Bad jobs or bad managers? How to stop good people leaving your workplace

You’ve heard the saying. “People don’t leave bad jobs (or companies). They leave bad managers.”

If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you’ve probably experienced a bad manager. A recent poll found more than two in five of us have left a job because of a bad manager. In the past, having a bad manager could’ve just been viewed as one of those things. But in today’s environment, having bad managers comes at a high cost to your business and the health of your employees.

This article explores these and what organisations can do to prevent bad managers.

What are the traits of a bad manager?

In the same poll, respondents listed the following:

  • Failure to listen
  • Being unapproachable
  • Treating members of the team differently
  • Shouting at the team.

Each of these could be treated as a minor annoyance if taken as a one-off incident. But imagine if these are consistent daily behaviours. It wouldn’t take long for a toxic culture to spread through the team, becoming a serious issue.

The costs of a bad boss

Cost to business

When an employee leaves, usually, they must be replaced. The cost of finding a new staff member has increased by $10k over the previous year and now sits at an average of $23,000 per candidate.

It’s not just the sole recruitment cost. Often there is an upward salary creep and additional benefits offered to attract new employees. Sign-on bonuses are also increasingly prevalent in a tight talent market.

Consider, too, the lost productivity of an existing team.
Burnout, stress and dropping the ball are caused by covering vacant roles alongside their own.
Hiring managers time to read and screen resumes, interview candidates or check references.
Onboarding and training of the successful candidate.

Throw in the loss of institutional knowledge, skills, experience, customer relationships and intellectual property when employees depart, and it’s clear losing a good staff member is something businesses should avoid.

Risk of reputation

Companies go to great lengths to protect their reputation, but with sites that allow employees to rate their experiences, it’s much harder to hide dodgy behaviour. If they have one or two bad managers, maybe their reputation can stay unblemished. But multiple bad managers will see the entire organisation tarred with the toxic culture brush. Meaning they will struggle to attract talent and even customers.

Risk of complaints and claims

Psychosocial hazards are a work health and safety matter, which means a person conducting a business or undertaking must eliminate psychosocial risks or, if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable.

Bad boss behaviours, such as bullying, harassment, constant criticism, discrimination, and violence, harm employees’ mental and physical well-being but also have significant financial consequences. It is estimated that workplace bullying costs Australian businesses around $6 billion annually. And mental health conditions have risen from 6.2% of all serious claims in 2014-15 to 9.3% in 2020-21.


The largest share of mental health conditions related to anxiety or stress disorders (36%) or reaction to stressors – other, multiple or not specified (34%). It’s not just mental health that can suffer – bad management is proven to be hazardous to your physical health too.

Bad bosses contribute to heart attacks

A 10-year study concluded that employees with a toxic boss are 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition.

Continual exposure to these four manager behaviours was shown to contribute to serious health issues:

  • Incompetence.
  • Inconsiderate.
  • Secretive.
  • Uncommunicative.

What organisations can do to prevent bad bosses

It is common for someone to be promoted to a management position because they have the most experience or institutional knowledge. However, in my experience, this often holds more weight than it should because people management is the most significant component of being a boss. The difference between a team thriving or surviving is how effective you are at this.

Conflict resolution training equips managers with a toolkit that helps them utilise EQ skills to connect and collaborate, especially in tough situations.

The power of in-person workshops is such that it only takes a few hours for people to come away enlightened and confident they can:

  • Engage with other colleagues to help them tackle difficult conversations.
  • Extinguish, identify and manage potential conflicts before they become disputes.
  • Deliver performance feedback without the fear of bullying accusations.
  • Communicate effectively.

Contact me today if you need help with a bad boss (or two). Call 02 8036 5558 or email: