Episode 94: Are You Sure You’re Not a Bad Boss?

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: November 1, 2022


Conjure up the term “bad boss,” and what comes to mind? Scenes of red-faced people berating subordinates in public. Smarmy souls taking credit for other people’s work or saying one thing and doing another and cutting remarks. Yelling. Feel free to continue — we’re sure you can. In this podcast episode, we’re digging into what really constitutes lousy behavior and if you might be entering that category.

Key Learnings

  • We analyzed the behavior of 30,000 managers, as seen through the eyes of some 300,000 of their peers, direct reports, and bosses on 360-degree evaluations; we found that the sins of the bad boss are far more often those of omission, not commission.
  • Again and again, their colleagues described bad bosses as unenthusiastic and passive. This was, in fact, the most noticeable of all their failings.
  • Bad bosses have a dim view of the future, don’t know precisely what direction to take, and are (not surprisingly) unwilling to communicate about the future, leaving their subordinates with no clear path forward.
  • Our research shows that increasing trust magnifies every other leadership competency. We also discovered that without trust, everything slows down. Trust reduces friction in the organization.

  • Fatal flaws in a bad boss are difficult to see — they’re not the kinds of flaws we instantly recognize in others or ourselves. And they’re not the kinds of things people call out since there’s nothing explicit that draws attention.

Connect with Joe Folkman


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman and join in a conversation about their latest research in leadership development. Find out more information and register here.


Are You Sure You’re Not a Bad Boss?– HBR Article by Joe Folkman and Jack Zenger