How do these people keep their jobs when their training and management techniques are so awful? That's a mystery that is hard to solve, but one thing is certain: The following tales of nightmare bosses will probably make you believe that your boss isn't so bad after all.
The spoiled mommy boss
The worst boss I ever had was a very pretty and very pregnant blonde named "Ashley." I was 23, in my last year of college, and desperately in need of some extra cash, so I decided taking on a nanny gig would be a smart idea. Little did I know, this innocent part-time job was about to take over my entire life. Ashley was a stay-at-home mom in the truest sense of the term. What I mean by this is that she slept in late every morning, got up and changed into pearls and an expensive jogging suit and then spent the day painting her nails, watching daytime television and going to the gym for a pregnancy aerobics class.
The only snag in her perfect life was that she had a 10-month-old baby, so she took me on as a nanny/mommy's helper. The job, as she described it, was simple. I arrived at 5:45AM, got the baby up for the day and then hung out with her and fed her while her mommy did her own thing. Ashley assured me that working around my hectic college schedule was no problem, and since she had graduated from my rigorous college herself, I believed her. Silly me.
The first week went according to plan. I arrived on time and played with the baby until I had a class to go to. The baby was great, one of those cuddly, happy types, and I adored her. However, I wasn't really sure why Ashley needed me. Granted, she was pregnant and small tasks like carrying the baby up and down the stairs were difficult, but Ashley didn't do much of anything when it came to caring for her child. I would fawn over every cute thing the baby did, and if Ashley happened to be in the room, she'd just kind of nod and go back to watching 'The View' or eating her bagel (this woman lived on bagels; the entire six months I worked for her, I never saw her eat anything else).
Slowly, Ashley's demands started to add up. First, she asked me to wash some bottles while the baby napped. "Sure," I said. "No problem." Then it was vacuuming. Then starting dinner for her husband. Eventually, this spiraled into cleaning the entire house and doing all the laundry. Now, I would have been fine with all this, if I wasn't being paid a measly $8 an hour. To top it off, she started asking me to run errands for her when I wasn't at work. I didn't mind picking up a box of formula, but within a couple of weeks, I was doing the grocery shopping for the entire family. You wouldn't believe how many packages of bagels I purchased!
Finally, I had to call it quits when she started randomly not needing me for a particular day. Even when she said she didn't need me, she would often call and change her mind, and my work schedule just got way too unpredictable. Plus, my grades were starting to slip. I'd been hanging on, because I really needed the meager cash, and because I loved the baby. When I told Ashley I was quitting, she stayed true to form and hung up on me. I haven't spoken to her since, but my only regret is never getting to see the baby again. It's OK, though -- she probably turned out just like her mother.
– Susie Potter
The commission-stealing boss
My name is Jenny, I am 25 years old and have worked for Piercing Pagoda, a Zales Inc. jewelry store, for the past two years.
To say that my boss was unpleasant would be a gross understatement. I have never in my life encountered a person more self-serving and rude as this woman that I will call "Katie." Katie is a 50-year-old woman who acts like an immature teenager when things don't go her way. For two years she pawned off all of her responsibilities on me and another co-worker. Our store had approximately 3,000 pieces of jewelry. Every Monday we had to count every single piece. This was the manager's responsibility, but she would constantly make me do it and then take credit for my work. She was the queen of taking credit for anything good that happened in that store.
Every day each associate is given a "plan," the amount of money they are supposed to bring in on their shift. Katie was a master of stealing customers from her employees in order to make sure she made her plan quota every day. She would often interrupt me while I had a customer, send me to go do some menial task and end up taking my sale.
Even more underhanded, she would even steal our long-term customers. Customers are allowed to put their purchases on layaway and when the customer finally picks up their layaway, the sale counts toward the goal of the person who originally helped the customer and set up his or her layaway plan. If a customer came in to pay off their layaway item while Katie was there, however, she would cancel the layaway and put it under her own name. That meant the credit for the sale would go to her instead of the associate who actually helped the customer.
"Tattling" on Katie and getting her into trouble was often more trouble than it was worth. On one of the occasions that I ratted her out, she gave me the silent treatment for a week. For seven full days she would not speak to me and wore her sunglasses at work so that we would not even make eye contact. Ridiculous events like this would occur quite frequently. And she was the boss!
Along with this she would frequently make rude comments to all of us that worked under her. She told me on several occasions never to come to work without makeup on because I was ugly without it. She also made a comment to another associate saying she didn't have a large chest, she just had a fat gut to hold it up that made it appear bigger. She would make derogatory comments about customers, mimic different languages and use racial slurs. On several occasions she approached African-American men and started a conversation with, "Yo Brotha, you want some bling-bling?"
I have honestly never met a more disrespectful human being. We tried to mutiny several times, but unfortunately as long as the store was meeting its financial obligations, the corporate bigwigs didn't care how the store was run. So instead, I became the ninth person in two years to quit and escape Katie's terrible, selfish management.
Best decision of my life.
– Jenny Falk
The screaming boss
An artist by profession, I decided starving was no longer an option and took a job working for an art dealer. I loved my job. Honestly loved the work. I restored documents, prepared art for auction and cataloged giant volumes of prints. In order to succeed though, I had to endure a 'Devil Wears Prada' meets 'Scrooge' boss of the worst kind. Since I was his only full-time employee, the brunt of his manic behavior fell on my shoulders.
