They say good employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. And that’s true—a bad boss can be the deciding factor in whether or not to seek a new job. Your boss may not be as obviously toxic as Bill Lumbergh from Office Space or Lord Farquaad from Shrek, however. And if you’re looking for a new job, you might not realize you’re entering a potentially hostile environment.

Luckily, there are signs you can watch for to see if your current boss or a potential boss at a new organization is a bad one. There are many signs your boss might be villainous, but we’ve chosen to focus on these five common signs.

They don’t respect boundaries

One of the clearest signs your boss is toxic is if they don’t respect boundaries. Good bosses offer their employees a chance to be autonomous and will respect work-life balance. A bad boss will go over the line and will often overuse their best employees.

Business News Daily’s Julie Thompson says that bad bosses will often punish their best employees by giving them extra work with no additional rewards, believing they’ll happily commit to the extra work. While pushing a worker to take the next steps in their career can be fine, the bad boss is simply looking to unload extra work on someone they think won’t complain about it.

If you’re interviewing, look for signs that a boss may expect you to respond immediately outside of work hours or needs constant tabs on whatever you’re doing. It’s usually easy to spot a micromanager.

They gossip

Another obvious sign of a bad boss is if they are constantly gossiping or belittling members of their team. This can be one of the most obvious signs in an interview as well. A toxic boss may throw another team member under the boss to try to show their own authority or to look “cool” and pretend to be your friend.

A true leader should try to abolish all forms of workplace gossip and promote a collaborative team structure. When a boss not only allows the practice to flourish but actively participates, it kills all sense of organizational trust, according to Teambuilding’s Angela Robinson. Furthermore, it shows a lack of empathy, which is the root cause behind many of these bad behaviors.

“Managers should intervene when they encounter gossip and promote a culture of open and respectful communication. By addressing gossip head-on and fostering a supportive work environment, managers can build a strong and cohesive team.” –Recuitment Success Academy

Their goals aren’t realistic

Some bosses aren’t bad because of underlying cruelty but rather an inability to properly lead and motivate a team. An example of this is when a boss doesn’t know how to set realistic goals or timelines, which can show a lack of organizational understanding and an inability to put employees in the right situations.

This may indirectly lead to boundaries not being respected. A bad boss may not understand your other duties and how difficult a project can take and expect unreasonable levels of extra work. Look for this type of manager in an interview by asking questions about their expectations for the role and support systems available to you.

“They have unrealistic expectations for your workload and productivity and are inflexible in their viewpoint of what is a reasonable amount of work.” –Kristin M. Papa

They hold you back instead of elevating you

The best managers view their top employees as valuable resources and will help them grow in their careers. It’s more expensive to hire and train a new employee than to retain one, meaning nurturing employee growth is mutually beneficial.

But poor managers, who often view employees as a resource rather than a person, will take steps to stifle growth and steal credit. If an employer won’t make time to discuss your goals or offer additional assignments or networking, it’s a big warning sign according to Tiffinee Swanson of Korn Ferry Advance. When looking for a new job, ask the hiring manager about growth opportunities and discuss your long-term goals within that organization to get a feel for how they respond.

They are poor communications

To be a good leader requires good communication skills and self-awareness in many forms, so it’s not surprising that some of the worst bosses out there don’t possess these skills. Whether it’s not knowing how to offer feedback, offering unclear suggestions, hosting pointless meetings, having poor listening skills, or many other examples, poor communication can lead to a terrible work environment.

Psychology Today’s Lynn Taylor says to pay careful attention to how a hiring manager appears when interviewing you. Do they offer clear answers or are they vague? Do they seem interested in what you’re saying? Are they focused on your long-term and cultural fit? A bad boss may be on their best behavior during an interview, but if you ask the right questions and look for sincerity in their answers, you can usually get a pretty good visualization of how they’ll be as a boss.

Wrap up

Not every job you have will have a good boss, and a bad manager can turn someone away from an otherwise good job. You won’t always know you’re entering an environment under a bad boss, but if you look for the above telltale warning signs, you’ll have a pretty good idea what the situation is like.

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