50% of people have quit because of a bad manager—here are the 10 boss behaviors workers hate most

Wilhelmina Slater, a character on the popular TV show Ugly Betty, fits the description of a toxic boss as she'll willingly sabotage the careers of those who work for her in order to get what she wants.
David Giesbrecht | Disney ABC Television Group | Getty Images

It's a common adage that people leave managers, not companies. Many employees have found themselves in this situation at some point: the projects are engaging and your coworkers are great, but your relationship with your boss leaves you longing for 5 p.m.

A Gallup study of more than 7,000 U.S. adults found that 50 percent of people leave a job to get away from their manager in order to improve their overall life at some point in their career. The same study found that for most workers, managers fall somewhat short when it comes to developing their employees' strengths, providing consistent feedback and establishing clear performance goals.

But workers also often deal with far more toxic behavior from their bosses than those three issues — and when that happens, it sends them running to job sites immediately.

So what manager behaviors provoke the ire of employees most?

The cardinal sin, according to their subordinates, is playing favorites. That's according to a survey of more than 800 employees conducted by, a company that creates customized signage and presentation materials. While 82 percent of men deemed this habit unacceptable, women took greater offense, with 92 percent calling it out (likely because they more frequently experience latent and explicit discrimination at work that keeps them on the outside of such privileged circles.)

Workers were also keen to leave bullying in the schoolyard. Bosses who made informal threats to fire employees were deemed just as bad as those who selected favorites by men, with 82 percent saying this habit was unacceptable. Slightly more woman, 84 percent, agreed.

Bosses who abuse their position to gain monetary or sexual rewards are also deeply disliked. Almost 80 percent of men and 85 percent of women disapproved of managers who used the company expense accounts to pay for non-work personal expenses.

More than 80 percent of men and women felt any romantic advances a manager made toward colleagues was unacceptable — perhaps a sign that movements like #MeToo are causing all workers to reflect on how workplace power dynamics can influence sexual misconduct.

Perhaps a little shocking, though, was that women still rated bosses' romantic advances more acceptable than other behaviors, such as mentioning an employee's poor job performance in front of their other coworkers or taking credit for others' work.

Time management was another problem area for managers. Those with packed schedules or who are prone to overrun set meeting times might want to build in some extra wiggle room. Three-quarters of men and 81 percent of women objected to their bosses canceling meetings on short notice, and general tardiness upset 77 percent of men and 79 percent of women, maybe because such habits signal that employee's time and input aren't priorities.

Slightly less offensive behaviors concerned choices typically made by managers outside office hours, such as their general hygiene and alcohol usage.

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