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The horrible boss never praises, only criticizes

horrible bossIf you’ve ever watched the movie The Devil Wears Prada then you likely know what I mean when I talk about the “boss from hell.  In the past, I’ve identified the common traits that characterize horrible bosses.  Here are two – hell-ish bosses don’t see their employees as real people (only pawns on a chessboard), and they overwork them, sometimes to the point of loss in productivity.  Here is another horrible boss characteristic to add to the list – they only recognize bad performance, never good, or god forbid, exceptional!

Quick to criticize, but slow (if at all) to praise

These are the managers who are stridently vocal when things go wrong.  And it usually doesn’t take much to set the horrible boss off on a tirade.  The smallest slip-up, the tiniest error, the marginal delay, all get them riled up and into a tizzy.  They are known to loudly berate and belittle, often with an audience.  In many ways, it’s as if the temper tantrum builds up their self-esteem.  But when things go well, or extraordinarily well, they’re nowhere to be seen (unless of course it’s to take the credit).  More often than not, a “thank you” or a pat on the shoulder is far from forthcoming; in fact, you’d be lucky to get any sort of positive acknowledgement at all.

In some of my candid conversations with horrible bosses who have this common characteristic, the reason they’ve given me is that good work is a baseline expectation, so there is no reason to recognize and praise it.  Wrong!  For the record, everyone values being appreciated for a job well done, even if it’s just a simple thank you.

So do you have experience with a horrible boss?  What characteristics have you observed?  Please share.


  • I have also heard a boss say that they do not want to recognize extraordinary work as it may affect the morale of the team – isolating one individual over the others – not sure I agree as most teams will recognize strong individual performance within the team.

    • I too have heard this (or something similar to this) statement, and it drives me absolutely nuts Maureen! This is managing to the lowest common denominator! “I don’t want to praise someone because it might upset someone else.” How about you just praise generously whenever and wherever you can and stop worrying about how “someone” might get their nose out of joint. I’m with you Maureen, I think that when praise is generous (and genuine), there is plenty of it to go around, and most employees appreciate it greatly.


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