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10 ways the boss hurts morale and productivity. Bad jokes and off-color comments are two of them.

Women are deeply affected by a bad boss.

Female employees want a day off after a run in with a disrespectful, lazy, or sexist boss, according to a recent survey by British consultant, Glassdoor.

They aren’t alone. Over 1/3 of men stay home for similar reasons.

The hit to productivity isn’t lost on companies spending billions to hire, train, and motivate employees. In the digital age, talent finding is the skill for staying ahead of the competition. When a boss is disrespectful or makes an inappropriate comment, that undoes the company’s good works.

Results show a company can pick up an easy 10–20 points of productivity by finding better bosses.

A bad boss is an untrained boss.

Employees either get management training in a one size fits all box, or not at all. Training budgets are cut when the CEO is having a lousy quarter. Ask the board about management training, most directors give you a blank stare. The subject rarely comes up — except at training powerhouses like General Electric and Google.

Lack of supervisory skill is compounded by the ways companies choose managers. Someone is good at sales so naturally they are promoted to running the department.

Few are born leaders. More often, supervisory skills are left to the manager’s discretion or they channel their parenting experiences. This is a recipe for making sure your company is a petri dish for all 10 bad habits.

When it comes to gender, it can be particularly troublesome. Bad boss behavior has a pronounced effect on women. The case of Roger Ailes and Fox isn’t the only instance of a company welcoming women at the front door and escorting them to the exits after they join.

Millennials need a new kind of boss.

The problem is worse once you factor in changing values of young millennials. Companies spend hugely to build highly collaborative, inclusive, diverse and skilled workforces. Then they risk their most valuable asset by leaving them in the hands of poor supervisors.

This shouldn’t be so difficult. We know what motivates people to do their best work. There are excellent tests and feedback mechanisms that give companies insight into changes needed in the corporate culture.

That means companies should rethink how they find and train supervisors, first of all. Then follow up with consistent testing, and train again and again, until the managerial machine is working. When the findings show employees like the managers as much as the company, the problem is solved.

Some of the highlights:

Most employees rated their boss lower than the company. It means someone is doing a good job at the top, but the message isn’t getting to the supervisors.

The most common employee pet peeve is being treated in a ‘disrespectful’ manner. This happens when the boss ignores an employee, takes credit for their work, or treats them in a juvenile fashion.

Disappointingly, for our more inclusive age, “sexist comments” occur with alarming regularity. As many as four percent encounter workplace racist comments and 10 percent felt they were subjected to “inappropriate humor.”

How employees reacted to bad boss behaviors suggests companies have a lot of work to do. Starting with better and more anonymous feedback mechanisms is step #1.

Here are some additional insights:

  • 40% ignore bad bosses.
  • 12% confront the boss.
  • 5% try to get them fired.
  • More men (17%) go over the bosses head than women (13%).
  • 46% of women and 34% of men miss work due to a leader’s behavior.
  • 21% resign and 20% took a leave of absence.
  • 2% left the company without resigning.
  • 5% called a helpline.
  • 15% of women asked for a transfer within the company and 13% of men.

In the good news category, body odor was mentioned as a factor in 4% of the cases. So we have at least one bad habit with an obvious solution. Leave a box of deodorant on the boss’ desk and there are only nine problems left.


Here are some Vox interviews of UK employees talking about their experiences.

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Author’s Bio

Jeff Cunningham is an advocate for enlightened global leadership, which he calls the most valuable natural resource in the world.

He is a Professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and was the former publisher of Forbes Magazine, startup founder, digital content CEO, and ran an internet venture capital fund.

He travels the globe in search of iconic leaders. As an interviewer/host, he created a YouTube interview series, Iconic Voices, now co-produced by @Thunderbird, featuring mega moguls from Warren Buffett to Jeff Immelt. His articles on leadership have been featured in the Arizona Republic, LinkedIn and Medium via JeffCunningham.com.

His career experience includes publisher of Forbes Magazine; founder of Directorship Magazine; CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk), Myway.com, and CareerTrack.com; venture partner with Schroders. He serves as a trustee of the McCain Institute and previously as a trustee of CSIS and Middle East Institute, and as an advisor to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

He has also been a board director of 10 public companies.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Thunderbird School of Global Management or Arizona State University as a whole.