Why Do Your Employees Hate You?


“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”

—Nelson Mandela

I am surprised when managers act shocked to find out that their employees don’t like them. You have to remember that the way you think affects your behavior and your behavior determines how your employees react to you. If you don’t pay close attention to your thoughts this can become a vicious cycle. So, why do your employees hate you?

You think your title makes you a leader

I can tell you that one of the biggest factors that causes employees to hate you as their manager is if you think that your title makes you a leader. You don’t become a leader just because you get placed in a management position. Leadership is something that you grow into and earn. Chances are that if you think your title makes you a leader, you also think it entitles you to power. You may have control over rewards or consequences that give you the power to accomplish short-term tasks. This, however, does not equate to long-term power that is earned through respect.

They don’t trust you

If you don’t trust your employees, they won’t trust you. People like people they trust. Animosity is created when your employees’ notice that you think you know more than them, you stop listening to what they have to say, and you are always keeping score. When it appears that you do not trust them, they stop engaging with you even when you ask them questions. They don’t feel like they can be themselves around you. You can’t command trust and respect, you have to give it first and then earn it.

You fail to build relationships

Even if you had strong relationships at some point, when you were promoted you may have become distant and bureaucratic. Your relationships may have become superficial and fake; employees can see right through your façade. After making the move into a management position, it is easy to forget what it’s like to be the low man on the totem pole or working on the front lines. You fail to build relationships on an individual basis where each employee knows that you care about them personally. If you start relying on email as your main form of communication you lose that face-to-face interaction that can be so important to relationship building. You don’t encourage, welcome, ask for, or act on feedback which reinforces the perception that you don’t care what your employees have to say.

You have something to prove

You think that leadership requires you to make sure everyone knows you’re in charge. In fact, it is quite the opposite. If you need to prove that you are in charge, you’re not a leader. You feel you have something to prove, all the time. You’re smarter, stronger, braver, or more powerful; it’s always something. You default to the use of fear and intimidation when you feel you’re not getting the respect you think you deserve. And, you never admit when you are wrong. No one likes a know-it-all. If you are always trying to one-up your employees, chances are they will start to hate you.

You don’t value their contributions

When you think you’re all that, you tend to minimize the contributions of others. When you don’t recognize the value of your employees’ contributions or reward them for a job well done their distaste for you grows. If you don’t recognize their value you will fail to challenge them or engage their creativity. Everyone wants to feel that their contributions are valued and that their efforts are worthwhile.

Turn it Around

So, now you know some of the main reasons your employees might hate you, what can you do to turn it around? Start by recognizing that you become a manager by being promoted or hired into that position, but you become a leader by focusing on the needs of others rather than gaining power for yourself. Show your employees that you trust them and their abilities, communicate openly, and stop keeping score. Remember that you are not a leader if you need to prove that you are in charge. And finally, recognize that every employee adds value. Leadership is influence, and you can’t influence those who hate you. Pay close attention to your thoughts for they will become your behavior. Turn it around.


Dr. Liz Stincelli
Dr. Liz Stincelli
LIZ is passionate about recognizing, inspiring, and igniting the leader in each of us. She focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Liz offers 20+ years of pro-active operations management, problem-solving, team-building, human resources, accounting, and business administration experience in a variety of industries. She serves on the Editorial Review Board for the Independent Journal of Management and Production and the Journal of Managerial Psychology. She has also been a guest lecturer at the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, Westminster College.

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  1. People like people when they feel they were cut from the same cloth. It doesn’t matter your occupation, it just matters if they can relate, if they can understand you. Management has very different priorities than individual contributors, priorities individual contributors don’t understand. For managers to be liked, the people that support them must be able to understand them. It also helps that managers like their people too.

  2. Well done, Liz. I’m especially drawn to your points about relationships, trust, and contributions. Well, I guess that means your whole article then. Relationships are complicated because on one hand they can’t be too buddy-buddy but on the other hand they have to be personal enough to be genuine. I have always remembered what I learned at a young age. Before you are trusted you will be tested. That has been true along with it takes a lifetime to build truth and it can be destroyed in 5 minutes. Ouch! We all want to know our contributions are valued, appreciated, and useful. The best way to gain leadership honor is to recognize and verbally appreciate contributions.

  3. Liz: Any one of your paragraphs could be a chapter in a book.

    I’ve seen many managers/leaders fail because they tried to be popular. The end result is damage to the company, the employees, and to self. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are not popular with some, or even all, the employees. Suck it up, that is part of the job. Making those calls will not cause employees to hate you. There is a difference between hating you and hating what you sometimes must do.

    • Thank you, Ken Vincent. I agree with you. Often times leaders must make decisions that are unpopular with employees. I believe that what is most important is the intention. If leaders are making decisions that employees can see are in the best interest of the whole, they may hate what the leader is doing but not the leader themselves. If employees see leaders making decisions that serve their own interests, they start to despise the leader.