The Worst Things a Boss Can Ever Say

how to be a bad boss

10 Real Quotes from Bad Bosses


As managers, if it seems like our employees are watching our every move and closely listening to our every word, it’s because they are.  In particular, the words that managers and business leaders say are very important.  It’s not about being politically correct or about being nice, but it is about how a manager’s words and statements are interpreted by their employees.  Sometimes, a little filter on what we say can go a long way.  We recently wrote an article that discussed the behaviors and traits of a bad boss.  We wanted to expand on that topic and give you some examples of the worst things that bad bosses have actually said.

To give you an example of what not to say, the following list captures 10 quotations from bad bosses and poor leaders that I’ve encountered in my own career.  While we intend for this list to be humorous, the truth of the matter is that actual managers have said these things, often leaving people speechless.  Without further ado…

1. “Managers Are Not Responsible for Employee Satisfaction.  Employees Are.”

What!? She was an executive in our firm, who made a visit to my office.  In a conference room stuffed full of my staff, with others dialed into a web-meeting, employees raised concerns about workload and poor communication from our organization’s leadership.  Our annual employee survey scores supported their concerns, with our employee satisfaction scores at an all-time low.  When they asked the executive what action would be taken in response to their concerns, this is what she told them.

2. “I’m Not A People Person.  I’m Just About Execution.”

This manager said this in his first introduction meeting to his new organization.  Whether you’re a people person or not, you can never say this to your team…which is made up of people.  And if you are truly not a people person, during your time as a manager, you’ll have to become one as best you can.  Effective managers know their job is to maximize the talents of their employees to produce results.  If you’re not a people person, how can you do your job?

3. “I Don’t Do Work.  I Just Make Sure The Work Gets Done.”

While the second part of the statement may have merit, managers actually do work.  They remove roadblocks, plan resources, handle performance issues, and dare I said it, roll their sleeves up and chip in when needed.

4. “I Should Just Fire Him Right Now.”

Never say this to one of your employees, as this manager did.  Termination and layoffs are not topics to joke about in public.  Making jokes about firing your employees to other employees is just tasteless.  If you really want to know what it’s like to lay people off, CLICK HERE.

RELATED: Behind The Scenes of a Layoff (Part 1)

5. “It’s His Fault For Not Taking the Employee Survey Before He Left for Vacation.  Can You Call Him Now and Have Him Take It So We Can Show We’re 100% Complete on Our Metrics?”

Metrics can be dangerous.  The context here was an internal goal to have 100% of our employees take an annual employee satisfaction survey.  One of my employees took a long vacation and would not be able to take the survey before it closed.  Our HR manager asked this of me.  My response to her was simple: “What sort of scores are you expecting from him if I call him on vacation to ask him to take the employee survey?”

6. “Are We Really Doing the Right Thing Holding up Customer Shipments Until We Can Confirm The Parts are Actually Defective?”

Uh, yes.  If you have a concern that your products are defective, you should not ship any more until you know what the situation is.  Ethical management is essential to business.  When business leaders soften their stance on ethical matters, it not only sends a message to the organization that ethical practices are not required, it also undermines the manager’s leadership abilities in other circumstances.

7. “All I Want to Know Is How Many People We Can Get Rid Of.”

We were investigating new software that would help improve our efficiency and automate some of the work we did.  For those of us that would use it as part of product development, our interest was saving time on repetitive iterations such that we could spent more time on details.  This executive, however, was only interested in it as a means of reducing staff.

8.  “Oh, I Didn’t Realize We Were Paying You That Little.”

I had spent a few weeks working up the courage to ask for a raise, as I had never done it before.  My boss put a lot of responsibility on me and I was successful at bringing in large sales to our small company.  And after all the time I spent preparing for the conversation, my boss’s comments were entirely disheartening.

9.  “If You Don’t Accept This Position, We Have No One Else.”

Talk about putting pressure on someone.  Another example of poor ethical management, this manager tried to convince his employee to accept a position that the employee did not want.  When asked what would happen if he did not take the role, this is what the manager said.

RELATED: Are You A Bad Boss?

10. “When a Senior Manager Tells You To Do Something, You Do It.  You Don’t Question It.”

News flash: It’s not medieval Europe anymore, with Lords and Peasants.  While experience and hierarchy are certainly important, we all have blind spots and short sightedness.  In today’s business environment effective managers and business leaders welcome new ideas and alternate interpretations of circumstance to assist them make the most effective decisions.  Sometimes you need to stick to your convictions, but simply “pulling rank” is not appropriate.


So there you go, 10 terrible things that you should never say to your staff.  If you were an employee of one of these managers, what would you think?  Leave a comment!  Got some good ones?  EMAIL US and tell us about it!


Looking for More?

5 Things You Can Do TODAY to Be A Better Manager

How to Develop Your Employees

Engagement: 7 Ways To Boost Employee Morale




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *