Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

Education comes in odd ways. Most of us think you can only learn from a great leader. I’m here to tell you that you can learn just as much from a bad one—maybe more.

Frustrated Businessman - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #5626007

Photo courtesy of ©

This is fortunate for me, because I’ve certainly had more bad bosses than good ones. You probably have, too. These lessons were certainly more painful, but they taught me what not to do, which is just as important as what to do.

So, just for fun, I thought I would share these lessons as positives rather than negatives. If your goal is to frustrate—or even exasperate—your employees, here are thirteen ways to do it:

  1. Don’t be responsive. Let their emails languish in your inbox. Don’t return their voice mails in a timely fashion. Let them wait. Maybe they will solve the problem on their own or simply give up.
  2. Cancel meetings at the last minute. This is especially effective if they have had to travel to the meeting or do a lot of preparation for the meeting.
  3. Reprimand them in front of their peers. This is even more dramatic if you can do it in front of their subordinates. Nothing quite says, “I don’t have confidence in you” like public ridicule.
  4. Change your mind frequently. This works best if you can get everyone excited about moving in a new direction, get them to invest lots of time, energy, and, hopefully, money, and then suddenly change direction. This works best if you don’t explain your rationale. Leave them guessing!
  5. Don’t bother stating your expectations. Instead, be vague. Go silent. Let them wonder. But then, when it comes time for their annual review, hold them accountable to specific goals. This way, no matter what they accomplished, you can make them feel like a failure.
  6. Always ask for what they don’t have with them. If they present a summary, say, “Where’s the backup for this? You don’t expect me to make a decision without the detail, do you?” If they present the detail, say, “Do you have a summary? You don’t expect me to wade through all this detail, do you?” Either way, you keep them off balance.
  7. Focus on superficial things rather than substance. For example, log how much time they actually spend at their desk or in the office rather than what they actually accomplish. Pay attention to their style and the way they dress. This is way more important than the quality of their work. Plus, they either have it or don’t.
  8. Assign them work, then micromanage the process. Don’t be responsive to their needs (see #1 above), but insist that they keep you informed every step of the way. Second-guess their decisions. Challenge their thinking. Question every expense. Don’t give them much rope. They should spend more time answering your inquiries than actually getting work done.
  9. Do all the talking. You’re the boss, right? That automatically means you are smarter, funnier, and more experienced. Listening is for sissies. Until they become your boss, they need to listen—and take notes. Most people would die for the chance to be your subordinate.
  10. Never recognize your people. Take them for granted. After all, you are paying them to work for you. What else could they need? When they do a great job, quickly brush by it and give them a tougher assignment. Keep raising the bar. You don’t want them to get “the big head.”
  11. Catch them doing something wrong. Be quick to acknowledge their mistakes. If you can do it in public, so much the better. If you do this often enough, you will wear them out. If they are not perpetually discouraged, you are not trying hard enough!
  12. Communicate that you are the fount of all wisdom. The only valid ideas are your ideas. If you want their opinion, you’ll give it to them. Find ways to explain why their ideas won’t work. You are really doing them a favor by pointing this out—as often as you can.
  13. Be moody. This is probably the most important tip I can give you. This keeps everyone off-balance. Sometimes, you should be charming. Other times, be angry. But never let them know why. Keep them wondering if it’s them or something else. You want your people asking your assistant for a “weather report” before they meet with you. They should ask, “Is Bill in a good mood today?” You want to keep this unpredictable. This will give them just enough hope to stay in the game but ensure that they stay frustrated and dreading each meeting.

There you have it. And if for some crazy reason you don’t want to frustrate your employees, you can just invert these suggestions and do the opposite. Good luck!

Question: What other ways have you seen bosses frustrate their employees? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Brandi Lewis

    This is hilarious! Should have been your Monday post to get everyone started for the week with a laugh! Because truth be told [unfortunately] we all know current or former bosses that these pertain to!

  • Tracey Menges


    This is so like one of my most recent place of employment. I always knew I had a great boss with a past job, but until most recently I never knew how lucky I was.

  • Jack

    Mike, I’ve seen every one of these exhibited at my current workplace.

  • george

    I hear about number eight all the time. It is so important to give the authority with the responsibility otherwise do it yourself.

  • cameron conant

    Wow. Powerful. I have encountered most of these, and you are right, it is very difficult to work under such circumstances. All of them are important NOT to do, especially, in my opinion, catching employees doing something wrong, focusing on superficial things, and changing one’s mind frequently. Great insight.

  • JD

    Hi Michael. Have you worked at my office before? Just wondering how you knew all that stuff. . .

