Here's exactly why most of us hate our manager.

Everyone has a 'bad boss' experience. You can recall one already, can’t you?

Well, I've been one. I've been managing people since I was 24 years old. I sucked at it, quit, then tried again later, sucked again, and quit again. 

They say third time's the charm, and they were right—I think I finally got it mostly right. Just as well, really, as I’m now Australia's leading authority on middle management—and I reckon that’s down to paying as much attention to what we leaders do wrong as what we do right.

There are eight bosses we all love to hate (and I’ve been three of them), and these are the reasons most people hate them.

The Jellyfish.

Called the Jellyfish for their complete lack of backbone—or any structure at all—they climbed the corporate ladder by mastering the art of saying yes and sucking up. Being a 'yes man'—or how about a 'yes woman'?—might have got them there, but it won't keep them afloat for long. The Jellyfish can't keep up with the workload or control the pace of work. If they're involved, expect your to-do list to be perpetually long, leading straight to burnout.

You'll hate your Jellyfish boss because:

  • The goalposts are constantly moving—and they can't tell you why. They never ask; they just say yes.

  • Their default response is always "Sure, why not?" without considering existing workloads.

  • They are too busy being sycophants to their superiors to realise the pressure they and their team are under. As a result, they micromanage, making your workday even more frustrating.

  • They'll say 'things will quiet down soon,' but the reality is they'll keep piling on tasks because they're afraid to confront their own incompetence.

The Dirty Politician.

Ah, the upwardly mobile manager, hey? Obsessed with how they look to the 'higher-ups' they are the masters of greasy-pole climbing and positioning. To them, their team is a stepping stone, and their colleagues mere hurdles to leap over—or trample on, depending on the day. I once had a boss who was an outright bully to her teams, had a pattern of formal complaints against her, and somehow she was still the shining star, getting promotion after promotion. Absolutely baffling!

You'll hate your Dirty Politician boss because:

  • They claim your work as their own and don't give you credit.

  • They throw their staff under the bus rather than take responsibility for a mistake.

  • They jealously guard access to the Executive—gatekeeping and filtering to keep you out of the club, and let themselves in—using your work as the front door key. You'll sometimes see these leaders drop the author out of an email thread to gradually assert responsibility for something that's going well.

  • They spend 90 per cent of their week just getting across the work of their team so they can brief the CEO, but they don't bring any strategic ideas or additional value to the mix.

  • They'll give you empty promises and endless 'politician speak' when all you really want is honesty, transparency, and a whiff of integrity.

Watch: What horrible bosses in the past have made us do. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

The Pushy MoFo.

These managers convince themselves they are championing their team’s success, justifying their relentless pushing. Problem is, they've misplaced the off switch. Even elite athletes know to conserve energy for the big game, but not the Pushy MoFo. They demand 120 per cent at all times, with nothing left for emergencies. Newsflash: 120 per cent isn't a thing. Our maximum effort tops out at 100 per cent, no matter how you slice it. I should know; I was definitely a pushy MoFo.

You'll hate your Pushy MoFo boss because:

  • They send an email and then immediately walk over to interrupt and check if you got the email so they can explain what they meant in the email.

  • They say things like "I expect 120 per cent from you" (resist pointing out that the 'math ain’t mathing', as the young people say).

  • They don't listen to good ideas; once they think they know what to do, they just want to GO.

  • They'll say things like "you just need to work smarter, not harder," with complete disregard for the fact that they're the ones creating an environment where working smarter becomes nearly impossible.

The Phoney/

This is my least loved leader. They preach about their amazing leadership and their utopian workplace, while behind the scenes, it's more like 'Survivor' but without the prize money. I once worked at a place famous for winning awards left and right, and boasting an enviable reputation, but internally everyone was walking on eggshells, dodging the boss's verbal and physical hand-grenades (her mobile phone and my head met often - yes, really). 

Phoney bosses are often a tad narcissistic, convinced they're the embodiment of perfect leadership—because, hey, if they say it, it's got to be true, right? But put in the actual work to back up their claims? Ha! Absolutely not. The Phoney boss is the master of smoke and mirrors, leaving their teams to navigate a workplace straight out of a reality TV show. Welcome to the jungle, where survival of the fittest means dodging the boss' phoney mind games and praying for a glimpse of genuine leadership.


You’ll hate your Phoney boss because: 

  • To the public, they say they are passionate about mental health, but behind the scenes, they are a nightmare to work for with endless, unreasonable demands.

  • They're all talk on LinkedIn about "best practice," "high-performing teams," and “culture," but their actions in the workplace tell a different story.

  • They go through three executive assistants in a year.

  • They say one thing and do another—like "I'm going to stay really close to this project," and then never make a single meeting.

The Dictator.

