October 16th is National Bosses Day. The world’s best boss supports and respects employees. As a result, job satisfaction and company success skyrockets. But a difficult boss can undermine productivity and workplace morale—ultimately undermining the company’s bottom line. Nearly 49% of the workforce says they’re unhappy at work, usually because of a toxic boss or a lack of appreciation.

What about your boss? Is she or he someone who rushes around moaning about the shortage of time and creating crises for everyone in his or her path? Is your boss the sort who sets short deadlines, overloads you with more to do than is humanly possible and then breathes down your neck? Does your boss take credit for your ideas or refuse to give you the time off you need to recharge and renew yourself?

A Series Of New Studies

A series of studies reveal the attributes that lead job seekers and employees to bestow the title, “The World’s Best Boss.” A recent survey of over 1,000 job seekers by CollegeFinance Chowed respondents are looking for leaders that prioritize networking (84%) and offer responsibility at work (83%). Other key findings included:

  • Work-life balance (67%)
  • Enjoyable work (62%)
  • Job security (58%)
  • Good benefits (57%)
  • Happiness at work (57%)
  • Meaningful work (55%)
  • Flexible hours (48%)
  • High salary (44%)
  • Career growth (44%)
  • Avoiding stress (37%)

A global study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos polled 4,000 employees and found that how companies handled the pandemic in terms of physical safety, psychological security and job security was unacceptable. Only 20% of workers felt their company met their needs during the initial months of COVID-19 and that their biggest concerns were around employers acting faster, communicating more regularly and with transparency, creating a safer office environment and leveraging technology better. The attribute of trust emerges from these findings, and the world’s best boss must be trustworthy in regard to these factors.

Perhaps these findings are best summarized by Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos, ““As organizations around the world operate through an unprecedented global pandemic, they need to double down on their employee experience strategy. However, instead of looking for trendy perks, they must get back to the foundational needs every employee requires: physical safety, psychological security, job stability, and flexibility. Among employees who trust their organization more now than before the pandemic, 70% say the company went above and beyond in their COVID-19 response. By truly putting the employee first, a mutual trust will begin to take hold that will propel employee engagement–and the success of the business–to new levels.”

Profile Of Bosses From Heaven

Of course, all bosses are not subpar. In fact, you might be fortunate enough to have the world’s best boss. Toxic bosses come in all shapes and sizes, and so do good bosses. But a list of characteristics distinguish managers who earn the title “Boss From Heaven.” They do the following:

  • Give clear direction
  • Possess a degree of emotional intelligence and empathy for employees
  • Acknowledge workers for outstanding performance
  • Provide regular feedback
  • Prioritizes networking and encourages responsibility
  • Build trust, partnerships and a climate of psychological safety and stability
  • Delegate and encourage independence
  • Encourage teamwork toward clear, predictable goals
  • Afford employees ample time off for self-care and mental health days

Profile Of The Boss From Hell

  • Watch over employee shoulders to monitor their work while refusing to delegate
  • Push and hurry employees to the point that they feel undue stress and burnout
  • Make unreasonable demands in terms of work hours, workloads and deadlines
  • Have unpredictable, erratic moods so employees never know what to expect
  • Create a climate of frenzy, urgency and tension without respect for employee feelings or personal lives
  • Manage time inefficiently because of over-scheduling and over-committing
  • Judge themselves and employees without mercy as they struggle to hit impossible targets
  • Tend to be overly critical and intolerant of even the most minor employee mistakes
  • Are insensitive to personal issues and/or mental health challenges of employees

Iron-Fisted Rule

Working under a subpar boss can be a nightmare. Andrea worked for a major East Coast newspaper. Her boss routinely awakened employees in the middle of the night and on weekends to get an obscure fact from the West Coast for a next-morning deadline. “Naturally everything was closed, so there were times when I ended up calling Tokyo at 3:00 a.m. to get the information he wanted,” she said. “It was always one crisis after another.”

A CareerBuilder study found that 58% of managers reported receiving no management training. Managers are often promoted into higher positions because of their ability to change and control other people. Although the boss from hell can be blatantly iron-fisted, some are much more subtle. Their over-responsibility, poor communication skills and inability to express feelings make them ineffective managers. Bosses who are out of touch with their emotional lives are likely to be insensitive to the needs and feelings of their subordinates. If they are uncomfortable expressing feelings, they are less likely to provide positive feedback, praise and appreciation.

Instead of seeking advice, asking for input or showing humility, bad bosses are notorious for ruling with an iron fist, using intimidation as a defense against their own insecurities and unwittingly undermining—rather than supporting—subordinates to reinforce their own, more powerful position. They tend to pressure employees to match their own inhuman standards of long hours and frantic pace. Employee morale nosedives and burnout skyrockets under such autocratic rule.

Under a toxic boss, the work climate is unpredictable and inconsistent, just like the climate in an alcoholic home. Apprehension, fear and insecurity are normal reactions if you’re in an unpredictable job position. Overly critical, overly demanding bosses become roadblocks to productivity and quality in the workforce, causing disharmony, absenteeism, tardiness, mistrust and conflict. Their leadership style lowers productivity and morale and destroys team playing and creative brainstorming in the workplace.

Dealing With A Subpar Boss

You can’t fire your boss, but you can take action that will benefit you in the long run.

  1. Avoid anger, frustration and impatience. Use good judgment. Steer clear of inappropriate, offensive, inflammatory, derogatory language or gossip. Remain tactful, diplomatic and professional even when you’re frustrated. Talk with your boss and try to understand his or her human side. Attempt to find an idea, pastime or point of view that gives you common ground to connect with your boss so you can stay objective and see the problem bigger than just the two of you.
  2. Schedule a meeting with your boss. Find out what the expectations of you are and the expectations of your boss’s boss. Ask exactly what type of performance is expected of you in order for you to receive an excellent review rating. According to some experts, 99% of the time work hours are not among the factors. This approach ensures you won’t be downgraded for not putting in extra hours. Make sure your boss understands your point of view, the importance of your personal life and your expectations concerning job demands. Make priorities, set goals and schedule your time accordingly.
  3. Reach out to coworkers. Other colleagues are usually experiencing similar boss issues. Start support-group meetings before or after work or during lunch in designated places onsite. By meeting together and talking about problems constructively, you can develop a rich support system to draw from in the job setting. Take the high road and schedule a group meeting with the boss and explain your concerns in a professional way. Ask for feedback or ground rules so everyone can be productive and collaborative. Refrain from mean spirited conversations such as back biting, blame, rumors or gossip and seek to build professional partnerships and problem shoot with your boss in order to develop a climate of teamwork.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: https://bryanrobinsonphd.com.