Weak leaders: 6 signs of bad leadership and what to do about it

Empty promises, self-praise, high turnover: Weak management has many faces. These signs indicate that there is something wrong with the management style.


Every company depends on good and sound management. A study by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shows the influence that managers’ behavior has on the psyche of employees. Therefore improve the working environment and the health and well-being of employees through strong leadership.

When managers exhibit suspicious behavior, it is a sign that something is wrong. Negative signs, such as empty promises and lack of appreciation, can jeopardize the team’s emotional well-being.

The sooner”the root of all evil‘ is recognized, the more likely it is that what can still be saved will be saved. However, it becomes difficult when teams do not question the behavior of their superiors. This is not uncommon: by nature, people tend not to question people in positions of authority, but to idealize them.

However, the following indicators can be used to objectively assess whether there is weak management:

1st sign: Problems with proximity and distance

The proximity-distance relationship between managers and employees often becomes a challenge for team leaders who tend to go to one extreme or the other.

A professional closeness to the employees is essential in order to be welcoming, to gain the employees’ trust and to strengthen the team. However, too much closeness quickly becomes chummy. Boundaries are blurred and seriousness is lost.

Distance is also difficult: Extreme distance comes across as cool, unapproachable and also unsympathetic.

Weak leadership can be identified by an ambivalent behavior in relation to the proximity-distance relationship. If managers show themselves to be extremely accommodating one day and the next day “pretend” that the emotional conversation did not take place yesterday, or if this is denied non-verbally through a distanced attitude, it suggests that they are not for themselves and also do not stand by their staff.

2. Sign: High turnover rate

The responsibility for retaining employees lies primarily with the managers. The numbers speak for themselves – and this is where weak leadership is measurable. If many employees leave the team sooner or later, employee turnover indicates that something is wrong.

Important: Mass departures can also be operational or have other reasons. At this point, one should therefore consider whether there are other signs of weak leadership.


3rd sign: Lots of self-praise

It is important to praise yourself. But when leaders tend to be overly self-aggrandizing, it can be a sign of weak leadership. When managers use their position of power to clarify their own emotional needs, it is a sure sign that the leadership style needs to be questioned.

4th sign: Empty promises

Salary negotiations are postponed every day, agreements do not materialize and the promised document is still missing from the e-mail inbox.

Employees depend on managers when they give assurances that they will take care of a particular matter. If promises and agreements are repeatedly ignored or not kept, the behavior indicates weakness in leadership.

5. Signs: Toxic behavior (eg lying)

A clear sign of weak leadership is the toxic behavior of those in positions of power. A typical toxic manifestation includes the following abnormalities:

  • passive-aggressive behavior
  • insincerity and lies
  • nothing to say to the employees
  • derogatory choice of words
  • make fun of others to make themselves shine

6th sign: Lack of appreciation

Frustration, conflict or even internal resignations are inevitable if team leaders are unable to communicate appreciation. Because: Honest recognition and appreciation act as fuel for employees. If this is lacking, sooner or later the results of the weak management will show: employees resign, call in sick or leave the company.


“Cheffing”: How far should employees go to support their bosses?

The fact is that perfect leaders have not fallen from the sky to this day. Instead of going into regression, leaving the company or suppressing problems, teams can take the helm themselves.

Leadership from below or “Cheffing” – that’s the name of the model, which has to influence your own boss in a subtle way:

  • Employees should first find out exactly how their own boss really ticks.
  • Typical behavior, such as conflict behavior, is analyzed.
  • If the manager seems quite distant, and this is not uncommon, as management can sometimes make you lonely, it helps to show interest – for example in discussions, at team events, etc.
  • To be willing to be influenced by staff, leaders must first demonstrate a willingness to trust. If there is a lack of trust in the workforce, leadership from below is difficult.

No-Gos: What should employees refrain from doing?

There are boundaries that employees should respect even if they find fault with their manager’s management style. This includes the following points:

Do not risk exposure:

Team members themselves may have skills that make them good leaders. Although we supposedly know better: embarrassing superiors because they are not quite perfect, make mistakes or still need to work on themselves – this is clearly not advisable.

Tip: It is better to emphasize strengths, allow mistakes and learn together. It is well known that no one is perfect – our bosses can also grow in this way every day.

Avoid lack of communication:


If problems are discussed only in a team and to the exclusion of the person who is actually talking, the challenge can be increased. To demonstrate loyalty and integrity, employees should bring their managers with them when they discover serious difficulties.

Direct communication is still the most effective way to resolve conflicts, as well as to discuss expectations and make realistic demands.

Do not refuse the manager position indirectly:

Although there is influence, our bosses are still our bosses. Flat hierarchies help communicate at eye level. Yet they struggle with a different responsibility as team members. It would be fatal to indirectly deny them their own position—for example, through personal boasting, exaggeration, or displays of power.

Conclusion: Weak leadership can only be tolerated up to a certain point

Lack of communication, too much self-praise or high turnover rates: When talking about “weak management”, the definition can vary. Companies and teams should take a differentiated look at them: what can be tolerated – and what behavior clearly crosses a line?

If management behavior contributes to the company losing employees and the working environment becomes poisoned, it is important to respond as a team. The most important step here is to assign responsibility correctly and to seek dialogue with superiors.

Particularly important: Influencing your own boss should never be planned out of “ambush” or with malicious intent, for example to get one over on the boss for his behavior. This can lead to the previous behavior being reinforced and superiors losing trust.

Photo credit: SvetaZi/istockphoto.com

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