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15 Things Managers Must Never Do

Avoid doing these things if you want to have a positive and productive team and work environment.

Old man executive wearing a grey suit.


Over the past 25 years, I’ve worked in a broad range of organizations, had bosses of all types, and served in leadership positions myself. Below is a list of Don’ts based on the bad behavior and resulting consequences I’ve either seen or been guilty of myself.

1. Don’t Talk Down to People

There’s a big difference between being casual with someone and talking down to them. It comes down to intent and tone. When you act superior or condescending, you create silent enemies. At best, they will underperform. At worst, they will actively find ways to sabotage you and the organization.

2. Don’t Yell at People

There is a difference between a leader yelling urgent commands in a crisis situation versus their shouting out of frustration and their inability to control their anger. When people feel disrespected, humiliated, or pressured, they rarely give their best and are unlikely to stick around for the long-term.

3. Don’t Ridicule, Mock, or Insult People

The victim will seethe with resentment and end up costing the company in lost productivity. Furthermore, their poor morale will eventually infect those around them. In many cases, this could all have been avoided if the boss had treated them with respect. If something needs to be discussed, then set up a one-on-one discussion in private.

4. Don’t Be Flashy

Try to avoid showing the rewards of your success. Some of the world’s most successful business people make a point of using public transport, flying economy, not having a private office, and dressing humbly. They likely do find opportunities to enjoy their wealth discreetly but make sure to keep these out of sight to avoid triggering jealousy in their staff.

5. Don’t Get Wasted

As a leader, you’re likely under a lot of pressure and stress. You’re under-slept and tired. This means that even mild intoxication can lower your inhibitions to the point where you might do or say something inappropriate. Even if it was intended to be funny at the time and you had no ill intent, these things can come back to bite you.

6. Don’t Reveal Your Romantic Life

Whether you’re married or single, monogamous or polyamorous, and regardless of your sexual orientation, I recommend you just keep all of that out of office life. If you’re having a tough time, or your situation is anything out of the usual, people will gossip. If you’re doing well, people will get jealous. Either way, you can’t win, so just keep it all private.

7. Don’t Be Seen Being Lazy

There’s nothing more demotivating than a boss who isn’t working hard. Sure, you might have stayed up all night, working through the whole weekend, or been working like crazy since 5 AM, but your staff won’t realize. Perhaps it’s been years since you’ve taken a day off. Fine, but if you’re not going to be productive, then don’t go to the office. Your staff should only see you when you’re working hard.

8. Don’t Preach

Unless you work for a religious or political organization, I recommend you avoid discussing these topics. It’s better to stay focused on the company’s mission and getting work done. You're not going to change anyone’s mind, so rather than make enemies (especially silent, invisible ones), keep discussions about religion and politics to yourself. This goes for what you post online too.

9. Don’t Share Stupid Stuff Online

In this day and age, we even have billionaires and national leaders making gaffes online. It can be tough. Sometimes a tweet or post made perfect sense in your mind in the heat of the moment, and the next thing you know, you’ve caused an uproar or a scandal. Either commit to mastering using online media to project the right image or minimize your use of it.

10. Don’t Talk About Compensation Publicly

If someone is under-compensated, then it reflects poorly on the management and organization. It can also be embarrassing for the person concerned. If people perceive a staff member as being over-compensated, it can breed gossip, jealousy, and resentment. Pay people fairly and tell them how you are determining their compensation, including industry sources and salary surveys - but keep all of these communications confidential.

11. Don’t Ignore or Shoot Down Employee Ideas

Many leaders habitually ignore or shoot down ideas, suggestions, or feedback from subordinates. Rather than making people feel stupid for venturing to suggest something new, take the time to listen to them and thank them for their input. If it doesn’t make sense or isn’t feasible, then calmly explain the reasons why respectfully. This will help keep the door open for what might be invaluable input down the line.

12. Don’t Withhold Praise

It’s common for managers to withhold giving their people praise for various reasons. However, sincere praise that is about legitimate strengths or achievements motivates people to do better and leads to greater satisfaction at work. We are social animals and react to the comments of others, especially our superiors.

13. Don’t Neglect to Check Submitted Work

When you neglect to check the work of your staff, they will eventually get jaded. It can be tremendously frustrating to be expected to submit reports that nobody reads and then later be asked about their contents. Bad managers require regular reporting so that they have information on record to cover themselves in the event of something going wrong. However, it’s often too late by that stage.

14. Don’t be Vague or Omit Information

You can’t expect a task to be done correctly if you don’t give enough guidance. By all means, take advantage of resources such as online information and courses to help provide your people general knowledge and skills, but lead them through the specifics when it matters. The worst is a boss who gives vague and sparse information either out of laziness or just not paying attention. They then blame their people for not producing their desired results.

15. Don’t be Negative

In any organization or team, the tone is set from the top. If the leader is consistently critical, complaining, or pessimistic, this eventually takes its toll on team morale. Your people need you to be charging forward with positive energy and inspiring them to move forward. If you’re not feeling good about yourself or your life, look into fixing the problems.


The irony is that, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably far too conscientious to fall into most of these traps. If you have, then you probably genuinely feel bad about it and want to avoid repeating the behavior. The best you can do is be aware of these tendencies and do your best.

Did I miss anything? What Don’ts would you add to this list?


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