How to Tell if your Boss is a Leader or an Intimidator

Knowing which type of boss you work for doesn’t happen in the interview process, sometimes it may even take a while for them to show their true colors. One thing rings true for every boss: they either criticize or provide feedback, and there are significant ramifications of both.

First to understand the difference between the two, let’s look at their respective definitions as defined by Merriam-Webster:

Criticism – to express disapproval of: to talk about the problems or faults

Feedback – helpful information or [helpful] criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.

As you can see they are both relatively similar, with the exception of a couple things.

Feedback is pieces of advice or (even criticism) that are actually helpful to the person being evaluated, it is showing them that while the work they are doing is not exactly satisfactory, they can improve by doing certain things.
Criticism is simple, “I don’t like it,” “no that doesn’t work,” “Delete this,” you get the point. Criticism is not providing helpful feedback or commentary, it is the act of degrading or condemning someone or someone’s work without a way of improvement.

How could this affect leadership?

Managers or bosses should always strive to help their employees reach for higher and higher goals, striving for success every time. A manager is only as successful as his team; bad team=bad management.  No manager or boss should ever be putting his employees down, or making them feel inferior in his presence; that is not a leader, that is a intimidator. A leader helps develop their employees into what is best for the company. An intimidator gives information to his employees to be regurgitated, basically his words, typed or performed by the employee. That way if something ever goes wrong, he has the employee to put the blame on with an, “I never said that,” or a “you misunderstood me.”

A leader provides feedback that is encouraging to the employee to resolve the issue, without feeling like a total failure. An intimidator says it’s wrong or they don’t like it without any kind of constructive advice behind it. So, how does this affect leadership exactly? One way to see if a leader is successful is retention: are employees sticking around? If that answer is yes, then generally, he must be doing something right. With so many opportunities out there, people aren’t sticking around in jobs where they feel unappreciated and undervalued. Now, on the flip side, does he have constant turn-around in his department, people asking to move to other departments, or complaints to higher up constantly about his behavior? Then, he’s probably a bad leader. A lot of the time bad leaders don’t just affect their department, their intimidation tactics stretch throughout the entire company.

How can you change your criticism to feedback?

This is easy, rather than condescendingly telling someone what you think of their work, provide a solution and utilize the sandwich method. This is: compliment – feedback/ways to improve – compliment.

The Sandwich Method


Feedback/Ways to Improve


An example of feedback using the sandwich method:

Hey Susan I really appreciate you getting me a draft on that blog so quickly. I do think we can work together to create a better headline though, something like “5 Ways to Tell Your Dog Loves You.” Also, I really enjoyed the part about the different dog breeds and their affection levels. We can meet to discuss this if you’d like, what do you think?

An example of criticism:

Susan, the headline has got to go, it doesn’t even make sense. Send me a new draft ASAP.

In this example we see Susan has written a blog about dogs and their affection towards their owners. Susan’s boss isn’t digging (get it) and wants a better headline. After reading both email examples, which one do you think would get a better reaction out of Susan? Example 1 still tells Susan she needs to change the title, without being condescending or patronizing. In example 2, we see the type of boss that criticizes work: he provides no constructive feedback, no ways of improving, and no collaboration. In example 2, Susan would probably get defensive. She’d do the project, but wouldn’t have pride in her work, or pride in her job. Trust me, by this point, Susan has already hit up ZipRecruiter. Example 1 thanks her for providing the work quickly, offers a solution to the problem at hand, and even offers collaboration in case Susan wants to take the lead on the headline herself, this example would bode a completely different reaction out of Susan.

How you talk to people goes a long way

It really all boils down to how you talk to people. Employee retention has a lot to do with happiness. We’re no longer in the age where people stay at jobs no matter how bad they are treated. Now, people want to be happy in their jobs, and who wouldn’t? You’re there for 40 hours a week, some people spend more time at work than they do with their own kids, so why wouldn’t you want to be happy in that kind of environment? People are leaving even if that means taking a pay cut, just so they can have a work-life balance that doesn’t make them miserable, and one thing getting people out the door faster than ever: condescending, criticizing bosses.