Some bosses go into leadership for the thrill of a power trip and turn into a full-blown tyrant overnight. Newbies often get drunk with that first rush of power, using it like a weapon rather than a responsibility. But beware the experienced leader: when they flex their power muscles, they can test your loyalty and limits in ways that make your skin crawl. These modern-day dictators often dream of their own empires of terror, and no one would blame you for hoping for their dramatic downfall! If your boss loves a good power trip more than a productive meeting, you've got yourself a dictator. 

Here are some clues:

  • They give unrealistic deadlines all the time—like 8am when it’s 6pm already, or 9am Monday at 4pm on Friday. Whatever reason they give you, it comes down to this: even while you're out of the office, they control you.

  • You ask for a day off and they say no; they need you in the office that day, but during that day—oddly, there's nothing for you to do and they are nowhere to be seen.

  • Like every good Dictator, they have an inbuilt secret service that monitors your every move. Like the manager who ensures their team's emails are auto-forwarded to her (yes, this happens!) or the leader who calls you 20 minutes after your flight lands to say 'you should be in the office by now'. God forbid you need a toilet break!

  • In subtle and not so subtle ways—like micromanaging your tasks or excluding you from important decisions—they'll undermine your power and authority.

The Hero.

If horses were allowed in the office, this manager would be riding a white steed to an epic soundtrack. They're unmatched, lightning-fast, and work around the clock. What a marvel! They're a one-man(ager) show, swooping in to save the day, every day. But the thing about swooping in to save the day is that you actually end up shitting all over everyone else's efforts. While the Hero boss plays superhero, the team watches from the sidelines, feeling overshadowed and undervalued. What's the point of a team if one person does it all? 

Listen: Four Ways To Be A Better Leader. Post continues after podcast.

You’ll hate your Hero (in their own head) boss because:

  • They cause bottlenecks with their need to sign off everything 'to their standards' but don't actually have time for it.

  • Claim everything is broken so they can herald a 'new dawn', forgetting that you all put your blood, sweat, and tears into the ‘old dawn’ thanks very much.

  • They work like maniacs to 'save the day' and are permanently, somewhat proudly, in burnout—such sacrifice!

  • They feel that everything needs to be fixed—instead of letting other people do it, or letting it remain unfixed as it's not a priority.

  • They love the sound of their own voice and will dominate meetings, leaving everyone else feeling like background noise.

The Gossip.

This boss is a walking, talking gossip mag. They know everything about everyone: who's dating who, who ate the last donut, and why Jimmy doesn’t like Brad anymore. Why they are able to continue gathering gossip when they are so loose-lipped has been a mystery to me my whole life. But they have a canny knack of getting information out of you, and another knack of spreading it around faster than you can say 'confidential'. Their meetings may start with a week-in-progress report, but inevitably end in the juicy detail of personal information. And what's worse is that they'll gossip under the guise of 'caring' about the people at the centre of the gossip, all the while fueling drama and mistrust among the team.


You'll hate your gossip boss because:

  • They share their current feud with a peer and try to recruit you to cold-shoulder them and undermine them in meetings. Yuck.

  • They're always up-to-date with the latest gossip and relish in fanning the flames, often masquerading their actions as "caring" about the people involved.

  • They share information about your peers that should be confidential, like salaries, who's on performance, who's having a secret office affair, and who's looking for another job. And be warned: if they are talking about others to you, you can bet they are also talking about you.

  • They ask for advice on who they are dating—even if that's (often) a work colleague. (Yes, really.)

The Houdini.

I once had a friend, in a leadership role, who confessed to me that sometimes they would put their jacket on the back of the chair and then head home for some sleep, knowing that people would think they were in a meeting somewhere and would be back at their desk soon. This disappearing act drives high performers mad because when they need a quick word, their boss is nowhere to be found. We've all experienced this Houdini of leaders: they are never where they should be, they’re a master of delegation, and they confuse empowerment with outright neglect.

You'll hate your Houdini boss because:

  • They dial into team meetings (even when they’ve pushed the team to attend in-person).

  • They go AWOL during work hours and you can't contact them. 

  • You have a recurring 1:1 and they don't turn up. It's infuriating.

  • They are engaged and in touch one minute, and then they ghost you the next, leaving you feeling frustrated and unsupported.

So, if you're one of these bosses, watch out. Your people may let these things go once, twice, maybe three times. But sooner or later, they're going to get sick of it. Figuring out what kind of leader you don't want to be is just as crucial as knowing what kind of leader you want to be. 

After all, nobody wants to be the boss people love to hate.

Rebecca Houghton is the founder of BoldHR and a middle management expert. She is the author of Impact: 10 Ways to Level up your Leadership, and the leader of the community.

Feature Image: Canva.