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6 common complaints workers have about their bosses

Anyone who’s been in the workforce even a short period of time is likely to have encountered a difficult supervisor or two. Personalities often clash in the workplace, and the added dynamic of having to report to someone can introduce tensions and disagreement. Or some bosses are disorganized or inept at leading a team.

There are many reasons why employees get frustrated with their direct superiors. Here are some top complaints workers have about their bosses.


This is a very common dynamic in the workplace–a supervisor who is too hands-on and doesn’t give direct reports enough freedom to experiment and take ownership of their work. The micromanager isn’t comfortable giving employees space to be independent and feels they have to review every single task a worker completes.

This complaint comes up frequently on teams because micromanagers tend to suffocate workers and even undermine their confidence in taking responsibility. Micromanagers tend to see higher turnover on their teams as a result of this management style. No one likes to be constantly second-guessed, and independent work and personal accountability build confidence.

While it’s important for managers to ensure their teams are performing to expectations, once an employee is fully trained, they should be encouraged to operate independently and seek opportunities to grow.

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No work-life balance

Some bosses are unpopular because they demand employees be unofficially on call and available to answer emails and work overtime, even after hours or on weekends. This type of boss pressures employees to work longer than an eight-hour day, and fosters a culture that discourages people from taking breaks or going home at a reasonable hour.

This management style causes burnout on teams because people aren’t given adequate time to recharge and feel they need to be ‘always on’ to succeed at work. Such bosses aren’t respecting non-working hours when they send instant messages and emails, creating the expectation that employees should be responsive even when they aren’t in the office.

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Too hands-off

This type of boss is the opposite of a micromanager. They rarely if ever provide feedback, are rarely seen, and may give the impression they either don’t care or are too distracted or focused on other matters to pay attention to the performance of employees.

The risk to employees of this type of manager is not knowing how well they are performing. Regular feedback is very important in the workplace. It creates a loop of communication and demonstrates to the employee how well they are doing, and any adjustments they need to make.

A non-responsive boss also isn’t conveying a broader vision and expectation for a team or business unit. By remaining quiet and disconnected, they miss opportunities to guide and lead their employees, and indirectly suggest that their team’s work isn’t valuable to them. This can lead to feelings of discouragement on teams.

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Changing course

It’s very disruptive to work in an environment where expectations and assignments constantly change, often without warning. It’s said that adjusting to a new position can take up to a year. That adjustment may never fully happen when strategies keep shifting and people don’t have an opportunity to truly get a handle on their current projects.

This management style conveys a lack of focus and business strategy, and creates a disjointed atmosphere that causes frustration and confusion on teams.

Constantly critical

Rather than praise, motivate, and gently guide, this type of boss always finds fault in every task. They are negative and are apparently never satisfied. They don’t know how to deliver constructive feedback, never give praise, and instead nitpick everything.

While it’s essential to highlight areas of improvement and provide detailed feedback to employees, diplomacy and encouragement should accompany any performance conversations. Constant negativity in the workplace is contagious and causes deeper discontent beyond one team.

Frequent flyer

Some bosses are notorious for transferring from position to position, rarely staying on one team at a time. They are like apparitions, here one day and gone a matter of weeks or months later. Or they switch companies every year and hop from job to job.

The downside of this mobile boss is that employees miss out on a sustained period of leadership, and don’t even have the same boss to comment on their performance come review time. While these bosses are always trying to look for the next best thing, they overlook the damage this can do to their direct reports.

There are other reasons why employees complain about their bosses, but these are some of the most common complaints heard at workplaces.

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Jennifer Lindahl
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jennifer Lindahl is an experienced writer and editor with two decades of experience in journalism, public policy, and B2B…
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