So, which one are you: are you a leader, or are you an intimidator?

Better yet, which one do you work for?

Feeling Like a Failure: My Birth Story

My birth story is long, traumatic, and overall sucky, so if you are pregnant and want butterflies and rainbows, you should probably move along. Did you know 25% of all births in the United States are done via induction? I am one of that 25%, one of the ¼, who went through with an induction to deliver my son. I was 40 weeks on the nose when Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle. I lived in Tallahassee at the time so we did not see astronomical damage, but we did experience extremely high winds, rain, and a loss of power for over a week. I don’t know if you know this, but October in Florida is still very, very hot so being without power for a week meant no air conditioning, and no air conditioning at 40 weeks pregnant, huge and bloated and swollen and uncomfortable, was awful. (I know, first world problems but, I’m used to AC sue me). For 2 days we couldn’t even leave the house because the roads were inaccessible, power lines were down everywhere, no traffic lights, and nothing was open because, duh, no power. So, I do thank God I didn’t go into labor then because I wouldn’t have had a method to even get to the hospital. At around 41 weeks my doctor said that I wasn’t progressing and I was being put on the list for an induction, and they would call me between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. with a time to come to the hospital to be induced. I got my call on Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at exactly 4:01 a.m. to come to the hospital as soon as I could, as there was a room ready for me. My emotions were all over the place, I was excited, but also petrified. We dropped P off with a sitter (who thank GOD went to the gym at 3 a.m. every day so she was already awake), and made our way to the hospital. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t really drink anything, I just wanted to get the party started.

32% of all deliveries are Cesarean

25% are inductions

Once at the hospital I got my IV in and a doctor came with a weird hooked glove and broke my water, as I watched my husband eat a bagel. I was beyond annoyed with him because the minute he walked in with it the nurse asked me if I’d eaten, when I said no she told me I could really quick if I wanted to. So, sadly, I ate the hospital pancakes something that resembled scrambled eggs.

Let’s get the Show on the Road

After eating was when we decided to get going. I got my first round of pitocin. Pitocin, for those of you who don’t know, is a drug that brings on labor. I waited for it to kick in, and didn’t really feel much. So, they upped it, and upped it, and upped it. Until I could finally feel some pain going on. I have a mild pain tolerance so I withstood the contractions for a while, but soon asked for the IV pain meds. Those, sucked. I felt high as a kite and hated being on them. So that didn’t happen again. After a while the contractions started to really pick up, I was bouncing on the yoga ball crying in pain when they asked if I wanted the epidural. My answer, 100% absolutely heck yes. My language was a little more colorful, but you get the point.

The Epidural (the first one…)

Epidurals are incredibly scary. You have to sit, hunched over with your back looking like the letter C, while someone takes a needle the size of Manhattan and shoves it right in your spinal area. All of this while having excruciating contractions. Once my epidural was in, instant relief, although I could feel a weird pain in my hip I wrote it off. Within an hour I realized my epidural wasn’t quite working, I could completely feel the contractions in that spot in my hip, and I could easily move and feel my legs. I even asked the young (super young, kept calling me girl and hun) nurses to let me walk around, I could honestly do that, they didn’t believe me and told me I was threatening their licenses if I were to do that. They gave me a bolus, or another round of epidural meds directly into the epidural catheter. That calmed it for a couple minutes, but then it was right back to square one. Onto the second bolus. This is when it starts to get real dodgy. The minute that medicine flowed through the epidural catheter I knew something was wrong. My back completely seized up and I was screaming, literally screaming, in pain for her to stop. I couldn’t move, I was frozen with my arms clutching the side of the bed, my back seized up completely, and in absolute agony. This was worse than any contraction. My back felt like someone took hot knives and dragged them slowly through my muscles in my back, and then poured acid over the open wound. It. Was. Madness. This pain got so bad I begged my nurses to give me a C-Section, a statement I fully regret now; this shows just how absolutely ignorant I was to the entire C-Section process, and aftermath. The anesthesiologist was so shaken up she had to sit in the rocking chair in the corner of the room once I calmed down. She said it was to monitor me, but we could tell she was a little shaken up by it all. So now I’m clicking that epidural button every 20 minutes like clockwork, my husband even had an alarm on his phone to do it. Doing this took the edge off, I was still feeling every contraction, but I wasn’t in agony like before.  

