6 Mistakes Your Boss Is Making That Leave You Unhappy At Work

Recognise any of these habits?
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You’re reading Life-Work Balance, a series aiming to redirect our total devotion to work into prioritising our personal lives.

If you hate or dislike your job, sometimes there is one person at the heart of it: your boss.

Whether intentional or not, our bosses have the ability to make or break the working environment. They can make a bad situation worse, or even block career progression for the future.

These problems can impact all workers, but are felt even more acutely by people of colour, especially when discrimination or unconscious bias is compounded with gender, sexual orientation, and neurodiversity.

A review of issues faced by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people in the workplace found that BME people are faced with a distinct lack of role models, they are more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, they are less likely to apply for and be given promotions, and they are more likely to be disciplined or judged harshly at work.

We can all have good bosses or bad bosses, but when we all operate under a capitalist system that doesn’t prioritise employee satisfaction and wellbeing, mistakes and conscious neglect can occur, with very damaging consequences.

Here are some of the ways our managers fail us:

Allowing microaggressions

People of minority status – whether that’s in terms of race, disability, sexuality, or otherwise – can attest to backhanded comments, or offensive, charged behaviours, which can make work highly uncomfortable.

Those in leadership positions can make or break these situations, mitigating behaviours and attempting to deter offensive attitudes.

Most work places claim to have a ‘zero-tolerance’ policies in regards to bullying and hate crimes, but often ignore the equally damaging and insidious work culture that prevents minorities from moving up, including microaggressions, lack of opportunities, and unconscious bias.

Confusing two people of colour for the other, anglicising non-traditional names, asking invasive questions, and expecting someone to be the spokesperson for their minority group count as microaggressions.

It is up to the leaders to enforce change, challenge discriminatory behaviours and actively attempt to diversify meaningfully, not as a token.

Having a lack of leadership training

It’s somewhat jarring when a fellow colleague becomes your superior, and while a promotion is great, does the role come with effective leadership training?

A manager’s role includes managing people, but do they have the background training to ensure their staff’s wellbeing is catered for?

Employment specialist Judy Bullimore says bosses who haven’t been given adequate coaching can flounder.

“They lack the core skills needed to develop, support and manage staff such as empathy, listening, communication and the ability to make decisions,” she tells HuffPost UK. “In many cases bosses become bosses because they have been in the company for a long time, not necessarily because they have had proven success in their roles, or the culture of the organisation was to employ or promote internally based on likeability or networking.

“The traits of a boss that lacks leadership plays out in a number of ways. As an employee you feel like you know more than your manager, that there is no point asking them for opportunities to develop, or support to overcome an issue, because they show little understanding, enthusiasm or action to your requests.”

Micromanaging individuals

Being micromanaged by an employer is a huge gripe for workers as it shows a lack of trust towards them. When a manager surveils, patronises, and questions your behaviour at work, especially without merit, it can create a stifling and toxic work culture.

Fear of the ‘new’

A big mistake some bosses make is not giving space and exploration for new ideas and innovation from their employees. The pandemic has catapulted the new into our work-places; we’re introducing flexible hours, remote working, and even a four-day work week. Whatever newness you’re advocating, it’s important to get your boss’s sign-off. But some can block this.

Bullimore adds: “One of the most demoralising things they can do is to shut an idea down due to their own lack of vision, fear of not understanding it, worry that they may be exposed for not thinking of it, or tunnel vision of what they feel their role, and that of their team needs to be. Whatever the reason, one of the biggest mistakes is to dull an employee’s passion!”

Creating a competitive culture

A bit of healthy competition is part and parcel of work culture but managers should ascertain boundaries – are workers expected to meet unattainable goals, do they have the support in place to achieve these, are targets being prioritised over quality, measured work?

Psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers says it’s important to foster collaboration rather than unhealthy competition.

“Even when managing people, you are actually managing a team. Fostering healthy competition and opportunities to collaborate creates a culture where people can work together, rather than against each other,” he says. “This doesn’t just generate happiness, but also long term productivity, strong team dynamics and a culture of care benefits individuals and the team as a whole.”

Not making employees feel valued

A little recognition and appreciation goes a long way, and this doesn’t need to cost the earth or take hours.

“It’s the simple things such as being welcomed in the morning, the questions that show an interest in you, the little check-ins rather than check-ups and the encouraging words [that] give employees an experience where they feel both supported and able to connect to the work that they do,” says Chambers. “And I always encourage the occasional hand written, personalised note, as this is both tangible and novel in an increasingly digital world.”

As well as praise, it’s also important to provide regular feedback in a constructive way, highlighting both the positives and negatives, with suggestions delivered in a curious and non-judgemental manner. In addition, a manager who is also open to feedback creates a space where an employee feels listened to and heard, and this is a powerful motivator for employee happiness.

HuffPost UK/ Isabella Carapella

Life-Work Balance questions the status quo of work culture, its mental and physical impacts, and radically reimagines how we can change it to work for us.