  • Michael Hyatt


    No, but maybe we worked for the same boss before. ;-)


  • Uma Maheswaran S

    Mike! Some more add-ons:

    — Playing favorites
    — Not listening
    — Claiming credit which boss don’t deserve
    — Punishing / Shooting the messenger

    • Brandon

      Those are great ones!

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Brandon!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

    • Geoff Talbot

      That’s great Uma.

      Sounds like you have some interesting experiences with an employer. For me it’s mostly about loving others.

      It’s an enormous honor to employ other people. To provide for them, to look after their needs. I think of it as a form of pastoring…

      Loving others as you would love yourself.

      Geoff Talbot
      Blogging and Commenting in Seven Sentences

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Geoff! I agree with you. It’s servant leadership. A servant leader will be able to love others selflessly.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

      • Raj

        Hi Geoff,

        I loved my employees every single day and they are the one who take advantage of that. Miss use the powers they have been given and keep repeating the same mistakes and we kept on loving them and also telling that not to repeat there mistakes.

        Now they treat as shit…

        What do you suggests we should do.



        • Geoff Talbot

          Hi Raj,

          I am so sorry to hear of your experience, it sounds like a painful one and that is not good. I guess love is never guaranteed love back? In fact sometimes love, kindness, charity is never returned, not in this lifetime…

          All I can suggest if that you continue to be the best man that you can be, and find an outlet for your pain and frustration (friendship outside of work).

          Again sorry for your frustration and discomfort.


    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Uma, those are good ones.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Theresa!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

    • Jmhardy97

      Good add on list Uma. I can see those to.


      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Jmhardy!

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

    • Anonymous

      Claiming credit. That’s a good one. Very popular choice among frustrating bosses. 

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Sundijo! You are welcome.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

    • Steven Cribbs

      Playing favorites is always a good one.  I hate it when I do everything I should and then get overlooked because the boss is connected more (likes more) someone else.

      • Uma Maheswaran S

        That’s true Steven! Playing favorites is a great team spirit killer. I have experienced it personally.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: Thirteen Ways to Frustrate Your Employees

  • Dave Hearn

    Wow.  I think we’ve had the same bosses…!

    Another quick add to the list: 
    – Cover up your ignorance on a subject by placing blame on others

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep. I have seen that one, too.

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Dave, Amazing how pride could drive us.

  • Birgit

    Seems as if you’ve met my former boss before ;-) because this fits him to a T (sad, but true and one of many reasons why I don’t work at that place anymore).

    • Paula Whidden

      Birgit I empathize with you.  I’ve had a boss like that too.  It’s a handy way to learn how to become a better boss should the opportunity arise, don’t do what was done to you. 

    • Jmhardy97


      I dido that………I am glad that I do not have that issue today.


  • Jeremy Statton

    I bet most of us laugh as we read this. It just seems so obvious, yet this how many of us raise our kids. I seem to have 2 different standards. One for my boss and one for me as a father.

    • Dave Hearn

      Good point.  I’m going to re-read this as it applies to dads (including me!)

    • Chris Cornwell

      wow. good call.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Ooo. Good application.

    • Chris Jeub

      Spot-on. Whoa, convicting.

    • Lincoln Parks

      Good catch, I like it.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Jeremy, good point. I think a lot of us probably do this in our marriage.

    • Dylan Dodson

      I do not yet have kids, but what a great point!

      • Robert Ewoldt

        This is a great point! We often act one way at work, and then another way
        with our kids and spouse.

    • Travis Dommert

      Ouch.  Thanks for the mirror, Jeremy!

      • Paula Whidden

        oooh, now I have to think if I do it as a Mom too.

    • Johan Murillo

      I’m not a dad yet, but what about re-read this as it applies to husbands?

      • Michael Hyatt

        I think there is definitely an application here.

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Jeremy, parenting is a kind of leadership. If I had applied more of my leadership knowledge sooner, I would have been a much more effective parent.

      Coach Theresa

      • Jmhardy97


        I think we are all like that. If we could go back and do it all over again, we would do it differently. I think that moto applies to a lot of things, but that is why life is made of lessons.


    • TNeal

      Jeremy, I agree with the others. You remind me of what I learned from a friend in college. If I point a finger, there’s four pointing back at me.–Tom

    • Jmhardy97


      Good point……….Self reflection time.


  • Gary Rogers

    Puts me in mind of Rggie Perrin’s boss; “1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. Make ‘em wait outside the door. 5… 6… 7… 8… Always pays to make ‘em wait”

  • Joey Espinosa

    1,3,4,7,8,11,12. Those are the ones that my current boss does. It’s been fun, as you can imagine.

    Another one is giving conflicting orders. Like give 3 responsibilities that conflict with other other during the same time slot, and expect it all to get done.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have seen that one, too.

