9 signs your boss is a pushover — and what that means for you

Tommen Baratheon Game of Thrones
Poor King Tommen definitely qualifies as a pushover in ‘Game of Thrones.’ Helen Sloan/HBO

You’ve got your boss wrapped around your little finger. You’re constantly talking around them. You’re always get away with all sorts of office shenanigans. At this point, you can pretty much do anything you want at work.

Sweet deal, right?

Not really.

In most cases, having a pushover for a boss can be more detrimental than beneficial. Weak-willed managers lack the direction and leadership skills needed to, well, manage. People with such dispositions rarely find themselves in the role of boss, but some people do slip through the cracks.

These kinds of managers could indirectly but seriously be hurting your professional development.

Here are some signs that your boss is a pushover:

1. They let employees walk all over them

This is one of the primary indications you’re dealing with an ineffective boss. Pushover managers don’t stand up to their employees and pretty much allow them to do whatever they want.

What this means for you: In the short term, being able to push your manager around might seem like a benefit. You could use this leverage for good or evil, but either way, it might make you feel like you have more control in the office. In reality, this tendency benefits problem employees more than it does solid workers. Plus, it ensures that your team or workplace lacks direction, which is a problem for everyone in the long run.

2. They have clear favourites

Pushover bosses tend to gravitate toward employees who validate them in some way. This is a sign of their deep-set insecurity. In an interview with Forbes, workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job” Lynn Taylor noted that blatant office favoritism can lead to a “hostile workplace.”

What this means for you: Playing favourites in the office seriously jeopardizes everyone’s morale and productivity. Seriously, what’s the point of trying if the manager’s pet gets all the accolades no matter what? On the other hand, if you are the boss’s favourite even though you’re not necessarily the top employee, you might be singled out for hate from your coworkers.

3. They say ‘sorry’ a lot

When you mess up, it’s a good idea to clear things up by saying “sorry.” However, apologizing too much at work is never a good idea. That goes double for people in management positions.

What this means for you: You’ll eventually get sick of your boss’s incessant stream of apologies. It will render the word “sorry” pretty much meaningless. Plus, it will make them look weak and timid and open up a power vacuum in the office.

4. They flee any kind of confrontation

Most people don’t like fighting. Pushovers, however, can’t handle any sort of confrontation. They’re simply not able to deal with it. This can be a problem in a high stress office environment, where competition and debate are just part of the company culture.

What this means for you: If you’re the one having an argument with your boss, this might be to your advantage. However, if you ever need your manager to have your back or stand up for you, forget about it. They’d rather throw you under the bus than deal with confrontation.

5. They don’t handle problem employees

Problem employees drag everyone down and torpedo group morale. Workplace bullies actually put companies out billions of dollars in lost productivityy.

What this means for you: If you’re a somewhat decent employee working for an ineffective manager, prepare to watch your worst coworkers have the run of the mill. It will be frustrating and they will be little you can do about it, since your boss is more concerned with avoiding confrontation than making sure everyone is performing adequately.

6. They don’t lead — they go with the flow

Pushover managers aren’t looking to innovate or make your workplace “great.” They’re all about cruising along and not changing the status quo too much. As Liz Ryan reported in Forbes, weak managers prefer to just keep the higher ups happy and watch their subordinates do all the actual work.

What this means for you: If your manager isn’t willing to lead you toward greatness, that’s a problem for you. It’s not good for your professional development if you’re able to coast by with mediocre work for years. Plus, this bad attitude towards leadership can cause your workplace to really stagnate over time.

7. They only give positive feedback

Every time you meet with your boss for a check in, they have nothing but praise for you. In many cases, that just means you’re doing a great job! However, with a pushover boss, it’s not sincere. They’re just terrible at delivering less-than-wonderful news.

What this means for you: It might feel great to get good feedback, but constructive criticism is crucial too. A “nice” boss can really hamper your professional development by avoiding telling you what you need to work on to improve. As Bloomberg TV anchor and Radiate CEO Betty Liu wrote on LinkedIn, so-called “nice managers” have you thinking you’re doing great — right up until the point you’re fired. “… Your nice boss never had the guts to tell you what you really needed to do to improve. Instead, he or she was concerned about protecting your feelings. Except the truth is that your boss was really protecting his or her own feelings.”

8. They rarely say ‘no’

When it comes to pleasing the higher ups, a pushover boss is much more likely say “no problem” than “no,” no matter how unreasonable the request or suggestion.

What this means for you: Having an ineffective, yes man boss can really make life miserable for their subordinates. These kinds of managers simply can’t say no to these superiors, even at the expense of their own teams. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Jared Sandberg says: “Yes men create a make-work marathon, darting goals and work-life imbalance. They render their staffers as goose chasers, wasting time if not company money. Everyone gets tired working for the yes man, longing for a can’t-do spirit.”

9. They’re indecisive

Pushovers can’t make up their minds. Whenever they feel pulled in multiple directions, they’re unable to make a call about the right way to go. They’re simply too weak-willed to trust their own opinions.

What this means for you: An indecisive boss is not a great boss to have. Indecisive people take forever, agonizing over the smallest of choices. If your boss is a pushover, prepare to see your office’s productivity crunch to a near-standstill.

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