I’ve worked for a lot of bosses in my career, and have also heard war stories from friends, colleagues, and clients. A good boss is golden, but a bad boss will teach you so much about life, leadership, and organizations. When you are in the thick of it with a bad boss, it can be so miserable that it’s hard to know that you’re learning anything at all.

In the end, I’m really grateful to all my bosses whether I enjoyed working for them at the time or not. The most important lessons circle around the importance of organizational culture and retaining top performers. People who trust each other share information, collaborate, and act on best interest of organization. People with purpose and direction are too busy – and satisfied – to do anything other than their jobs. And when your organization attracts and retains top performers, there’s no limit on where you can go.

But in case you are curious, here are some quick ways to tank your organizational culture and convince top performers to leave: 

  • Tell a lie or half-truth
  • Try to make me tell a lie or half-truth
  • Say one thing and do another
  • Go radio silent when asked tough questions
  • Demand answers to questions without context
  • Play down importance of staff morale
  • Reprimand in public
  • Tell employees how to dress
  • Give added responsibility without a real promotion
  • Promote at a discounted salary level
  • Make someone feel like you are granting them a favor with a promotion
  • Belittle ideas
  • Tolerate bad behavior by others
  • Ignore the big problems

What lessons have you learned from your best and worst bosses?