  • Chris Cornwell

    on some level, I wish I could get my old boss to read this! This is good though. I think I am gonna print this off so I can look at it on a daily basis to be keep myself in check.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good plan. We may not be able to change our bosses, but we can change ourselves. That is indeed the point.

      • Theresa Ip Froehlich

        Michael, How true! Each of us has control of “me” only.

        Coach Theresa

      • Jmhardy97

        That is exactly correct! If everyone of us thought that way, then we would not have any issues right……………tough chore.


    • Jmhardy97

      Yes, but would it make a difference if he or she read it or would it be the same old boss?


  • Alan Kay

    Too true for many bosses. It’s a productivity issue – the boss with these traits is poor at people productivity and has low self-awareness of their leadership style. Leadership comes in many forms, including the ‘hero’ model which many bosses would self-assess themselves as providing. With an understanding of what kind of leader the person is, they can make adjustments in ways that start to work for staff. Easy to say…      

    • Brandon


      • Alan Kay

        The easiest thing for the boss to practice is ‘win-win’ on a bunch of really, really simple projects. The simpler, the better. The boss asks themselves, ‘Before I speak, what outcome does this person want (from this project), and how can I help them so that they will give back to me what I want?  Watch what happens. 

        • Brandon

          Yeah…your focus has to be on others!


  • Leah Adams

    I like the way you made all of the suggestions “A”. Each one of them alone is enough to frustrate any employee so that is why they are all ‘A’. Great reminders to those who lead!

  • Robert Ewoldt

    Oh, my!  I think each of these describes a boss that I’ve had before!

  • Chad M. Smith

    Have you tested all these, Michael, to prove their validity? : )

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think I have!

      • Paula Whidden

        Wow, I love your honesty.

  • Karen Jordan

    Great post! You described several people I know! I usually think of them as control freaks. But you are right, they’ ve taught me a lot about how NOT to treat others. Thanks!

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Sometimes negative examples are the best examples!

  • Brady Shifflett

    Great post Mike. I love the positive twist you turned this into. Also very encouraging.

  • Jeff Goins

    #2 is a good one. I’ve done that before and have tried to move away from doing that, having been on the receiving end and realized how frustrating that can be. It feels like disrespect for one’s time.

  • David Santistevan

    Great points. I know you’ve touched on this before, but having meetings just for the sake of having meetings is also frustrating. Particularly if they drone on and on without a purpose.

    • Brandon

      There is nothing like a rambling meeting! haha… Esoecially when the things being said are things that everyone has no say in.

    • Steven Cribbs

      Those kind of meetings always get to me as well.  Those are the meetings that rarely have a reason for me to be involved and they feel like a total waste of time; yet, I feel like I have to try to engage in some way so that I maintain good rapport with the boss and the group.

  • Monica Michelle

    Oh this is too good. Classic of most call centers that I have worked in. Then what puts the icing on the cake is when management appear not to know why the people aren’t on board!

    Another one: Not knowing how to handle out of control associates.

    More: Encouraging you to do your best, but when time to use a benefit holding your exceeds against you – not to use it.

    Another: Not backing you up to customers or with what they told you.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Boy, I have sure see this last one!

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Yeah, not knowing how to handle out of control people is big… it makes
      them feel ineffective.

  • Bill


    Have you struck a nerve with me or what??

    This is going up on the bulletin board.


    The guy who is my boss was brought in as a numbers, bottom-line guy. Period. He only answers to those above him, BUT pretends to be your friend.

    Over the past year, I have left him emails and proposals and customer response sheets.

    And guess what?

    Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

    No meetings. No feedback.

    The guy needs to be fired!


  • Oleg Sinitsin

    Start your day with a question to employees: did you get the memo? –

  • John Richardson

    Wow, Mike, you nailed this one on the head. One addition would be to call everyone stupid behind their backs, yet give them fake accolades in meetings. That ties in twelve and thirteen and really keeps them guessing. Or to really blow their minds, hold them accountable for something you sent at the bottom of a two page email… last month… “You got the email, didn’t you?”

    • Michael Hyatt

      I hadn’t thought about the task buried in the mail. Brilliant!

    • Brandon

      “hold them accountable for something you sent at the bottom of a two page email… last month… ‘You got the email, didn’t you?’ ”

      Haha! This happens so much! If it is important…I always make sure I make it extremely visible!

    • Jmhardy97

      Wow is that true john. I think we have all heard that one.


    • Robert Ewoldt

      False praise is so disheartening for an employee to hear.

  • Jonathan

    Great spin on negative lessons. Now we can only hope that there isn’t some poor leader out there who takes it out of context and says, “I am doing good!”

