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Why Bad Managers Don’t Get Fired? Complete Analysis

Author: Emma Williams
Author: Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Table of Contents
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Bad managers can often seem like kudzu in the corporate garden – pervasive and challenging to remove despite their negative influence on team morale and productivity. The problem of their persistence is not down to a single cause but a web of systemic issues and oversight failures. At HIGH5, we believe that understanding and leveraging individual strengths is key to preventing such issues. Our strengths assessment helps organizations identify and nurture potential leaders who possess the natural talents needed for effective management, reducing the likelihood of promoting individuals into roles that don’t align with their strengths.

In this article, we will explore why bad managers can escape the consequences of their actions and continue in their roles.

Top Reasons Why Bad Managers Don’t Get Fired

Here are some main reasons bad managers can fly under the radar and avoid getting fired.

They Don’t Want to Admit Fault

The reluctance to admit fault is a significant barrier when dealing with bad management. Leaders may need to be made aware that acknowledgment of a poor hire or promotion needs to reflect their decision-making skills.

This ego-protection can lead to a form of denial where the negative impact of a bad manager is rationalized or downplayed. The result is a workplace suffering a continuation of subpar leadership while higher-ups must confront their fallibility.

They Don’t See the Behaviors

In many cases, bad managers continue their tenure simply because their behaviors go unnoticed by upper management. This blindness often stems from a lack of direct interaction between senior leaders and lower-level employees, where most poor management behavior occurs.

Moreover, if the manager’s results look good on paper, it can mask underlying issues since performance is frequently measured in output rather than team health or employee satisfaction.

The Manager is Super-Productive or Present

An often misleading sign is when a manager is seen as super-productive or always present. This may give an impression of dedication and effectiveness, yet it can mask underlying issues.

A manager who is constantly “in the weeds” with their team while appearing to lead by example may be micromanaging or struggling to delegate effectively, restricting team autonomy and hindering the development of employees’ skills.

They want to avoid the hiring process

In some cases, upper management may be aware of a bad manager’s behavior but choose not to address it due to the fear of going through the hiring process again.

Hiring and training new managers can be costly and time-consuming, causing some leaders to disregard issues with current managers, hoping they will eventually improve.

Related: First-Time Managers: 14 Critical Advices for New Managers

However, this approach often backfires and creates a toxic workplace culture that can be difficult to reverse.

The whole place is dysfunctional

A common reason for upper management overlooking poor management behavior is when the entire company or department has a toxic culture. In these environments, it may be challenging to determine precisely who is responsible for specific issues, leading to a lack of accountability for managers’ actions.

Additionally, breaking this cycle and holding managers accountable for their actions can be challenging if the company has a history of promoting and rewarding toxic behavior.

There’s no evidence

In some cases, complaints about a manager’s behavior may not have enough tangible evidence to support them. This can make it challenging for upper management to take action against a manager without risking potential legal repercussions.

However, it’s essential to recognize that not all forms of toxic behavior leave a paper trail and that employee complaints should be taken seriously, even without concrete evidence.

They fear the lousy manager will cause trouble

Some employees may fear retaliation from a lousy manager if they speak out about their behavior. This can create a culture of silence where management issues are swept under the rug to avoid potential consequences.

Upper management must create a safe and supportive environment for employees to share their concerns without fear of retaliation.

What Are Bad Managers?

Bad managers come in various forms but generally share a common denominator of negatively impacting their teams and the broader organization. Some exhibit overtly abusive behaviors, whereas others may be categorized by incompetence or a lack of leadership insight.

These individuals often lack the qualities essential for effective leadership, such as empathy, competence, and the ability to motivate and support their team members.

The effects of bad management on a team can be profound and long-lasting. Employees under poor leadership tend to experience higher stress levels, dissatisfaction, and demotivation.

This leads to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity and can ultimately cause a talented workforce to seek employment elsewhere.

Moreover, the lingering presence of a bad manager can create a toxic work environment that stifles creativity and innovation.

At an organizational level, bad managers severely inhibit efficiency. They are often a bottleneck for decision-making, resist necessary changes, and fail to align their team’s goals with the organizational vision.

Their inability to manage effectively results in a poor allocation of resources – both human and material – and by failing to leverage their team’s potential, organizations miss out on growth opportunities.

From a financial perspective, the cost of bad management is substantial. Recruitment and training expenses rise as employee turnover increases. Additionally, poor leadership often leads to subpar execution of projects, resulting in overspending and missed deadlines.

The hidden costs can include decreased employee engagement and lost business due to a tarnished company reputation.

Related: Employee Engagement: Ideas, Strategies & How to Improve

There are significant barriers to the removal of bad managers. Organizational politics, particularly in hierarchical setups, can protect ineffective leaders from repercussions. They may have been promoted owing to their tenure rather than competency, creating scenarios where their continued employment is due to legacy rather than performance.

