Bad Bosses are Killing Your Profit

A woman with her hands in front of her face.

By Carol Phillips

Bad bosses—we’ve all dealt with one directly or we know one… or many. Most of us at some point have pondered, “Why haven’t they been fired?â€

Although I don’t like to label people as “bad,†the term “bad bosses†has become part of our business language. The term identifies a segment of the work population that causes much conflict and costs employers significant amounts of money.

What do the polls say?

A 2015 Gallup Poll revealed that half of all employees who quit their jobs do so to escape their direct managers. Think about it: Out of all the reasons why people leave employers, 50% resign due to the actions of one person. This decision is a negative and direct link to health and wellness. Bad bosses create enormous amounts of employee stress. Workplace stress costs companies millions of dollars in lost productivity and lawsuits each year. This drives up healthcare costs and creates countless problems for employers.

Stressed employees

Imagine how high the average employee’s stress level needs to be for them to make the serious decision to quit their job for no other reason than to escape a negative environment they have little or no control over. Most likely, these employees believe the situation is not going to improve and that their company will likely not fire the person for their poor behavior. In addition, this leads to employees having a poor view of management, further damaging employee morale. This contributes to a toxic company culture.

When our stress levels are so high we begin to look for an exit, we are in full “fight or flight†mode. Our brains are operating at a primal survival level, one where we seek a better situation in which to feel safe, healthy, and valued. Most employees crave a work environment in which they can feel safe, productive, and respected. They want to be treated fairly. When these elements are missing due to the actions of an immediate supervisor, employees are forced to hyper-focus on their own well-being vs. their own work, which saps productivity.  

Does having a toxic non-management employee result in the same damage to a company as a toxic manager? No. The toxic manager is doing more harm to your company. Every company has a hierarchy—company culture typically works “top down.†Therefore, the toxic manager tends to poison those around them and everyone below them. The non-management employee tends to have a more limited negative effect. In addition, the toxic employee tends to be fired more quickly, whereas the toxic manager tends to create a broader unhealthy environment and can cause multiple employees to quit before upper management takes control of the situation, if ever.

Change hesitancy

For a number of reasons, employers hesitate to force bad managers to change and often take even longer to fire them. They tend to operate under the false hope that the situation will take care of itself and/or they don’t want to invest the time and resources to hire and train a new manager. They may also fear a lawsuit by the manager. This is flawed thinking, since the bad boss is continuously costing the employer much more money and time in lost productivity, higher healthcare costs, and the risk of multiple employee lawsuits than the contained cost of hiring a new, and hopefully competent, manager. Solving a bad boss problem will likely result in fairly immediate improved morale and loyalty from multiple employees, positively affecting productivity and profit.

Open your eyes

Be aware of employees who are struggling. Do they happen to work under the same supervisor? Their actions can be a symptom of high stress levels due a negative work environment. Get to know your employees. Create a safe and friendly environment in which employees feel free to report negative or abusive behavior. This will set the stage for a positive workplace culture where employees flourish and companies profit.

Invest the time in helping these managers improve their skills or remove them from the company altogether. When firing a manager is necessary, the long-term effects to the fired individual may actually prove to be positive, as they will likely be forced to evaluate their own behavior and hopefully learn better skills to bring to their next employer.

Employees talk. They share their feelings about work with family, friends, and acquaintances. They are your best advertising or your worst advertising. Your choices will determine this outcome. Help them to spread glowing reviews of your company as the best place to work by providing them with managers who create a positive and supportive environment where everyone wins!

Step back and evaluate each and every person in a management position. Then determine where praise should be showered and where tough changes need to be made. These are necessary steps toward a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at