Why Do Employers Treat Employees Badly? (Insights & Causes)

Employees are the greatest resource in a company, yet some employers seem to work against their employees. Why would they treat their greatest asset badly?

Employers sometimes treat employees badly because they may consider them disposable assets, and it can persist because employees sometimes reinforce bad behavior by themselves. If they aren’t valued by the employers, get overworked, and are underpaid, they may burn out and will often choose to leave.

The one good thing about all this is that working under a bad boss could turn you into a good one. There is no right way to become a leader, but if you can take anything from a bad manager, it is to learn which mistakes not to make.

The valuable advice to take from all this is that employers should try to find their critical people and treat them well, while employees should try to have other options in case they are treated unfairly, or when things to bad at a company.

Why Do Employers Treat Employees Badly?

One of the main reasons employers treat employees badly are: 

  • Employers consider employees an expendable resource. When employers view employees solely as numbers on a spreadsheet, they neglect the human element which can drive productivity and innovation. This short-term thinking not only affects morale but can also hurt the company’s bottom line in the long run.
  • Managers are afraid of losing control by being nice. This fear often stems from a misconception that kindness is synonymous with weakness, which couldn’t be further from the truth. True leadership is about striking a balance between authority and compassion.
  • Managers may be unsuited for the managerial position. Not everyone who excels in their job role has the necessary interpersonal skills or temperament to lead a team. Without proper training or self-awareness, an unsuited manager can inadvertently create a toxic work environment.
  • Employees are afraid of losing a job so they put up with it. Economic uncertainties or saturated job markets often contribute to this fear, making employees tolerate unfavorable conditions just to keep their jobs. This silent endurance can perpetuate toxic work cultures and stifle opportunities for positive change.
  • Lack of unions and other kinds of employee protection in the workplace. Unions and employee associations provide a collective voice, ensuring workers’ rights are upheld. In their absence, employees often feel vulnerable, unsupported, and hesitant to speak up about grievances or advocate for better working conditions.
  • Employees are unskilled and have no bargaining power. A lack of specialized training or certification can place workers in a precarious position where they feel easily replaceable. Continuous skill development and vocational training can empower these employees, giving them the leverage to negotiate better terms and work conditions.

A good management decision when hiring an employee is to look to work with someone for months and years, who can add great value long term, not go looking for high turnover and treat employees as expendable. 

Why Do Employers Treat Good Employees Badly?

Employers may treat good employees badly because they might think that they need to control them, to keep them in line so they could do more good work, or so they think. This could also be on the positive side, and they could be pushing good employees to make them grow. They could also be thinking that their bad behavior is what made good employees so good.

Sometimes the loyal employees will be treated the worst because employers know they probably won’t leave. On the other hand, bad employees may not care and could leave at any moment, so employers don’t want to push them in fear of them leaving.

What Do You Do When Your Boss Treats You Badly?

One of the best ways to deal with bad treatment from the boss is to have a direct, calm confrontation with them. Explain to them that you aren’t able to do your job properly because of how they treat you and that you’d like for both of you to have the most productive workplace possible.

Another tactic is seeking mentorship outside your direct chain of command. A mentor can provide guidance, perspective, and even mediate discussions if workplace challenges arise.

If your relationship doesn’t change, then you should look into other managers, or other companies to move to. Make sure to document everything about the unfair treatment, so that you can use it later on.

employees at a workplace with the manager

Why Do Bosses Treat Employees Differently?

Favoritism is one of the examples of different treatment in the workplace. It could be positive, such as performance recognition. An example of different treatment is nepotism when the boss will hire, promote or increase pay for his sibling, family member, or a friend rather than for one of his best employees.

This may or may not be a sign of an incompetent manager, but it is a yellow flag for the work environment you’re currently in.

Bosses/managers can also treat employees differently in a positive light. There can be many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that an employee could be from the same town/city or neighborhood, they could have some award or recognition that the boss likes, or they could be a hard-working model employee that the boss values.

What do you do when your boss treats you differently?

If you are being treated differently than other employees, you should probably meet with your boss and talk to them, calmly. Don’t report to HR. If you’re being singled out in a positive light, say that you are grateful, and calmly suggest a few things that may help the situation. Similar to being singled out in a negative light, always keep your calm and never quit before having another job lined up.

Why Do the Best Workers Get Treated the Worst?

Sometimes, good and loyal employees often get treated badly, while selfish and pushy employees get treated well. This may be because a manager expects a good, loyal employee to not be selfish and not leave the company when being pushed. When this happens, a good employee may not complain much, or is not used to complaining. This reinforces similar treatment in the future.

What Are Signs of Good Management?

Good managers:

Good managers are leaders, not bosses in a traditional sense. They lead by example, they don’t ask for respect, they gain it through their work. They work “with you” rather than “above you”, and don’t need to tell you to do your work.

Effective managers also actively seek feedback, valuing constructive criticism as an avenue for personal and team growth. They understand that true success is a collective effort, and by nurturing their team’s potential, they’re bolstering the company’s future.

A good manager treats his best employees with respect and gives them regular raises, regardless of how hard these people push for those raises.

Finally, a good manager will treat those under him/her as they would like to be treated.

two business employees high five in office

What Are Signs of Bad Management?