    One thing I have always found frustrating is when a bad leader tries to delegate not only the task but the consequences. Especially when there is a bad leader in training in the group that the supervisor can’t control so he tells another member of the team that they are responsible for making sure the bad egg doesn’t cause any problems.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      A bad leader takes all the glory, and passes on all the blame.

      • Michael Hyatt

        So true. Conversely, a great leader does the reverse.

  • Chris Jeub

    I love this post! It reminds me of CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Not as dramatic, but hits the points home.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That might make a great book—The Screwtape Memos: Instructions to a New Boss

      • Brandon

        I think you might be onto something…the next book from Mr. Hyatt?

  • Susie Finkbeiner

    How about this one…

    Call the women in the office “girls” or “honey”. Make sure that they can’t seem to advance at the same rate as their male counterparts. Pay them less. 

    I’ve had that boss way too many times! Someone please remind me what year it is!

  • Dylan Dodson

    Great list. Giving no real direction is also quite frustrating.

    • W. Mark Thompson

      I agree Dylan. But then we can just go at it with our own idea in mind. Oh yeah! Done that. I bet you can guess how that flies. No one appreciates genius. Ha! 

    • Robert Ewoldt

      It is! You’re then left to guess at what direction to go.

  • Geoff Webb

    Ha! Great list.

    Though its wrapped up in a few of these, I’d add:

    “Don’t trust them.” after all, they’re out for themselves. Give them too much information or authority and they might try to do something without you.

    • John Richardson

      So true, Geoff!

    • Joe Lalonde

      That’s a great addition. Who wants trust in their organization?

  • Andy McMillan

    This is a very true Blog. I learned more about managing people working under terrible managers than I did good ones. I think it is interesting that all but one of these have to do with how a manager or boss should communicate. We cant lead people until we are able to effectively and consistently communicate to them. 

    • Brandon

      Totally agree with you!

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Communication is key to good leaders, isn’t it? A leader who doesn’t
      communicate finds themselves leading a bunch of lone wolves.

  • TM

    Wow! Definitely True!! I have a boss who does at least 10 of these, especially the last one! I would only add – discusses her personal life with the office, encourages others to do the same, and then use it against u later… I guess being clinically bipolar doesn’t help, but sure, as previously mentioned, its just common sense NOT to do these things! Anyhow, a great follow up to this would be, how do we deal with each of these management tendencies :) 

    • Gina Burgess

      That would be an excellent post subject.

      My first suggestion is to document unreasonable behavior. (I know, I know… as if you don’t have enough to do already!) However, when a pattern is established, you have some ammo when it comes time for evaluations–that permanent employment file that you can never get your hands on and never know exactly what’s in it so you unknowingly think you’ll get a great reference when actually you get a horrible reference and therefore your search for a new job is prolonged accordingly. 

      That documentation can help you keep your job, if you so choose.

  • Cofletcher

    14. Look for opportunities to go out of your way to rescue people or provide elaborate displays of appreciation for people…in other departments. This gives you a platform for talking about the importance of “caring for people” without incessantly worrying  about the daily grind of taking care of your own needy subordinates…with the added bonus of being able to make them feel guilty if they don’t jump in.

    15. Answer emails, texts, or better still phone calls during meetings you’ve called where you’ve asked someone to present their findings after working extra hours to create solutions or solve emergencies. This not only reminds them who is boss but also communicates the expectation that their additional work was nothing more than what is normally expected from them.

    16. Always use language that makes it impossible to distinguish whether you’re talking about what WILL be, what OUGHT to be, what you HOPE will be, or what you THINK will be. This allows you to set high expectations without accountability for outcomes or for having set the expectations in the first place.

    17. Ask your people in depth questions whenever they pass by on their way out the door at the end of the day. This communicates the important message that if YOU’RE not done for the day why should they think they are?

    • Jmhardy97

      I totally agree!


  • Rob T

    wow, what a great list… to the point on “micromanaging”, I tend to assign work, then forget to follow up!  probably just as bad.  thanks.

  • Bill Horn

    Another would be:
    Never apologize when you make a mistake. You have to pretend to be faultless in order to be the real leader. Never show the chinks in your armor. You cannot be vulnerable and lead, can you?

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is an excellent one!

  • bookncoffee

    I like a message written inside out.  It makes the point very well.  I have certainly experienced those things, many times.  In keeping with your theme “intentional leadership”, planning on NOT doing these things is essential.  lol  Great post!

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Found myself laughing while reading because of the way this is written in positive “how to advice,” but really it’s “how not to” advice. Also, I can see how someone working for this person would think it’s comical at first. Then as the days go by and the numbers got bigger and the time got longer, the workers would be extremely annoyed… to the point of not wanting to come back. Nice angle.

