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9 Ways Toxic Managers Drive Away Your Company’s Top Talent

Every Sunday night I felt like I was going to puke. The thought of going in to work the next day on Monday morning was enough to give me anxiety to the point where I felt nauseous. You see, I was dealing with an abusive micro-managing boss and a corporate culture that enabled this type of management style.

In the short time I was there, I witnessed over ten employees leave. The high turnover costs put the company in the red for the market.

This individual drove everybody out until the company had to close the regional office because everyone quit or was fired by this tyrannical psycho. Closing the office meant pulling out of the market completely.

Onboarding a new employee is expensive. Some analysts estimate the cost to be as much as six months of the individual’s salary.

I quit after being there for just six months — only days after being recognized as the region’s top new sales professional.

Even after several people complained to HR, and one individual recorded a meeting in which he was verbally assaulted and threatened, there was no action taken to resolve the issues.

Study after study shows that the number one reason people quit their job is due to a bad boss.

In spite of that being a nasty career experience, I learned some valuable lessons about what not to do in management. Here are the traits that my former manager exemplified that led to the mass exodus of employees and then to the shutdown of the regional office.

1) Create office politics

A bad manager’s motivational tactic is to threaten people’s jobs. A leader should be the teacher and find ways to help people improve. Managing by fear makes employees resent the company.

The first chance they get they will jump ship. My old boss locked the back door, so we had to pass by his office every time we left the building so he could keep tabs on us. These types of passive-aggressive behaviors show a lack of trust and respect.

This manager pitted his people against one another. He told one person one thing that someone said and then told the other person that the same thing was being said about them.

Office politics kills morale, and leaders should be doing things to prevent it, not perpetuate it. Don’t be vindictive like my boss was. Help create a positive environment where people want to come to every day.

2) Extreme micro-management

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Be a leader, someone that your employees admire, rather than trying to control them at the micro-level.

Inspire by leading by example with your work ethic, integrity, and by treating both employees and customers with respect.

3) Lie to customers

I caught my ex-boss lying to customers on more than one occasion. Additionally, in a meeting with a CFO of a local company, he was so mean and rude that she actually threw the company’s proposal across the table at him.

Then she kicked us out of her office, said she would never do business with us, and told us not to come back. Yes, this was the low point of my career.

4) Air dirty laundry at the office

My former manager was always telling us about the drama that was happening at his house between himself and his wife. Imagine that: His wife didn’t like him either. It made everyone uncomfortable, and they resented him more and trusted him less.

5) Criticize instead of coaching

We caught him watching YouTube videos all the time in his office. Then at the next meeting, he would take every chance he could get to tell us all how worthless we all were and that we weren’t working hard enough.

Bad managers fail to develop their employees’ skills.

6) Use an abrasive communication style

He used to curse during meetings at employees and use public humiliation to put people down. Nobody deserves to be verbally abused at work. The HR department should protect the employees from this style of management.

However, in this case, and in others I’ve heard about, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. If abrasive communication is common by the leaders in your company and accepted practice, expect to have a high turnover rate.

7) Act arrogantly and show no humility

Nobody likes someone who is a know-it-all and can do no wrong. A great boss never takes all the credit when things go right and never passes all the blame when things go wrong.

Have you ever had that pit in your stomach develop on Sunday just from the thought that Monday is only a day away, and you know you have to go back to work? Well, I am glad I don’t have it anymore. That place is my rearview mirror.

8) Silence your employees’ voices

Nothing makes people’s self-worth at work decline faster than taking away their voice and ability to feel like they’re being heard.

9) Hire from the “Good Ole Boys’ Club”

When managers hire their friends from outside the company who are less qualified than the most qualified internal candidate, it drives away your talent.

While this experience rocked me to the core, tested my inner-resolve, and brought me to new career lows I could have never imagined, I learned and grew from it. I am a better leader myself because of seeing the effects of what poor management can do to a company.

About the author:

John White is the founder of Social Marketing Solutions. He is also a contributor for Inc. Magazine and Influencive.

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1 comment

What a great article! Unfortunately in my career history, I had some pretty nice positions at some pretty fantastic companies…and I ended up leaving due to bad direct management and/or lack of HR or upper management addressing these issues. Thankfully I am in a position now with supportive and fair leadership and it really makes a world of difference!

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