appear to advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (wages/salary/bonuses) (57 percent)
A curious one that ranks high on the list (above setting expectations or not getting a promotion), not advocating for an employee puts you in the doghouse. Why? Like the other high ranking reasons, the employee knows they won't get any credit (in this case, financially) for hard work. He or she will produce the work but won't ever get the recognition.
5. Your boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56 percent)
Favoritism is another de-motivator. A bad boss picks the people he or she likes, regardless of skill level. It might be because that person also drives an Audi. Bad bosses don't fairly critique all employees and understand what it takes to do a specific job or role.
6. Your boss doesn't back you up when there's a dispute between you and one of your company's clients (55 percent)
We all want advocates, a boss who will stand up for us. We also crave truth in the workplace, an understanding that it was your skill or your attitude that landed the big customer or pushed a project forward. Bad bosses are weak-willed individuals. They do the hard work of advocating because that involves conflict resolution, time and effort, and maybe even some emotion.
7. Your boss doesn't provide proper direction on assignments/roles (54 percent)
When an employee doesn't know what to do it creates conflict because, really, that's why Susie is even on the accounting team. It's to use the skills and training she has to excel. We all want to be needed, to show we have amazing abilities. Good bosses know how to funnel all of that skill and creativity in the right direction; bad bosses zap it dead.
8. Your boss micromanages you and doesn't allow you the "freedom to work" (53 percent)
Another big killer for motivation at work is when the boss nitpicks all day. It also reveals a lack of empathy, because the employee sees his or her work output as simply a blip on a screen, a code in a handbook. There's a person doing the work. An exceptional boss recognizes that every employee has individual needs and a desire to work creatively and with discretion.
9. Your boss focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths (53 percent)
A bad boss is a wrist slapper. He or she likes to point out anything that's wrong, mostly because the goal is for the boss to look good. When he or she constantly points out problems, it's because the boss wants to make sure the higher-ups don't see any flaws. Good bosses overlook minor issues and focus on the outcome.
10. Your boss doesn't set clear expectations (52 percent)
Ranking much lower than expected (ahem), this bad boss trait is still one to avoid. It means the boss is not a good communicator, and the employee is a little lost in a maze. What is the role here? What is success? What are the steps to complete a task? When an employee doesn't know the outcome he or she will slip into a mode of low productivity and apathy.