  • Juan

    Wow- a definitely great post.

  • Jeanne Farrington

    Give the same responsibility to two different people.  Don’t tell them.  If they figure it out, ask why they aren’t they working together.  Criticize them for duplicating efforts.   

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is also a brilliant tactic, especially the last part!

    • Robert Ewoldt

      I hate that!

  • Teisha Fierce

    You named some great points…..My main one will be playing favorites!!! wow! oh wow!

  • Don McAllister

    I had a prior situation where my boss very infrequently recognized things we did positively and where we were micromanaged, which made me itch in places I don’t usually itch..

  • JennyRain

    this is awesome – and so true. So incredibly grateful I work for leaders who are the opposite of these things ;)

  • Tstc Publishing

    Actively pitting your employees against each other is always a good one.

  • Jason Fountain

    Great post! I think #10 is so true. And I would add to it: “Never say thank-you.” How long would it take for the boss to say, “Thank you” with sincerity. This goes such a long way. An honest and sincere statement or note of appreciation is so well-received and builds such an emotional bank account for future challenges.

  • Lincoln Parks

    Fits a former boss exactly especially #7. I remembered getting into a heated discussion because I was not available when he wanted me to be at that particular time. No matter how much work was completed he always wanted me to be available when he wanted me to. During a consultation with a client or not. WOW!

    I make sure to keep these in mind with my team now.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think this is a trait of narcissism. These people just think the entire world exists to meet their needs.

      • Lincoln Parks

        I totally agree Michael. The sad thing about the entire thing is, this person is still doing the same thing to others so I’ve heard. Being in a situation like that, what advice could you give to a person like that? How could you recommend some Leadership classes. Or would that be out of place. I don’t want to give wrong advice to those still suffering under this guy.

    • JD Holt

      I actually had a boss who was upset with me because my wife and I weren’t available to go to a movie with him and his wife! Unbelievable. I was then let go a few months later for “a lack of chemistry” with the leader.

      • Michael Hyatt

        Sadly, many leaders are just narcissists. It sounds like you were working for one.

        • JD Holt

          Yeah, that’s what my therapist said! lol

  • Cheri

    Force your employees to listen for hours each day about your personal problems with your children, friends and mother.  If your boss is doing all the above most likely they have much personal drama too!

    I have had a boss that did all the above and more…. Great list!

  • Tim Thurman

    I used to have a boss who would always take credit for my work?  It used to really upset me, but I guess that is what I am supposed to do?

  • Gina Burgess

    Michael, you covered just about everything I ever suffered from a boss except — 

    Take credit for all the great stuff your employees do.

    Go behind their back and undo everything they have done.

    Call ahead of them and talk to the people they are to meet and dig a hole under them so they can’t build a relationship even though this makes the company look really bad, it makes the employee look worse to upper management. Then blame the employee for the lost relationship.

    Make sure the reputation and character is maligned in the community as well as with upper management. This will insure the employee is fired and you can then guide upper management to hire your own puppet for the position.

  • Jared Hallal


    My first thought was that I am amazed how many of these things have happened to me from bosses in the past. 

    As I get over pointing out the speck in my neighbors’ eyes, though, I look at the plank in my eye! I have done many of these to my clients and friends. How frustrating for them!

    Thank you for this post of iron, and I pray is sharpens me!I believe that my Boss, though, will never leave things unanswered, point out something wrong I’ve done publicly, be vague, or change His mind. He is truly a great Boss, and if I am to be a good boss (lowercase “b”), then I need to be more like Him.

  • Audrkrell

    Always be holier than thou. It’s okay for you to be of the the world because you aren’t human. Constantly remind your subordinates that they aren’t to be trusted with daily cultural messages because they will be led astray and tempted beyond what they can bear.

  • Brandon

    I think that “Reprimanding them in front of their peers.” is a serious one. There is no better way to destroy someone than that right there!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep. It is amazing how many times I have seen this done.

      • Brandon

        Yeah…and it is totally unacceptable for a leader who wants to make a
        positive influence on others.


    • Dylan Dodson

      Very true. They become humiliated and afraid to take any risks in the future.

      • Brandon

        Exactly! This has happened a few times with me in the past with my guitar
        playing. I was constantly told that I wasn’t very good and that my style did
        not suit the vision of the band. I became discouraged, but then I asked God
        what to do…He has now lead me to take over the band. We have been going
        strong for almost 1yr now!


    • Robert Ewoldt

      Humiliation is definitely NOT something to use on subordinates. How

  • Ryanskoog

    The most painful blog post I have ever read.  

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I think.

