Bad Boss Behaviors Rise Up to 50%; Says Five-Year Comparative Study

Seven in 10 Americans Believe Bosses & Toddlers With Too Much Power Act Alike

Oct 07, 2009, 14:00 ET from Lynn Taylor

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Report cards are out, and bad bosses are not getting very good marks, suggests a new five-year comparative study (

National surveys were conducted in 2004 and repeated in 2009 on bad and childish boss behavior, monitoring such traits as self-oriented, impulsiveness and stubbornness, and reveal increases of up to 50 percent over that period. Traits also shuffled, with "Self-oriented" moving to the top spot, far outpacing its earlier contender, "Stubborn."

The comparative study was commissioned by author and workplace expert, Lynn Taylor, CEO of Lynn Taylor Consulting, and was conducted by an independent global research firm. "In stressful times, such as a recession or a frenzied work pace, childish, bad boss behaviors are exacerbated," said Taylor. The 2004 study and other extensive research encouraged Taylor to write her newly released book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant(TM) (TOT); How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley & Sons, July 2009). The book offers tips and anecdotes on "parenting" unruly managers who resemble tots in their Terrible Twos, and advises CEOs on how to "humanize their workplace."

Trait Analysis

The trait analysis portion of the study compared toddler and boss behavior from 2004 to 2009 among 345 white-collar workers. The following chart shows "Self-oriented" catapulting to the lead in 2009, swapping places with "Stubborn" in 2004. "Overly demanding" and "Interruptive" also spiked over the five-year period.

    Boss Traits Ranked by Most Cited

    2004                              2009
    ----                              ----

    Stubborn               41%        Self-oriented               60%

    Self-oriented          40%        Stubborn                    49%

    Overly demanding       36%        Overly demanding            43%

    Impulsive, spontaneous,
    acting on sudden urges 29%        Interruptive                39%

    Interruptive           26%        Impulsive                   41%

    Throwing tantrums      19%        Throwing tantrums           19%

"Most employees endure the antics and sandbox politics when bosses let their 'inner child' run wild and wreak havoc. But this book shows readers how they can take back control in their careers and thrive even when faced with disruptive 'TOT' behaviors," Taylor says. "A what's-in-it for-us mindset must trump a what's-in-it for-me mentality among bosses and throughout the organization," she added.

Taylor views the "taming" of bad bosses as a shared responsibility and consults with organizations on building more productive, collaborative work environments.

The following chart shows traits ranked by percentage increases between 2004 and 2009.

    Traits Ranked by Largest Percentage Increases

    TRAITS                   2004  2009            Percentage Increase
    ------                   ----  ----            -------------------

    Self-oriented             40%   60%                     50%

    Interruptive              26%   39%                     50%

    Impulsive, spontaneous,
    acting on sudden urges    29%   41%                     41%

    Stubborn                  41%   49%                     20%

    Overly demanding          36%   43%                     19%

    Throwing tantrums         19%   19%               No change

Findings Among Larger Group (1005 Respondents)

  • In the same study, a broader group of 1005 Americans were asked if they believed there were "similarities between bosses with too much power and toddlers with too much power." Seven out of 10 Americans (69%) agreed.
  • At least half or more have seen a toddler or a boss being stubborn or self-oriented (72% vs. 50%) and (59% vs. 52%). In other words, they saw strong independent correlations of these traits between toddlers and bosses.

Age, Gender Differences

  • 60 percent of those 18-34 ranked bosses as overly-demanding, compared to only 36% of those age 35 and over, a difference of 24 percentage points.
  • 27 percent of males versus 19% of females viewed tantrum throwing a problem among bosses when managing employees.

The good news is, according to Taylor, that childish behaviors can be defused by understanding the causes of bad boss behavior and taking proactive steps for change.

"Employees can use empowering, time-honored humanistic techniques to remain focused and achieve positive outcomes in their work life," she said.

Traits to Watch For & Employee Tips

Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant(TM) (TOT) lists 20 of the most common frustrating boss behaviors, divided into two major categories: "Bratty" and "Little Lost Lambs." The first group includes: Stubborn, Demanding, Impulsive, Whining and others. The second group, representing less egregious traits, but nonetheless distracting and irritating, includes: Neediness, Short Attention Spans, Fickle and Endless Questioning.

Taylor believes that employees and management together can help mitigate "TOTs" running amok in the workplace. "Employees can use positive and negative reinforcement to effect change. You can always leave a job, but these skills are worth developing - and they're transferable should you inherit a TOT of another variety," she said. Taylor recommends C.A.L.M. as the best approach for creating a TOT-free environment:

  • Communicate - Frequently, honestly and regularly with your boss.
  • Anticipate - Think ahead about potential emerging problems, but have solutions ready. Know your timing and the boss's patterns.
  • Laugh - Humor is the greatest diffuser of tension and the shortest pipeline to the memory banks.
  • Manage - Manage up by being a proactive, positive problem-solver, but also set limits to bad boss behavior. Diplomatically set boundaries, offer choices and stand up for yourself.

Finally, Taylor reminds employees not to be patronizing, but that the humor in her message is designed to empower all those surrounded by childish, bad boss behavior. "Whether unruly or subversive, these behaviors are counterproductive to everyone, and hurt profits," she said.

Taylor also believes that workers must be reminded that this is their career. "It's helpful to deftly model good behavior to poorly skilled managers. Employees have invaluable skills - they own the proverbial cookie jar when they manage up," she says.

About Lynn Taylor

Lynn Taylor is a nationally recognized workplace expert and author of the newly released Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant(TM) - TOT (John Wiley & Sons, July 20, 2009). She is also the CEO of Lynn Taylor Consulting, where she provides research-based, seminars to organizations on how to establish a more productive management team and workforce. For more information, visit Lynn Taylor,, or call 1-800-454-0083.

SOURCE Lynn Taylor