Hate Your Boss? 5 Worst Employee Complaints About Managers

Michael Scott, boss of The Office

Michael Scott, in one of his bad boss moments | Source: NBC

When it comes to a terrible job, there can be a lot of factors at play. Sometimes it’s the work environment itself, and other times the pay just isn’t up to par with what you expect. In other cases, enjoying your job can have a lot to do with the supervisor you work for. And when your manager has the attention span of Michael Scott from The Office or the people skills of Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, you might have a lot to complain about.

If you feel like your career is wasting away before your eyes under the control of a bad boss, you’re not alone. A 2015 Gallup survey of 7,200 working adults found that 50% of people who left their jobs did so to rid themselves of a subpar supervisor. According to further analysis by The Wall Street Journal, poor managers can often contribute to decreased engagement on the job.

You might take comfort in the fact that many complaints employees have about their bosses echo one another. In many cases, the complaints are very similar across the board. However, the glass-half-empty perspective is that you’re likely to run into these issues at multiple companies, not just your own. So, what are some of the most common complaints employees have? Let’s take a closer look at the five worst complaints.

1. Bosses have no communication skills

Woman holds her hand near ear

Woman trying to listen | Source: iStock

Sure, your manager can call five meetings a week when one email would have sufficed. But when it comes to actual, helpful communication, many employees find their supervisors wanting. “Poor communication is a big problem in the workplace,” Tonya Slawinski, president of Supportive Solutions, a crisis response service for businesses, told the National Business Research Institute (NBRI).

The Harvard Business Review broke down what employees actually mean when they say their boss is terrible at communicating with them. Not recognizing employee achievements, failing to give clear directions, and not making time to meet with their subordinates were the top three complaints employees had, according to the publication’s poll of 1,000 workers.

While communication can falter at even the best of companies, it should be a top priority for bosses, especially if they want their employees to buy into their long-term goals. “Employees generally have a high tolerance for change if kept in the loop. When communication breaks down, rumors run rampant and will directly impact productivity, focus and ultimately the finances of the company,” Slawinski said.

2. They show favoritism

man circling a social network icon on a screen

Favoritism | Source: iStock

It’s easy to reap the rewards of being a teacher’s pet or earning the favoritism of your manager. But when it comes to being on the other side of that equation, it’s a major issue for many employees. No one likes to feel like they’re being cast aside based on factors other than merit. Unfortunately with workplace favoritism, merit can have little (if anything) to do with currying favor with the boss.

“When ‘who you know’ becomes a blatant reason for advancement or preferential treatment, employees often find it tough to swallow this bitter pill,” Jan Stringer, a member of the American Psychological Association, wrote for the NBRI.

3. They don’t show appreciation for their employees

man sleeping on office desk

Overworked employee | Source: iStock

Employees often feel like under-appreciated workhorses, good only for how many projects they can consistently wrap up in a day’s work. One of the most telling signs of this is when managers add another assignment to your already-burdened to-do list, career coaches Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko told Inc.

When it comes to showing appreciation for hard work, simple and easy rewards can do the trick, Joe Folan, marketing manager at Atlanta-based job recruiter site Talentzoo.com, told the NBRI. “Nothing says, ‘We don’t appreciate you’ more than when your employee has worked like crazy to finish the project and you reward them by adding more to their plate,” Folan said. “You would be surprised how a half-day on Friday to begin the weekend can be greatly appreciated.”

4. They micromanage


Meeting | Source: iStock

Your list of upcoming deadlines might have been done already, had your boss not spent the past week asking for updates in emails and meetings. Micromanagement is a top complaint of many employees, Inc. reports, and can lead to serious productivity issues over time. In fact, that’s often why control-freak employees don’t make good bosses in the first place.

“The micromanager shows little trust in employees and robs them of the ability to do their job. Micromanagers usually have an obsessive-compulsive behavior and fear if they don’t stay on top of an employee, then their job is on the line,” Stringer wrote. Unfortunately, that lack of trust is communicated more clearly than any amount of praise will be — making for a wary work environment.

5. They’re overbearing

senior businessman sitting on a chair

Domineering boss | Source: iStock

This can be the worst type of boss, often because the issue is one of personality, not behaviors that can be changed easily. Having a boss who’s mean, belittling, and simply a bully is no picnic, and unfortunately it’s all too common in the workplace today. They don’t care about you, and the bottom line is more important than any work-life balance you might be hoping to establish.

Fast Company suggests trying to avoid confrontation whenever possible, by working to avoid any triggers your boss might have to send them into a raging fit. Remaining professional and documenting any cases of outright abuse are also good practices before looping in human resources, Chron advises.

Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: