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It’s been shown time and time again that the #1 most critical factor in employee retention is a good relationship with your boss. More than money or length of commute, or anything else. People are willing to stay in jobs that pay less if they have a good relationship with their boss. That’s powerful.

It’s actually been said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. If you don’t have trust and communication with the people you work with, your engagement and performance will decline.

But what makes a boss bad?  A bad boss would be characterized as micro-managing, unsupportive, and aggressive even. They call you out in front of everyone else, they breathe down your neck, they criticize your work, they impose impossible deadlines and so on. Why do they do this?

First, you need to understand human behavior. What people do is never because of you. Ever. It’s always because of them. Their needs, their perspective, their emotions, their filter basically. We all have a filter based on our own personality and experiences.

I’ve had clients who dealt with critical or overbearing bosses and they take on the pain and the pressure and the criticism as their own. They absorb it into their identity. This is so sad and so unnecessary. You are not what your boss says you are. Or anyone else for that matter. Truthfully, accepting this is your step to working with a bad boss.

But, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why some people fail at managing and motivating other people:

#1 They might be insecure. When people are insecure about their own abilities or their own effectiveness, what do they do? They project it on other people, of course. They deflect! They do this whether they even realize it or not. Try to put yourself in their mind and ask what they might be afraid of. Because when we’re insecure, it means we’re afraid. So consider that and consider your bosses personality and the position they’re in and maybe it’s possible that they are afraid and insecure for some reason and it likely has nothing to do with you. Micro-managers, in particular, are scared. That’s why they micro-manage and try to assert control. They don’t have trust in themselves. If they were fully confident and secure in themselves, their span of control, their process, etc. they wouldn’t need to micro-manage.

#2 They may be under pressure. You never know what relationship your boss has with their own boss. Maybe they’re feeling the heat and passing it on to you. And again, a lot of this is unconscious. A lot of people lack the self-awareness to even realize how they come across to other people. And some people simply don’t handle stress and pressure well. And when you have a team of people to manage, as well as your own workload, that can be difficult. I’m not saying that excuses poor behavior or aggressiveness but sometimes it does explain it. Explaining it is one thing, excusing it is another.

#3 They never received training or support. This one is critical. Just because someone is in a leadership position does not mean that they’ve received leadership training or support. This makes a huge difference. Most high-level managers and executives do receive training, but your boss may or may not have.  So again, another reason not to immediately take it personally when you are having trouble with your boss.

And lastly, try talking with them privately. I know this thought scares you, but the alternative is for things to stay the same. Which scares you more? Treat it as a personal growth opportunity for you in how to handle conflict and difficult people. When you're talking with them, acknowledge their strengths and support them. I know you think they are supposed to do that for you, and they are. But sometimes you have to manage up, as they say. And what if no one is praising or thanking them? Maybe they never hear praise or validation from their boss. If it suddenly came from you, how powerful would that be?

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