"Bad manager" is a very broad label. While it brings to mind the image of a tyrannical, egotistical, insensitive or intolerant boss, it can also refer to an indifferent, apathetic and incompetent one. Regardless of the reason, bad managers are a serious problem for employees and, ultimately, the organization as a whole.

Retention Issues

Whether a manager is lazy, incompetent or cruel, his actions -- or lack thereof -- can be detrimental to employee retention. Managers who appear unskilled lose employee respect or even garner hatred. Supervisors who practice a dictatorial leadership style with little or no empathy for employees do not give them a reason to stay. The end result is increased turnover, requiring constant rehiring and retraining of new employees. Not only is this disruptive, but it is also costly, harming the organization's bottom line.

Poor Communication

Communication is important, both as a tool to establish relationships and to identify internal issues. Managers who are unapproachable or apathetic do not take kindly to criticism and concerns about the organization, or do anything to address them. As a result, problems with staff, policies or practices -- to name a few -- can go unnoticed. As these issues pile up, the company rots from the inside, affecting its ability to compete or meet client needs and causing profitability to suffer.


A bad manager can create two potential attendance issues: absenteeism and "presenteeism." The toxic work environment created by a bad manager makes employees want to avoid being at work. They begin taking an unusual number of personal days, calling in sick or making other excuses to arrive late or remain absent. For some employees, a bad manager can actually create the opposite effect. Presenteeism is an issue when workers show up to work when they legitimately should not be there. A manager who shows little or no sympathy for his employees likely becomes upset when a worker cannot come in. In an attempt to appease the manager, the employee may work while ill, potentially infecting other employees and resulting in further staff shortages. Workers may also overwork themselves by compounding an already toxic work environment with outside stress that requires their attention, ultimately forcing them to take extended leave.


Burnout can happen to any employee, even if the organization contains skilled, friendly and empathetic managers. Normally, this issue is associated with workaholics or people who need to work frequently out of financial strain; however, when a bad manager is involved, the emotional abuse or dissatisfaction she creates can make the job much more difficult than it should be. Burnout is a serious problem, causing physical and mental health issues, such as exhaustion, depression, illness and injury.