Shift Change

This is the only highlight of my delivery story, my last set of nurses. During this process I went through 3 groups of nurses. The last ones understood my anxieties and helped me calm down when I was freaking out. They were literally amazing. Once they came on shift they got to deal with the very worst version of me I have ever “witnessed” I was mean, in pain, and exhausted. They brought in the new anesthesiologist who said my epidural didn’t look right and she was going to place it again. Again, it didn’t quite work. I had the “hot spot” in my hip again and was in the same amount of pain as before. Soon, after sitting with that stupid peanut ball between my legs (ladies, you know), I was at a 10 and ready to push. One doctor came in and said I was there, at a 10, and it was time to push the baby out. So, I did just that, I would “bear down” every time I had a contraction and pushed as hard as I could. Then my real doctor came in, he wasn’t on rotation, but heard I was in labor so he stopped by, he said I wasn’t dilated enough and to stop pushing. Weird. But ok. He left and a little later I was checked again by my nurse who said I was back at a 10 and to start pushing again. So, a new doctor came and sat between my legs and I pushed. That doctor then said to push, and my nurses would come and get him when I was crowning. So for 5 hours I pushed, with no success. I remember vividly staring at a dot on the ceiling trying to focus all my pain and energy on that one tiny spot just to make it through.

Enough was Enough

Finally, the doctor on call said enough was enough and I had gone longer than she lets patients go, and I needed to have a C-Section for the safety of my baby. Now remember, my water had been broken at the very beginning, right when I got there. That was now 36 hours ago. My baby needed to get out, and get out safely. So, they gave me the gown for the C-Section, told my husband they would come back and get him, and away I went, crying down the hallway feeling like the biggest failure of a mother already. When I got to the surgery room they gave me another round of epidural medicine and proceeded to pinch me to see if I felt anything. Of course I did, it hadn’t been working this whole time! So, they told me they had to knock me out. Cue panic. I didn’t even get to see my husband. He was left in the little waiting room, crying because he didn’t get to kiss me goodbye.

Waking Up

Waking up from being put under is so terrible. I apparently decided I couldn’t speak, so I proceeded to sign (I know bits of ASL), so much so that the nurse asked my husband if I could even talk, and they brought in another nurse who knew sign language to interpret what I was saying. Note, I haven’t mentioned babyE yet, because I didn’t get to see him. BabyE was born with some bacterial infection under his lungs, I never really got a clear answer of what it was, but they whisked him off to the NICU immediately and started antibiotics. I saw my son for the first time, drugged out of my mind from the anesthesia, I don’t even remember it. I didn’t even get to hold my son until almost 15 hours after giving birth to him. I still, to this day, months later, cry about my birth experience. I dreamed of a vaginal delivery, getting skin to skin right after, and breastfeeding within minutes. I got none of that. Breastfeeding was so difficult because of the NICU stay, I wanted to hold my baby, not pump and hold bottles. So I rarely pumped, and latched him when I could. This led to him having to supplement with formula. Looking back, I should’ve pumped, but I failed at that too. Just another fail I add to my list of being a parent. Now luckily, I pump every day, and nurse my son as often as I can; I still cannot feed him solely breastmilk, but how I look at it is, at least he’s getting some, even if it’s just some.  My son is now healthy, happy, and absolutely remarkable. I cherish every single day I get with him. I don’t let my birth story define me as a mother, but I wish more people were made aware of the heartache that comes with a birth that didn’t go as planned, and the feelings of failure that come with not achieving what you had hoped to achieve.

You are not alone

If you had a difficult delivery, or a birth that didn’t go to plan, you’re not alone in your feelings. If you want to be published as an anonymous contributor, email me at or send me a message on Facebook.