Devyani was ecstatic when she got the offer letter for her dream role at her dream company. At 28, she was going to be an editor at one of the most successful publishing houses all over the world. She could stay in this job forever, she told her parents, who were thrilled that their millennial daughter would finally stop job-hopping. Six months and two panic attacks later, Devyani is on anxiety medication. Every Saturday morning, she visits her therapist who is helping her cope with the loss of what she thought this job could be for her. ‘I am learning what a bad boss can do to your mental health, and your personal life!’ She tells me. ‘It’s so f*&ked up! She [my boss] makes me feel stupid and incapable. For months I thought I was actually dumb and I didn’t know what I was doing. But it’s not me. It’s her. Nothing will make her happy. I just don’t know what to do now because it’s a great company. But what do I do with the brand name when I have such a bad boss?’
While the popular idea that people leave bad bosses, not bad companies, is not entirely true, a bad boss can impact one’s productivity, motivation level, mental and physical health and even personal life. So, if you are otherwise not prone to frequent headaches, mood swings, anxiety or phases of low motivation, but have been experiencing these since you joined a new job or got a new boss, you may want to examine if the reason your boss!
No boss or workplace is perfect. No matter where you work, there will be some amount of stress, disagreement, and pressure. But, a good boss and a healthy workplace will not make you feel like sh*t. You may have bad days, but if you feel terrible about yourself all the time at work, consider these telltale signs of a bad boss:
Many people find it difficult to delegate. This is especially true in the startup culture where many founders and bosses are too close to their work. It’s one thing to know everything that’s happening in one’s company, but if your boss dictates everything that should happen, then they want secretaries. They want someone to hand over a task list to. Now, if you want that kind of a role, that’s fine. But if you are in a field where you should grow intellectually, know that that’s not going to happen with a boss like this!
Being hypercritical about everything you do
Nothing is ever good enough for your boss? Again, it’s not you. It’s them! There’s a fine line between pushing an employee to do better, and treating everything an employee does, like it’s garbage. If an employee feel incompetent at everything, that’s a telltale sign of a hypercritical boss.
Taking the credit for someone else’s work
In some industries, this is common practice. The boss makes the juniors do all the work, and when it comes to giving due credit, they never acknowledge the hard work put in by their team. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there are bosses who will listen to ideas from them team members, trash them, and two days later, suggest the same ideas as their own!
Not honouring your personal time
During the lockdown, we completely lost any semblance of work-life balance. With work from home being thrust upon us without any preparation, the concept of office hours went out the window. The attitude was: We’re all home. We can’t step out. Nobody is hosting dinners or any such. So, you should be able to work any time. Many ended up working late nights and weekends.
The lockdown was an unprecedented situation, but even so, was it okay for bosses to call their employees at 10 PM on a Sunday night?
Let’s be forgiving and assume that nobody knew, or knows, what’s the right thing to do during a pandemic. Nonetheless, there are bosses who don’t respect personal boundaries. They’ll send emails late at night, expecting a response before dawn. They’ll expect you to work weekends and on holidays, and promote this toxic belief that productivity is equal to the number of hours you spend at the office.
In India, this is a cultural problem as much as it is an individual problem. That said, you will find many bosses who’ll not bother you once you’ve left the office.
Not building on your strengths
A good boss knows how to bring out the best in each of their employees. They will hire wisely, and delegate deftly. Focusing on the strengths of employees is beneficial for the boss as well. A high-performing team is the backbone of a company. This is where company growth happens. And as a boss one should be able to trust their team. This can only happen if one is certain that the team members will do a good job. How does a boss ensure this? By building on the strengths of the employees.
Not having a clear focus
This is the bane of the start-up culture we currently live in. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and nab funding for their brilliant start-up idea. But, too many people have very little focus. The growth of a company depends on laser-sharp focus on things that are working. While experimentation is good, without focus, the team will be in disarray.
Thinking they are always right
A good boss strikes a balance between holding their seat of authority and giving enough space for new ideas. But a boss who thinks they know best is problematic for everyone. If employees are constantly told they’re wrong, after a point, they will stop trying. They will stop giving new ideas, or speaking up, for the fear of being told off.
Nobody is getting anywhere with an attitude like this!
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87