How common are bad bosses?

Many employees may be of the view that bad bosses abound. This study looks at whether this view is justified.

Bosses play a fundamental role in workplaces. Yet, are the right people promoted to be our supervisors, team leaders, and managers? The infamous Peter Principle claims that incompetent bosses are likely to be all around us. Could this be true?

The paper How Common are Bad Bosses? provides the first statistically representative international estimates -- taking comparable data on 35 nations -- of the extent to which employees have ‘bad bosses’. Using a natural measure, the paper calculates that approximately 13% of Europe’s workers have a bad boss. Such bosses are most common in large organisations, in organisations without employee-representation committees, in the transport sector, and where workers themselves have no supervisory responsibility.

The paper offers a practical finding as a potential aid to human-resource training and hiring. Contrary to media portrayals, bad bosses are rated least-bad on ‘respect for workers’ and worst on their ability to get the job done. Lack of competence, not lack of consideration, appears to be the key problem.

The paper How Common are Bad Bosses? has been published in Industrial Relations. A copy may also be requested at City Research Online.