How to Identify a Toxic Boss? Google’s Management Study Reveal Secrets

Toxic Boss

Elan enters her office, shoulders squared, braced for yet another depreciating day, already dreading the tick of the clock that heralds the waking grunts of the devil; a devil all trussed up in pretty Prada and fetching Versace. It’s not as if Elan hadn’t been burning the mid-night oils last night working up a stellar presentation, when she could have been out with a bunch of friends for a round of drinks, or that she forgot to pick up the latte- low sugar, Irish Crème, still piping hot from Starbucks- just the way her boss likes it. But sigh, nothing was good enough with her.

No matter what Elan did, or didn’t do, her work was often met with satirical glances, fits of uncalled for tantrums, and unsolicited needs for re-runs. Well Elan, it’s definitely not you! You are yet another victim of the devil incarnate: the epitome of what may be called a toxic boss!

If you feel extremely dissatisfied and unappreciated at work, it’s high time to consider a switch. After all, toxic workplaces also can have adverse repercussions on your health: the added stress of working in a dysfunctional office can lead to depression, fatigue, and job burnout. And it’s not just your boss; psychology today reveals that 60-75% of managers are deemed unfit for leadership.

Google conducted a comprehensive study on management behavior. The study covered everything from performance appraisal to employee surveys and leveraged multiple sources to highlight the differences between the highest and lowest rated managers. Researchers at Google’s People Innovation Lab took an entire year to complete the study and summarized its findings, and shared it with their employees. In this article, we present these findings in the form of seven tell-tale signs that should ring a red alarm.

1. Toxic Bosses Micromanage and Double Check Your Work

There is a massive difference between how a toxic boss operates in comparison to a competent leader. Good bosses always empower employees. Toxic bosses tend to micromanage employees and always double-check their work. You might be thinking that there is nothing wrong with that, unfortunately, this is where people go wrong. Toxic bosses take micromanagement to a point where employees are downright peeved and look for escapes. When a manager nitpicks in affairs that are not their burdens to shoulder, double-checks each employee’s work with an air of ever-pervading pessimism and skepticism, it alarms employees that they are not trusted and valued, and that their superiors have zero faith in their skills and capabilities, which leads to an extreme state of discontentment. After all, according to a Gallup poll from 2015, more than half the participants cited a bad manager as their top reason for quitting a job.

2. Toxic Bosses Stay In The Comforts of Their Office and Pass Around Orders

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”—Quincy Adams

Does your boss hide in their lair all the time and get others to do their dirty works? Toxic bosses are riddled by a massive ego that forces them to keep employees at arm’s length and put themselves a notch above those who they lead. They exhibit anti-social tendencies and do not communicate with their teams apart from what absolutely needs to be articulated. This creates a communication gap, leading to employees staying in a state of bafflement all the time, as their “man of few words” bosses fail to clearly communicate their message. This in turn, results in more mistakes, which complicates the situation even further. This vicious cycle can easily be curbed if bosses start to communicate with their team more often or use a viable task management software for this purpose.

3. Toxic Bosses Struggle When It Comes to Coaching Employees

According to the Google study, employees rated managers who exhibit great coaching skills higher. Unfortunately, toxic bosses do not fare well in this department. Ask any toxic boss to provide you with coaching and watch their expressions take a southward plummet. They get frustrated when expected to coach and train employees. Even when they head a coaching session, you can feel their unwillingness. As a result, these sessions are just a waste of time and resources, and never achieve their promised objectives.

4. Toxic Bosses Don’t Care About the Career Growth of Employees

Another common characteristic that all toxic bosses exude is that they believe that career growth is each employee’s personal concern and they are not liable for such. In fact, it should be the other way round. What most noxious bosses fail to realize is that investing in the career growth and personal development of employees can go a long way towards fostering loyalty ans trust, and boosts employee satisfaction. When employees are content with their jobs, employee retention rate goes up the ceiling. No company can afford to lose employees that they had spent considerable resources to hire and train. Provide your employees with career growth opportunities and watch them stay with you for a long time.

5. Toxic Bosses Move In Too Many Directions

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”–Warren Bennis

How can you expect a person to take the right decision when they seem shaky themselves and move in too much directions simultaneously? Unfortunately, that is what happens with toxic bosses, as shown by the Google study. On the contrary, a good leader is always driven by a vision and strategy, enabling them to lead their team in only one direction; the right one! More importantly, knowing your goals from the onset mitigates risks and boosts your chances of success.

6. Toxic Bosses Don’t Take Care of Their Employees

Most bosses do not care much for their employees, construing them as easily replaceable entities. The only thing they are concerned with is whether they are doing their tasks the right way or not. This attitude gives managers the label of toxic bosses. If you want your employees to respect and trust you, you must care for them. Good leaders show empathy towards employees, listen to their problems and try their best to solve them. When employees feel valued, they also reciprocate by amping up their productivity.

7. Toxic Bosses Don’t Depend On Others, Even If They Lack Skills

Toxic bosses see themselves as know-it-alls, even when they are highly ignorant. Their egos prevent them from asking for help or letting anyone trump their verdict. Even if an employee has a better comprehension of a subject, they would rather err than concede they know less and ask for their expert opinion. They do not like to depend on others. They want to keep their bossiness intact even if they have to do anything for it. On the flip side, successful managers know their strengths and weaknesses and never shy away from asking for employees help and involving them in all important company decisions.


According to a Gallup study, 82% companies make the wrong decision when it comes to choosing a manager. Alarming, isn’t it? Not everybody is meant to manage and lead your organization. Not everyone has the right personality to fit into these roles. In order to achieve success, businesses must choose the right person to lead. Does your boss exhibit any of the above mentioned alarming signs? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.