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Earlier this year I went on an interview at an organization that I’ve been wanting to work for since I’ve graduated with my Psychology degree.

Instantly, I noticed some red flags while taking a tour of the facility, asking questions, as well as speaking with some of the seasoned employees. Needless to say, I immediately decided not to work there.

Having been in a leadership position for over 6 years at a previous company, I knew exactly what to look for in regards to effective leadership. I couldn’t find a trace of it within that organization.

The early warning signs I noticed while taking a tour of the facility and speaking with employees were: clear signs of exhaustion, nervousness and just an overall sense of unease. You know the vibe I’m talking about. Have you ever walked into a room and the energy just feels…off? That’s how it felt.

Bad leadership can be traumatizing. This is the type of leadership that’s based in narcissism, selfishness, lack of reliability as well as pride.

Here are 9 red flags of bad leadership. When you see these red flags head to the nearest exit as soon as possible!


Office Politics

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This has to be the most common red flag that everyone comes across when starting a new position.

But I get the feeling you may love the drama. It seems intriguing and sometimes, I have to admit, it can be downright entertaining; that is until you get involved and your work life becomes a living hell.

Whether inadvertent or not, division amongst team members is a clear sign of bad leadership.

In my past articles, I’ve spoken about the importance of soft skills and the ability to keep the vibes in the office aboveboard.

Gossiping, backbiting, lying about co-workers, favoritism and general disdain for leadership in the office as a whole is a clear sign of bad leadership.

If you’re a month in and starting to notice this toxic energy seeping into your being, get out before it’s too late.


Low Morale

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Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Heavily related to office politics and division, low morale manifests itself as lack of passion and enthusiasm.

Low morale also manifests itself as the teams inability to work together effectively to completely projects by their deadline. This is a clear sign of leadership that lacks the ability to community organize.

A good leader knows how to boost morale by uniting the team under a superordinate goal, a common objective that everyone works together to achieve.


High Turnover Rate

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Photo by Jornada Produtora on Unsplash

This is a bright red flag. The brightest of reds, at that.

If you’ve been at a company for about 2–3 months and have noticed a lot of new faces come and go while the team isn’t consistently growing, you may have a leadership problem in your midst. This is especially true if truly talented people come and go.

Incompetent leaders fire, hire and rehire employees as a way to conceal serious leadership issues.

High turnover is also a sign that this workplace isn’t a very nice place to be. Employees in these types of environments are dissatisfied and rather leave than stick around.

Ask yourself if you want to continue working for a company that practices wage theft, refuses to listen to what you’re going through and straight up disrespects you at every turn.


Lack Of Communication

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Photo by Power Digital Marketing on Unsplash

Communication is essential to effective leadership. When there’s no communication, there’s no trust. And when there’s no trust, morale goes out the window as well as basic productivity that the role requires.

Some examples of lack of communication is:

  • When a leader is nowhere to be found in a crisis or…at all, for that matter.
  • No line of communication through phone or email.
  • A leader who cuts you off mid sentence and is dismissive.
  • A leader who neglects to articulate clear cut expectations.
  • A leader who neglects to update team on changing policies and procedures.
  • A leader who makes you feel incompetent for asking questions.

Using Fear Tactics

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Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Once upon a time I over heard a manager say to their front line supervisor: “You gotta put the fear in em!”

This was his go-to strategy to force productivity and influence workers. I hated working for that man. The turnover rate under his management was high and the workplace environment was toxic.

When a leader uses fear based tactics such maintaining a “macho” attitude or other forms of narcissistic tactics, it’s a sign of bad leadership and a weak person in general.

Good leaders don’t influence through fear, they influence through trust and effective communication. Team members take the initiative and go the extra mile for good leadership.

Waking up, anticipating working with this kind of person, only complying out of fear and not because you’re willing to follow your leader by choice is a clear sign of bad leadership.


Lack Of Productivity

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Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

If your team is constantly missing their production goals, that’s a clear sign of incompetent leadership.

A leader that can’t help their team reach their goals fail to do so because they prioritize all the wrong things, leads their team with fear and lacks effective communication.

With nebulous expectations and office politics, it’s not a mystery as to why bad leadership fails to meet their numbers.


Lack Of Structure

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Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

When good leadership is absent, so is structure. A leader that can’t define clear structure isn’t an effective leader at all.

A strong, effective team works within a clearly articulated structure. They know how to execute goals through specific processes and expectations that leadership sets forth.

Bad leadership creates chaos and confusion.

If you find yourself confused and disoriented at the workplace, this is due to scatter brained leadership.


Lack Of Transparency

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This goes hand in hand with trust. When a leader isn’t transparent with their team, they won’t trust them. Simple as that.

There’s never a reason for a leader to not be honest with their staff. When leadership is open and honest, the team will be appreciative. This form of openness is a sign of respect.

Another place to notice red flags is employee and customer reviews on the internet. If you’re about to interview for a company, do a little research on the web. See if you can’t find some bad reviews citing a terrible manager or co-worker warning others not to invest time at that specific company.

It should clue you in on the type of energy that exists within a company. For example, you can thoroughly check the reviews of a company on indeed.com or simply Google search as much information as possible to gauge company trust.


Placing Blame

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Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

A clear indication of bad leadership is their unwillingness to take accountability for everything. Placing blame on team members failures rather than figuring out what went wrong in the first place is bad leadership.

Leadership is about taking accountability for everything. Everything falls on their shoulders.

When leaders place blame on their team members, that’s a sign of a lack of accountability and a sign of mental weakness on their part. I’d even argue it’s a bit of emotional immaturity mixed in.

If you see your leadership going around, placing blame, refusing to take accountability, it’s only a matter of time before they start placing blame on you.


The Takeaway

These are just some of the red flags you should be aware off when it comes to bad leadership.

This piece can also show you what not to do if you’re in a leadership position yourself. The last thing you want to do as a leader is to scare away talented employees that can help grow the organization.

Good leadership should lead with trust, empathy, ingenuity, effective communication and reliability.

If you find yourself working under bad leadership, head for the exit before you invest too much time at the company.

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