  • Alex Humphrey

    The worst way I saw my boss frustrate employees was at my last job. My boss is a good guy, but he tries too many things too quickly. He started ramping up the work exponentially. At the time we had 2 employees and were just about to hire a third. Within a month we had 3 more employees…but they were working in a different office! aka we couldn’t train them or even give them any of our work! all the while he was continuing to ramp up the work that needed to be done. About the time I left he was promoting a secretary to office manager without giving her any training. =(

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great list Mike. It makes me fondly remember some of my former bosses. Points 1, 2, 4, and 5 remind me of some of my bosses. Glad to know I’m not the only one that has dealt with bosses like that.

    Here are some other ways that my bosses have frustrated me –

    1. Have no concern for their personal needs – Oh, you put in a time off request? Nah, you’re better off working. This makes employees very happy!

    2. Threaten your employees(this one comes courtesy of my wife who’s currently on doctors orders to not work past 5) – This is a great one. I was working 9-9. Right now I’m working 9-5, threatening to make me work 1-9 once I’m able to work past is a relief from the last 6 years of 9-9.

    3. Overwhelm your employee with work – Adding more and more to your employees workload is great. Seeing his desk pile up with paperwork lets him know he has work to do. Not knowing when this work has to be done also helps this process.

    • Anon

      I have had a boss tell me straight that, unless his staff feel absolutely overwhelmed with more work they can handle, they haven’t got enough work.

      In a related issue, this boss couldn’t prioritise one task over another, they both had to be done – right now!

      I never could convince him that providing clear priorities and a workload appropriate to the timeframe would produce a far better result.  Mainly because his main motivation method was based on fear, and improved productivity would have resulted in people fearing the loss of their jobs less.

  • Joe Abraham

    This is a cool way of communicating great ideas! Felt like looking at a negative film in the dark room! 

    I am analyzing my own life to wage war against these frustrating qualities. 

    Meanwhile here’s an add on: asking the staff not to do something and then doing it secretly!

  • Ray

    How does an employee in this situation “lead upward’ to positively influence a bad boss?

  • Leo de Sousa

    Thanks for this post.  I worked for a guy exactly like this for the last 4 years!  He finally got fired after the staff rebelled (for the 2nd time).  I called him my “Reverse Mentor”  Cheers, Leo 

  • Shandel

    Excellent word to all employers!  Thank you Michael for sharing your wisdom with us once again!

  • Loren Pinilis

    It seems I’ve learned MORE from the bad leaders I’ve been under than the good ones. And it was convicting to think of how many of these apply to me in some way today.
    Another one is an unrealistic boss – the type that wants a three-day project finished in two hours.

  • Deanna Johns Nichols

    Hold back information from your employees that would make them more effective at their jobs. That way you can be sure they never know more than you do.

    Don’t allow employees to flourish by assigning tasks in their areas of greatest strength. Instead, keep them bored and frustrated so they dread coming to work every day. 

    • Robert Ewoldt

      This goes back to a previous post, one about whether your boss is for you or
      against you… there are so many bosses that don’t care what your skills
      are, as long as you make them look good.

  • Michael Gray

    14. Motivate them by messing with their sense of job security.  Nothing produces results and fosters creativity more than reminding your employees that you authorize their paycheck.  If you create an environment where they feel like the slightest slip-up might mean the end of their employment, they will be much more motivated and will be innovative workers.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      A better way to keep your employees (I’ve heard) is to get them into deep
      debt… encourage them to get a mortgage, have the company loan them money,
      etc. :)

      • Michael Hyatt

        I once worked for a company where management had this exact philosophy. Sad.

        • Robert Ewoldt

          I think I read recently somewhere that there were major banks on Wall Street
          that do this to their top talent… to keep them. Weird…

          • Gail

            It creates false loyalty.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have worked in this kind of environment, too. Very frustrating!

  • Al Pittampalli

    Micromanaging is an absurd form of leadership. What’s the point in having a person to delegate to? Dan Pink tells us that autonomy is one of the primary drivers of motivation in our new era, it’s time managers start to realize this. Great list, Michael.

  • Karen Carter

    My personal favorites are “we need to talk” and then leave them alone for a couple of days to think about the statement and try to figure out what they did, and lay down the law, say there are no favorites or family preferences and then proceed to overlook the stated indiscretion.

  • Travis

    Mike, what is my boss does all 13 of these plus more.  Should I jump ship or wait for him to leave? Is my career in jeapordy as long as I am working for him?  Thanks

    • Michael Hyatt

      This depends on many factors. I think you should try to find something else. Life is to short, and your boss to important, to subject yourself to this day after day.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    A couple more:
    – Failure to take decisive action re: dysfunctional team members
    – Consistently giving contradictory instructions
    – In a volunteer situation, tell qualified, capable, and available volunteers they are not needed.

