6 Ways You Accidentally Make Your Employees Hate You

Being the boss is a tough gig.

While the corner office and the salary may be nice, it doesn’t generally come with being well-liked.

In fact, 65 percent of U.S. workers say that getting rid of their bosses would make them happier than earning a salary increase. Ouch.

Finding that perfect balance between authority and empathy with your underlings can be hard. (Especially if you refer to them as underlings.)

So to help you out, here are 6 simple ways you might be making your employees hate you without even knowing it.

(And don’t worry bosses, we’ll take a crack at employees next.)

1. Embarrass Them in Front of Coworkers

Obviously yelling at your employees is a big no-no, but it easy to accidentally embarrass them.

All it takes is having a a frank discussion get heated in a semi-public area, and your worker feel self-conscious and even ashamed. In order to avoid this, be sure to have such conversations in private places away from others. (This goes double if you work where customers can see you.)

As for praise, make it as vocal and loud you can! Praising employees in front of their peers is one of the most effective ways to boost morale. (Even more than cash in some cases.)

2. Act Like Their Best Friend

On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with being friendly with everyone in the office. You spend so much time there, you’d be crazy not to be.

But being overly familiar with an employee compromises your ability to pull rank when you need to. It can also make the other person feel uncomfortable and less likely to trust you if there isn’t a genuine friendship there.

So make friends when you can, but if you’re not on everyone’s Christmas card list, don’t sweat it.

3. Act Like Their Mom or Dad

While being a mentor is a great way to encourage talent (as we’ll discuss later), you can’t try to take charge of someone’s life.

You may be sincerely concerned about their someone’s personal choices, but you don’t have any right to intercede unless it’s affecting their work performance.

And if it does affect their work performance, keep focused on what’s happening at work. While you may not approve of their downtime activities, it’s just not your place to say.

4. Play Favorites

Don’t think this makes everyone hate you? Well it almost destroyed Microsoft.

Back in 2000, the company started a system known as “stack ranking” where every unit had to declare a percentage of its employees as top performances, good performers, average, and poor.

Not only did it drive people away, it didn’t end up encouraging better performance. Instead, it made people focus on being more visible in front of their managers.

What do we learn from this? While it’s tempting to favor one employee over another when you feel a rapport with them, just don’t. It will end badly.

5. Don’t Seek Out Talent

We said we’d return to mentoring. If you’re not actively trying to seek out talent and reward ambition in your own workplace, you’re hurting yourself.

Recently, Sun Microsystems compared the career progress of 1,000 employees and found that 25 percent of mentees and 28 percent of mentors received raises over a 5-year period.

The same was true of only a measly 5 percent of managers who did not take part in mentoring.

It’s good for you, it’s good for them, and you know you have people running your office that you can trust. Can you afford to pass up good people?

6. Lie to Them

Sometimes, you can’t tell your employees what’s going on. Maybe it’s a turbulent time in the company and there are things you just can’t reveal.

Even when it’s just not practical or even possible to reveal the whole truth, you need to find a way to be upfront with your employees as you can.

Establishing a company that routinely releases it’s quarterly figures to its employees and has other such transparency practices is one of the easiest ways to avoid getting between a rock and a hard place.

Otherwise, you need to be upfront about what you can’t reveal at the very least. Being coy with your employees with deter trust and being upbeat when you know things are going down hill will only make them angry.

Walking that fine line between personable, hard-nosed, and effective is a struggle for all bosses. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and managers who were “just trying to be a nice guy/girl.” Don’t let yourself become one of them.


  1. Great points! Being a good boss means being fair and kind. That doesn’t mean a boss can never be tough. It means the boss must be tough in a kind way. It is so hard to be a good boss, but when you are, you get back as much as you give. It’s true in regular life too. What a surprise!

    • @John Melton- Thanks for the comment. That’s a really good point. Some of my best bosses and mentors alike are ones that have managed to master the art of being “tough in a kind way.” It’s not an easy balance to find.

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