Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Bad, Bad Bosses

Jan-Jun 2003 Archive

I worked for a company that had just moved into the area. As a result, everyone was basically new and learning the ropes together. This story is about one of the managers, Christy. We were all sent to the company's former head office to learn the systems and specific job functions. Since no one had been hired yet to perform one of the jobs in Christy's area, I was the lucky one who got volunteered to learn it and train the new hire once the job was filled. Christy refused to sit in on any of the training; we're all not sure exactly what she did while we were there for a week.

Once we got back, I performed the job for a couple weeks and then trained a new hire and went back to my actual job. Since Christy hadn't bothered to learn the job, she was no help to the person doing it. There were some added responsibilities to the job that no one in our office had been trained on, so someone from the old office came out to teach the new hire, Tina, about the additional duties. Tina was a little uncomfortable being the only one who knew how to do the job, what if she needed help or got sick, things like that. Christy refused to sit in on the training, telling Tina "It's your job, not mine. Why should I know how to do it? It's my responsibility to manage you, not do your job."

Call me crazy, but if I were a manager, I'd want to know how the people who worked for me did their jobs. As if that wasn't bad enough, anytime someone had a question for her, Christy forwarded them to me--someone who didn't even work in her department. And, when Tina was out, or got overloaded, I'd come in and find little piles of work with post-it notes telling me that Tina needed help, and these things needed to be done. My manager kept bringing these back to her, telling her that I had my own job to do and was not available to her department whenever the mood struck. She went over his head to their manager, and told her that more training was needed for Tina and could she please arrange for me to sit with her a couple hours a day. So, I was supposed to sit and watch Tina and answer any questions she had for 2 hours a day for 2 weeks. Well, I did that, but then I'd get back to my desk, and Christy had forwarded any emails and voicemails she got asking questions or looking for payments (this was an Accounts Payable department), to my desk. She even left me emails that reports that she was supposed to do needed to be done. I tried talking to her and explaining that my understanding was I was to spend those two hours a day helping Tina and then it was back to my regular job. But, she said I was supposed to be working solely for her.

My manager and I went to their manager who called Christy in and clarified I was there to train Tina some more for 2 hours a day, period. Christy was then furious with me for "going over her head." She complained to their manager that she was so busy and had no time to handle all the incoming questions, and she didn't feel confident in Tina (a person she interviewed and hired) to do the job. She still kept trying to forward her work to me, but at this point, my manager told me to just ignore it. If she emailed or forwarded voicemails to me, I was to ignore them, and if she left work on my desk, I was to drop it back on hers. When I was dropping some of her work back on her desk one day, I discovered why she was "so busy" she was on the phone with her attorney, apparently she was filing for divorce, and she was telling the attorney that every morning the first thing she did in the office was type up everything that happened between her and her husband the night before and that she had set up a system in her files to keep track of his transgressions, expenses, habits, hobbies, etc.

Then, she fired Tina, and pouted to her manager that I was the only one who knew the job. She dragged her feet hiring a new person, so I was stuck doing her job. My manager finally demanded that she learn the job and their manager agreed. So, I was to train her and then get back to my job. Then she started finding excuses to not come into the office or duck out early and avoid training. She'd constantly come in with her kids in tow, claiming one was sick or the daycare was closed that day, etc. Meanwhile, since I was temporarily under her, she took her revenge for me complaining about her dumping her work on me before. She literally forwarded every email and phone message she had to my desk. The one thing she was supposedly doing was balancing the checking accounts. We started getting notices from the bank that we were overdrawn. Guess who never balanced the cash account? She was supposed to be making transfers from other accounts to cover our payables, and she never did. She blamed that on me, too. Meanwhile, our deposit account was also untouched. We had millions of dollars in deposits sitting there that no one knew about. She was just taking the deposits and filing them without applying the funds anywhere. I spent months cleaning up her mess in addition to doing the job that she still hadn't hired anyone to do. And, she played this all off as my fault. After a while, she finally got demoted. Most people were disappointed it wasn't an outright firing.


I was business manager for a small church that was constantly having money problems. My boss (the minister/CEO) and I were the only full time employees and his salary was twice mine.

The job was extremely demanding. I was expected to be at my desk from 8-5 every day, as well as run errands when things needed to be purchased or printed. If we had additional events during the evening I was expected to attend. And, though Sunday's were not working days for me, my boss frequently made a 'strong suggestion' that I make an appearance.

One day during a weekly staff meeting my boss announced that he would be taking off the next six weeks to write a book. A personal endeavor he had been pursuing for a long time. When the meeting ended he asked me to stay after a few minutes. He then told me (right after announcing his six week paid sabbatical) that due to the money problems, he would need to decrease my salary by $3,000 annually because I was the most expensive employee, effective immediately!