    Coach Theresa

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Yes…. allowing a bad apple can be detrimental to the entire team. You’ve
      got to deal with them!

  • Stacy Echeverria

    My former boss did a lot of the above and one more not on the list: she never believed a word I told her. If there was an incident with another employee she immediately assumed that I was in the wrong and when I told her my side of the story, she didn’t believe me. The other thing with her too was that she gossiped about team members to other team members. She didn’t keep anything confidential and openly talked to various people about their teammates. I figured, if she’s talking to me about others on the team, what is she saying about me to them? She was untrustworthy, a gossip and a liar and the sad part of it was when I went to her manager and director and told them what she was doing, I got in trouble for it and eventually terminated. Poor management from the top down. I’m so glad I’m not working for that company. 

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Encouraging gossip in the workplace can be SO bad for morale and motivation.

      • Stacy Echeverria

        The morale was very low. It’s just sad because we spend much of our time at work and we need to try to make it as fun as possible with the people we work with while we’re doing the work.

  • Beck Gambill

    Oh dear, that hit close to home. I chuckled as I read, most of these are all to familiar, either in my experience or my husbands. The sad thing is my husband is an assistant pastor, so you can guess who his boss is.

  • Beneupho

    I liked letter A the best.

  • Chris Potts

    Outstanding!   This post is very timely, as I believe (through personal experience and anecdotal stories from many of my friends) that GOOD leaders are becoming more and more rare, unfortunately.  It is critical for every one of us to recognize a “bad” leader, and humbly learn from them, in preparation for our own leadership!  Thanks for posting.

  • TNeal

    The more I read the funnier it got. #11 reminds me of something a sports guy often says about college coaches. “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”

  • TNeal

    Oh, by the way, I’m thankful that none of my bosses came anywhere near 13 ways to frustrate me. Unfortunately for me though, most practiced quite a few of these traits.

  • Eric

    I have experienced one that was not on your list. I know your list wasn’t exhaustive but I would definitely add it. It frustrates me when a boss rewards mediocrity and not performance. Just because someone’s been on the job for a while it doesn’t mean they should be promoted.


    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a good one, Eric. Thanks.

  • Sherri

    Wow! This post and the comments have made me appreciate my boss all over again. Thank you, Marie! 

    I see myself in some of these unfortunately. Something to work on. Thank you. 


  • Smbolt

    Many names and faces to match your points. Sadly I can recall myself having operated in some of those ways also !

  • Ladyketo

    Michael, if you were here I would give you a high five.  

    I think in these situations, the challenge is to maintain integrity, resist the urge to gossip under the guise of venting frustration and maintain motivation to work well.  To do this when you’re feeling micromanaged, undercut and you know the goal posts will move without warning, is when true professionalism has a chance to shine.

    But boy it can be tough.  Thanks for this insight.

  • Jmhardy97

    Your list sure makes someone self reflect

  • Kelly

    While I’ve had my fair share of these bosses myself, I now am the boss…so I’m reading this looking for the areas I’m falling short in.  Good stuff to think about.  Definitely feeling convicted when you put it this way!

  • KB

    Great post!  Felt like you read my employment history!

    I’d add, whine to your spouse over the phone about confidential employee issues, and make sure you do it in a public workroom with lots of people around.

  • Olewema

    Reward lazy employees. Have favourites

    • Gail

      Even better – promote bad supervisors into positions where they supervise More people.

  • Robbie Phillips


    • Michael Hyatt

      Sometimes we learn as much—or more—from negative examples. The goal is positive: to help us become better leaders.

      Why do you think the Bible contains both positive and negative examples? What would be lost if we selectively deleted all the negative examples?

      (By the way, all caps looks like you are shouting.)

      • Gail

        I like that you put this in the negative context. Sometimes it gives us the “Uh oh!” moment when we realise we are doing something we shouldn’t be doing in a way the positive can’t.

  • Murphytina

    Question – Does anyone know how to politely and firmly set boundaries with a boss who takes credit for your work and does not throw you an occasional motivational bone.

    Thanks :)


  • Anonymous

    One of the things that frustrates me the most is a boss that nows that there are issues going on that need to be address, but does not address them. I have seen to many teams fall apart because of this.

  • Harvestchurchinternational

    Great article for anyone who is a leader. We have to keep in mind these things if we
    are going to be effective, especially in this economy.  Who wants to serve someone who
    is not thoughtful, considerate, focused and consistent?
    Thanks for sharing.
    Linda Cross
    Assistant Pastor

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  • CharlesS

    cutting a valued program because of problem in it rather than solving the problem.

  • Donna

    this was excellent.  i was stung a few times, myself.  djl

  • Tanya Marie Lewis

    What are the reprint rights on this article outside of the Internet?  This needs to be read by our newspaper readers under our business section.


