Unmasking the Culture-Killing Leader

April 25, 2019
MRA Edge
Conflict Management
Leadership & Management & Supervision
Read time: 5 mins

A breaking point—we all have one. What’s yours when it comes to working for an inadequate boss? Is it being micromanaged? Dealing with a bad attitude? How about less than stellar communication skills? Simply put, there are some poor leadership behaviors that outweigh an awesome workplace full of fun people, or being employed where the pay and benefits are great.

Not What They Seem
Many managers look professional from an outsider’s perspective, but working for them tells a different story. Everyone has stressful, bad days, but these managers routinely wreak havoc on employees’ morale and work satisfaction. Read on to learn about the top three types of culture-killing leaders, and ways to deal with them.

Manic Micromanagers
  • She’ll let you know if you’re a few minutes late and call you out if you hit the road a few minutes early.
  • She needs to be copied on every email you send.
  • You make a decision? Not likely.
  • She’ll take credit for your work.
  • Her approach is the only/best way to get the job done.
  • So many unnecessary meetings (where she really likes to hear herself talk).
  • The list goes on …

As with most bad-behaving bosses, as the problematic actions become “normal,” employees get accustomed to it, they get worn down and end up disengaging. So, how can you minimize a micromanager? Try these tactics:

  • Take a look inside. Are you doing anything to ask for such nitpicking? Make sure you’re not giving her ammunition to work with, like missing deadlines or being unprepared. It’s grounds for her to try and manage every detail, because she thinks you can’t.
  • Don’t give her the chance to micromanage. Know the tasks that she expects and get them done well ahead of time. 
  • Supply updates. Send your manager regular updates, before she has a chance to ask for them.
  • Talk about it. In some instances, micromanagers are truly unaware they are “that person.” A private sit-down to discuss her specific micromanaging tendencies may shed some light on a situation she truly doesn’t see.
Negative Nelsons

Recently we talked with William who just loved his job. He’d been there more than 10 years, loved the people, loved the work, loved that it was close to home, loved it all. He planned on retiring from there when the time came.


So imagine our surprise when we met with William again a month later and he told us he left the company. What?! He said that he did love it there, everything about it ... except his manager. His manager’s negative attitude was simply unacceptable. He thought he could deal with it because everything else was so great, but he couldn’t. So he left.

A leader’s bad attitude permeates everything at work, there’s no escaping it. According to your manager, nothing is good enough, and there’s never any praise. But the blaming and mistrust is plentiful. Here are some suggestions for combating a boss with an atrocious attitude:

  • Take notes for a few weeks. Write down what he said, when and where he said it and if the negativity towards you was in front of anyone else. With this information you have a few options:
    • Talk to your boss about what you’ve documented.
    • If it’s easier, send him an email detailing what you’ve experienced.
    • If those aren’t routes you’d like to take, talk with HR or your boss’s supervisor, supplying details of what you’ve been dealing with.
  • Identify what triggers his meltdowns and be absolutely sure to avoid them. If your boss wigs out when you aren’t back from lunch by 1 p.m., make it a must to be back by 12:50 p.m. every day.
  • Your last resort is unfortunately to “pull a William” and find work elsewhere. Life is too short to waste it dealing with a culture-killing leader.
Cringe-Worthy Communicators

After a rant, instead of apologizing, a cringe-worthy communicator will say, “Mike can take it, I’m just venting.” This kind of leader doesn’t care if he comes across as rude and disrespectful … he is the boss, after all.


Here, there’s no relationship building, no emotional intelligence, but there is a major lack of awareness. Without real relationships, bad communicators don’t make the connection of how their words impact the company’s employee retention, culture, and engagement (or a lack thereof).

If how this leader communicates drives people away, it sends a dangerous ripple effect throughout the entire company. And employees who leave take with them their business knowledge, which is not easily replaced. What to do?

  • In this scenario, you probably shouldn’t try to talk it out with your boss (let’s call him Frank), that will only fuel Frank’s fire. However, if you deliver polite statements in a composed voice with no emotion, chances are you won’t send him into a rage of fury:
    • “Frank, can we please keep our conversations professional?” (Frank won’t dispute wanting to raise the level of professionalism at work.)
    • “Frank, I don't think it helps the company’s appearance when you swear at me in front of the customers.” (Frank can’t really argue wanting to put the company’s best foot forward.)
  • Find a team member to confide in, someone who has worked with Frank, or even better, someone who has worked for him. Suggestions from a person who’s walked in your shoes could help you figure out how to survive this situation.

A company’s culture isn’t worth the piece of paper it’s written on if your leader is crumpling it. When a bad boss is aboard, employees feel browbeaten and defeated. Taking steps to remedy your predicament may be the key to unlocking a better workplace for you, and those around you.

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