Clear signs of bad management are:

Signs of a bad boss include: 

What Is Considered Unfair Treatment in the Workplace?

You can tell if a boss is treating you unfairly by these examples of unfair treatment: being passed over for a promotion because of nepotism or favoritism, being bullied at work, getting offensive comments, having rumors spread about you in the office.

These signs of unfair treatment should be distinguished from unlawful conduct, which includes discrimination based on age, race, gender, disability and sexual orientation, fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, and defamation.

How do you deal with unfair treatment at work?

Collect and save all the evidence and documentation of all the actions that you perceive as unfair treatment at work. This includes email messages, memos, and office communications. Then, talk to your superior calmly and directly to try to resolve this issue of unfair treatment.

You can use this evidence to negotiate severance pay should you decide to quit or if you are fired.

You can even use this evidence to report the unfair treatment to the HR department (not recommended), but you may not be able to sue your employer for unfair treatment. You can, however, sue them for unlawful treatment, such as discrimination, breach of contract, or other examples mentioned above.

Why Good Employees Leave?

Good employees mostly leave because they don’t feel respected or trusted at work. They also tend to leave when they work themselves a lot, but don’t get rewarded with a pay raise or upgraded benefits, or when they are bothered outside their working hours without compensation. Sometimes, good people are simply terrified of getting fired or moving up the ladder that they would rather quit instead.

When things go bad at a company, good employees are the first to leave, followed by people who thought they could fix it, but now most of the good people had left, and the only ones remaining are the bad ones and the hostages.

Oftentimes good employees tend to get burned out after a few years because they like to work hard and are pushed by their employers. However, without support this is unsustainable.

Good, hardworking employees sometimes get attacked by lazy employees. If there’s a consensus among the workers about a certain level of input, and one employee decides to promote his abilities, this could be seen as an attack on the lazy employees. This is one of the reasons why good employees could leave.

The majority of successful employees change their jobs every few years. This way, they adapt to new jobs more easily as well. When you start at a company, you need to quickly identify by the end of year 1, and no later than year 2, whether you have significant and imminent upward mobility. If the only thing you’re getting is promises and 2-3% raises, then you’re losing 10-15% of the pay in the context of what you could earn by changing companies.

Do employees leave because of bad managers?

Usually, employees leave because of being overworked and underpaid, and because of the company policies and culture, but sometimes they leave because of managers. Bad managers create bad environments, and some people simply can’t take it and quit.

Many people break under pressure or unfair treatment and quit before having another job lined up. This is a bad decision in most cases. If you feel overworked and treated badly take some time off, go on vacation, but have another job ready before you quit. Don’t punish yourself for your manager’s mistakes.

Why good employees leave bad managers

The main reasons good employees leave bad bosses are due to unhealthy expectations, low tolerance for mistakes, micromanagement, lack of satisfaction with work, and lack of training and development.

Moreover, good employees thrive on clarity, consistency, and motivation. When these are lacking, due to erratic management behaviors or unclear expectations, even the most dedicated employees might reconsider their position within the company.

employees working in the workplace on computers

Do Bad Bosses Ruin Good Employees?

Bad bosses destroy team cohesion, reduce loyalty and happiness, damage productivity and make their employees come scared or unmotivated to work. This causes both good and bad employees to become depressed and frustrated, which can damage their productivity and the ability to learn and grow long term.

Why Do Companies Keep Horrible Bosses?

One of the main reasons we have horrible and abusive bosses is because this kind of behavior gets them more work. Employees are pushed, get overworked and become too tired to escape their situation. Without options, you can’t move and you don’t fight for yourself, and if you aren’t actively looking for opportunities and having interviews then you won’t be able to fix your situation.

Another main reason is those horrible bosses tend to be good at taking credit for what they didn’t do and presenting themselves in the eyes of the top management better than they really are. They look out for themselves and they achieve it by manipulating others.

It could also be that the company can’t afford to dismiss the manager due to being financially liable, or otherwise. Finally, it could also be the company culture that is the root cause, which stems from the CEO and the top levels.

Which Companies Treat Their Employees the Best?

Here are some of the companies known to treat their employees well:

  • Costco
  • Patagonia
  • USAA
  • Trader Joes
  • FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google)
  • Paradox
  • LL Bean
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Five Guys Burgers and Fries
  • Dicks Sporting Goods
  • Rakuten
  • Walmart
  • The Container Store
  • Salesforce
  • Cisco

When you’re out there looking for a job, think of your job search as not just companies screening you, but you screening companies. There are many great companies to work for, but many times companies won’t care about you as an individual.

As employees, we need to look at reality as it is and look at ourselves as well.

The fact is, until you prove yourself as special, no company will think you’re special. Promises will be broken, and things won’t be handed to you. Especially as you’re starting out. Every time you meet with a company, look at it as an opportunity, even if you don’t get hired. Maybe not now, but down the road.

If you had a bad experience, instead of writing a company off, how about sending an email to the hiring manager. Let them know you were disappointed but also tell them you’re still interested. Who knows… Some day. Then again, you can always start your own small venture.

  • Alex Mitch

    Hi, I'm the founder of HowMonk.com! Having been in finance and tech for 10+ years, I was surprised at how hard it can be to find answers to common questions in finance, tech and business in general. Because of this, I decided to create this website to help others!