    • Michael Hyatt

      My permissions policy is here.

  • Smbolt

    Begs the question, how many ways in my position of employee, do I frustarte my bosses?

  • Kenneth Clapp

    One of the most frustrating situations I’ve ever had to face was when the Sr. Minister I worked with would ask questions he already knew the answer to, but would always ask them in such a way as to try to belittle myself (or whoever he was asking the question of). For instance, we would talking before meeting with our leadership board about some project, discuss the aspects that didn’t work out the way we had hoped, but then when we would get in the middle of the public meeting he would always bring up those troubled areas as if he was just asking an innocent question. He would also do this to try to humiliate you into doing things his way. He knew our two styles were different, for instance, when he was a youth minister he used to have seating assignments for trips in the church van. I did not. For 2 and a half years he would show up when the vans were leaving on a trip and ask me in front of all the parents where my seating charts were. Sad thing is, this didn’t make me look inadequate in the eyes of the parents, but it did make him look foolish.

  • Beyond Horizons

    Great post! Enjoyed reading it!
    And I have something more to add to the list : Not keeping your employees in the loop and not showing them the ‘entire picture’.
    When you don’t keep your employees informed and give them only tiny tit-bits, your employees don’t feel ‘engaged’ and so they don’t give in their best. Besides, limiting information affects productivity as well.

    – Sindoora (

  • Greg

    Let your employee give you enough information so that you know what their plan is or you know what they have already don and say one of these phrases, “You’re not going to do __________, are you? or, You haven’t done ___________ have you?” The blank is exactly what they have hinted at doing. This really crushes their creativity.  Also, MBLA, “Management By Lurking Around”. Michael, this goes with your catch them doing something wrong.

    I truly believe the high % of people that are unhappy in their job is not because of what they are doing as much as frustration with their treatment or leadership.

  • turner_bethany

    Phew. I got a little stressed out just reading those!  You can definitely learn so much from bad examples. 

  • Kelvin Kings Mulembe

    Great article Mike, here are some add ons:
    –Leave them out of important meetings and then asking them to follow up and write a report–Make them use their initiative and then call it useless–Always remind them of the possibility of being fired–Sneak onto their work stations and ask what they are working on

  • Joey Espinosa

    For just about all of these, the opposite works just as well.

    “13 Ways to Frustrate Your Boss”

  • Tamara Vann

    This is a great piece that really shows off what many companies do wrong. Sadly, these very same 13 points can cause companies to fail. When employees are frustrated and unhappy, everyone suffers. As this video ( points out, alignment of effort is critical for great service. You’re just not going to get that when employees are frustrated!

  • Dale William Melchin

    BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  This was hilarious.  It is sad, but true however. 

  • Raghu_barigeda

    Thirteen ways to frustrate your employee. Some more

    14 : Hold long meetings going on details on the topic and prolong it with no result.
    15: Tell stories about self in the meetings
    16: Call subordinate’s  subordinate and give him wonderful jobs to frustate your reportee. Ask your reportee to do job of  his reportee in the name of building team.

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  • Jason Summers

    Boy, did you leave out some doozies.

    14.) Make sure you don’t give your employees the tools they need to do their jobs. Instead, keep those for yourself and let them think you’re doing them a favor by making them rely on you to perform their tasks with those tools. Added bonus if you specialize in Item 1.

    15.) Be inconsistent. Never, ever, ever give the same response to a situation twice.

    16.) Constantly keep your staff in a state of flux. Even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, make your staff switch desks, job duties, or both at least oncr a year. You don’t even have to make up a reason. Added bonus if you are breaking up a team that is happy and cohesive or if your employee is excelling at a job you are pulling him out of. After all, change is exciting, so they should be thanking you instead of being resentful.

    17.) Lie to your staff members, especially your team of supervisors. Never level with anyone. I mean it’s not like you owe it to them, right? Emphasize being sanctimonious instead of being sincere.

    18.) Never listen to your staff members. All good ideas come from you and you alone, so dazzle them with your brilliance by instituting wholesale changes from the time you enter your new position. If your staff point out that your ideas have been tried before and failed, it must be because THEY did not try hard enough.

    19.) When something goes wrong, make sure to let your staff know how badly they screwed up and that you will not tolerate such stupidity. Never fix what is wrong, only fix who screwed up.

    20.) Never listen to your staff members’ concerns. No matter how valid their complaints, always treat them like they are whining. After all, hou are the boss, not their counselor, so you should not be bogged down with their petty complaints. Put them in their place and they won’t likely return anytime soon.

  • Anon

    The hallmarks of an India-born manager, even those expatriated to multinational American firms