There were several incidents that should have sent me running. Hearing him scream at utility workers, vendors and the postal service should have been a clue to his emotional imbalance. His tirades would last for hours when a document was misplaced or a package didn't arrive when expected. There was no real reason for my staying, considering that the pay was only so-so in exchange for the amount of special projects and irrational deadlines that had me burning the candle at both ends to meet deadlines. I'm still not sure why I worked for him as long as I did.
For example, Christmas was a major inconvenience. My request to stay home on both Dec. 24 and 25 was met with an eerie calm. And then, in one of his trademark moves, he set an unattainable deadline, a task due on Dec. 27. A task that could only be accomplished if I worked at home through Christmas. His excitement over the project and the promise of a big bonus carried me through, pulling all-nighters in order to both celebrate the holiday with my family and meet the deadline. In the end, the big bonus turned out to be a mere $25, and the immovable deadline I worked all night to meet was then extended a month, because he felt the market wasn't ready for the scope of the project.
As if that wasn't bad enough, my grandmother passed away that March. She helped raise me as a little girl and her sudden death was devastating. I took two days off to travel to the funeral. Alone in the car, I tried to process my emotions but was interrupted several times by frantic phone calls from my boss. He could not find a document and, apparently, I was to blame. With each call his anger was escalating. I could feel the venom oozing through my cell phone. By the time I arrived at the funeral home he was screaming in my ear. I set the phone on silent and ignored his constant calls through the service and gathering. When the phone calls stopped, I assumed I was fired. But, when I hesitantly checked messages later, it became clear I was still employed. The first few messages were the same escalating tirade only to be followed by a strangely short and calm one, "I found it in the bin on my desk." That would be the very same bin where I told him the document was placed no less than nine hours earlier.
Why I didn't leave at that moment, I cannot explain. Nor does it make any sense that I continued to work for the man when he shorted my pay or called me lazy when my family came down with the flu and I missed an afternoon of work. This same boss drove a portfolio of work to me while my son was in the hospital, since (of course) I was just sitting around. There was no end to his invasion into my life. He worked 24/7 and expected me to do the same. I prided myself on my ability to stay calm in the midst of a storm, on my work ethic and loved the chance the job gave me to work partially from home. In the end, the economy was my ticket out. When the market tanked, he told me he could handle it on his own and I was free.
– S. Colette
The take-your-money-and-spend-it boss
Tales of bad bosses are everywhere. From the ambitious corporate climber who takes credit for your accomplishments to the "Peter Principle" manager who has reached his level of incompetence, terrible bosses are easy to find in most organizations. In my opinion, among the worst practitioners of poor management technique are small-business owners who see their business as a personal fiefdom, and their employees as serfs rather than assets. Welcome to my nightmare.
At age 54, I have worked for both international mega-corporations and small family-owned businesses. For the past 10 years I have been employed by a small company that sells, installs and services diagnostic imaging equipment to hospitals and doctors. My company employs 14 disgruntled people and two owner/partners. I'll call them Ron and Edward.
My father, who was a small-business owner with a shop full of loyal employees, credited his successful employee relations to his personal philosophy of never asking employees to do something he was not willing to do himself. Concepts such as this have never occurred to Ron and Edward.
Like many other businesses, our company was adversely affected by the overall economic malaise afflicting the United States in the last few years. Unfortunately, the owners of our business did not attempt to streamline operations to eliminate waste and unnecessary expenses. Their chosen course of action was to hold a meeting where they bemoaned the dire financial condition of the company and explained how we all needed to sacrifice if the company were to survive. Employees would be subject to a 20 percent pay cut or face layoffs. Given the double-digit unemployment rate and anemic job market in Detroit, Mich., where we live and work, accepting a layoff and looking for new work was not an option. The employees took the pay cut.
When asked if he was also subjected to a smaller paycheck, Ron replied he was not taking a pay cut because he "could not afford it." Seriously, he said that with a straight face.
The next day he and his wife left for a six-week vacation on the Mediterranean Sea. The following week Edward had a new motorcycle delivered to our warehouse. While the rest of us struggle to make ends meet on reduced pay, Ron's wife is driving around town in a company car with a company gas card. This is for real. I could not make this up.
The employees were somewhat less than thrilled at the idea of supporting the owners' lifestyles, while we were busy calculating whether it was best to pay the gas bill or the telephone bill that month. It was one or the other, not both.
Most employees dropped the company health insurance after the pay reduction because we could not afford the $50 weekly deduction from our checks. Rob recently reached the age at which he qualified for Medicare so he dropped the company health plan. His wife does not yet qualify for Medicare. She was added to the payroll at a pay rate of $200 per week, so she could stay on the company insurance (at no cost). In doing so, Rob effectively gave himself a $9,600 per year raise.
In the midst of all this, Edward told me that times were so tough he was going to have to drive to his vacation condo on Hilton Head Island rather than fly. Did he not understand whom he was talking to? I have not had a vacation in six years.
Though business has improved, the employees have not had their pay restored to pre-cut levels. Why do we tolerate it? This is Detroit, and it is a job. Ron and Edward count on that.
All the while they scratch their heads and wonder why employee morale is low.
– Robert Crachette
Next: Is Your Boss a Bully? Here's How to Deal
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