Additionally, fear of confrontation or business continuity disruption can delay decisive action against such managers.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

When evaluating potential managers, look beyond their technical skills. Use a strengths-based approach and a strengths assessment to identify candidates whose natural talents align with leadership qualities. For example, someone with the “Coach” strength might excel at developing team members, while a “Problem Solver” could navigate complex organizational challenges effectively.

Different Types of Bad Bosses

The following are some common types of bad managers found in organizations.

The Bully

Bullying bosses thrive on intimidation and fear to assert their power. They often resort to aggressive communication, public humiliation, and unpredictable outbursts to control their subordinates.

This management style undermines employees’ confidence and creates a hostile work environment that erodes trust and collaboration within the team.

The Insecure Boss

An insecure manager can be detrimental to team health, as their actions often stem from a deep-seated fear of being outshone by their team members. They micromanage, withhold critical information, and rarely, if ever, credit others for their contributions.

Such behavior stifles professional growth and innovation, leaving employees feeling undervalued and demotivated.

The Hider

The Hider is a manager who shies away from responsibility, often avoiding tough decisions or any scenario where they could be held accountable.

Their evasion can stall project momentum, as their lack of guidance or decision-making leaves the team in limbo. The absence of strong leadership can significantly hurt project outcomes and team morale.

Bosses who exhibit these counterproductive behaviors can inhibit progression and damage the overall structure of the workplace. The Bully damages interpersonal relations, the Insecure Boss erodes confidence and independence, and the Hider disrupts flow and clarity in operations.

Recognizing these types is crucial for organizations to address managerial shortcomings proactively, thus fostering a healthier and more productive work environment.

How Bad Managers Affect Employees

Bad managers can significantly impact employee experience and overall job satisfaction.

High Turnover

A bad manager can drive employees away, leading to high turnover rates. Constantly losing employees means spending resources on hiring and training replacements, which is costly and disruptive to business operations.

High turnover also sends a negative signal to potential hires, making it harder for the company to attract top talent. As a result, productivity and growth suffer as new employees struggle to adjust while current employees are burdened with additional workloads.


In contrast to a good manager who inspires and motivates their team, a bad manager can have the opposite effect. When faced with poor leadership, employees may feel demoralized, disengaged, and uninterested in their work.

Related: 10 Effective Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated

The lack of motivation can result in decreased productivity, lower quality work, and missed deadlines. Ultimately, this impacts the bottom line of a company.

Law Suits

Bad management practices can lead to serious legal repercussions for a company. Managers who engage in discrimination, harassment, or violate employee rights create a minefield of potential litigation.

When employees are driven to the breaking point, they may seek justice in court, resulting in costly legal battles that drain resources and tarnish a company’s reputation.

Legal challenges can be a signpost of deep-rooted issues within the leadership that urgently need to be addressed.

Toxic Culture

Toxic culture is often a direct reflection of poor leadership. A manager’s negative behavior can permeate the team, leading to a workplace contaminated with fear, backstabbing, and low morale.

As employees mimic what they see from the top, the work environment becomes where nobody feels safe or motivated to perform.

Creativity and innovation are stunted as employees spend more energy surviving the toxicity than contributing positively to the company’s goals.

“Mental Health” Issues

Finally, a toxic workplace can also have severe consequences on an employee’s mental health.

Constant stress, fear of job loss or retaliation, and lack of support can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. These issues affect the individual and their work performance, leading to decreased productivity and potential legal repercussions for the company.

Companies must address and combat toxic culture within the workplace. This includes holding leaders accountable for their behavior and implementing policies that promote a positive work environment.

Encouraging open communication, providing resources for mental health support, and fostering a healthy work-life balance are all steps companies can take toward creating a healthier workplace.

Pro Tip From HIGH5

To combat demotivation, have your entire team take a strengths assessment. During team meetings, discuss how each member’s top strengths can contribute to current projects. This not only boosts individual confidence but also shows how diverse strengths collectively drive success, reinvigorating team motivation.


The detrimental effects of poor management permeate through every facet of the workplace, from fostering a toxic culture to igniting legal repercussions and provoking mental health crises among employees.

It is paramount for organizations to recognize the significant impact managers have and to invest in training, support, and accountability measures.

Addressing these leadership failures is not merely about avoiding adverse outcomes but is essential for nurturing a positive, innovative, and productive work environment where employees can thrive.

As companies pivot towards this understanding, they can transform challenges into opportunities for growth and establish themselves as exemplars of excellent workplace culture.

Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5
Author: Emma Williams - Chief Research Officer at HIGH5

Emma is a certified strengths and career coach with more than 25 years of international experience in helping individuals and organizations achieve success by nailing and maximizing their unique value propositions. She is an entrepreneur, proud mother and a C-level executive at HIGH5TEST, where she leads its coaching and research programs.

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