I resigned two weeks later. In his defense, my normally over-bearing boss became extremely charming those last two weeks. However, he did nothing to wish me well on my future endeavors. On my last day a part-time coworker insisted on taking me to lunch as a going away celebration and he 'tagged along'.


We live in NE China (my SO is a local, I'm not), where a lot (not all, but a depressing majority) of business managers seem to think that good management is just a matter of having a big desk, a big black car and lots of underlings to obey your every wish without question. I certainly know some local business people that are not like this at all. You generally find them as the last survivors at the top of the de-nationalized businesses after several years shake-out, so justice is - in the long term - prevailing. It's a bit slow out here in the provinces, though.

Anyway, this guy was your usual up-and-going-nowhere I-know-someone-so-I-can-get-a-good-position (the local word is 'guanci') middle-management type. My SO was a base-salaried+commissioned field-sales rep. She was good. In a small company used to shipping 10 machines per salesperson per month, someone who shifts 200 units in her first month on the job and 50 the next two months can claim to be good. She works hard to achieve this.

She was also smart enough to spread credit for her success around a bit amongst her co-workers (whether credit was due or not) so they wouldn’t resent her success. For the most part, this worked and she was well liked by her colleagues.

Of course the first sign of trouble in those first (and subsequently last) months was being shafted on her commission for her first big sale of 200 units (she was supposed to get 100RMB per unit, but was given 40. He eventually gave her 60).

This boss had a yelling session at (not with) one of his junior sales people because she suggested that instead of trying to cart a demonstration product (these things weigh 56kg) across town on the public busses, likely damaging it, he might be able to take her and the machine to the potential customer in his COMPANY SUPPLIED luxury car. He fired her for the impudence (even if there are wrongful dismissal laws here, the chances of someone on 500RMB ($US120) a month being able to afford to use them is exactly nil).

The boss addressed female staff by 'baby name' forms of their real names. Other than obnoxiously sexist (and China is generally noticeably less sexist in the workplace than the West is even today), the fact that my SO is about a decade his senior makes it doubly insulting for her. Management material this guy is not!

My SO was only around long enough to get what she could of her commission and left. Happily, the end results were all good: 1) She was immediately snatched up by a Shanghai company making competing products and needing a local distributor (actually a Beijing firm also wanted her - that 200-unit deal was meant to be theirs!). The Shanghai company treats their sales staff very fairly and professionally.

2) 9 times out of ten she has beaten her former employer on deals (some major), even without local factory advantage. And her old boss is on probation pending performance assessment. If his division can’t sell enough machines, he goes. And it appears he can't, largely because of my SO. (He has actually asked her to come back - she politely declined).

3) My best friend (who also introduced my SO and I) happens to be the wife of the Vice President of old-boss' parent company. Boy did that guy get a roasting (my friend witnessed it and gave us a blow-by-blow account) the week my SO resigned. My SO didn't really want me to discuss it, but ALL the experienced salespeople had left at much the same time, and my friend pressed me over an informal lunch at Macdonald’s* if I knew why and I told her the basics.

So I guess Business Etiquette Hell crosses all borders and cultures and can often manifest itself more tangibly and immediately than most other Etiquette Hells. May this little worm squirm for all eternity. ;-)


My first job out of college was working for a man I'll call "Rick". Rick ran a small magazine publishing company and had a staff of 4 writers and 3 art directors. Our tiny staff produced eight magazines every two months and I was expected to write about 30 articles a week for a low, low salary. Having been promised quick advancement and big raises, I was fine with my job and enjoyed my co-editors. What I did not like was Rick.

Rick had the mentality that since it was his company, he owned everyone and everything in it. He would open all of our mail and packages before we got them and remove whatever he desired. Most of the time, he took things we needed to complete stories and ended up having to call companies last minute and ask for new shipments. Rick would frequently walk into our cubicles, see something he liked and help himself, regardless of whether we needed it for our work or not.

He constantly tried to get employees in competition with each other and bad-mouthed us to one another often. He was paranoid and trusted no one. Whenever we laughed about something, he thought we were talking about him. He called and checked up on employees when they called out. Once, a writer's father had a heart attack while she was at work. Her family called her and she rushed from the office in tears. Rick later called the hospital, just to make sure her father had really been admitted and she wasn't just trying to get out of work. One day, the toilets were broken, and we were all using a neighboring office. Rick, however, couldn't be bothered, used the broken toilet and overflowed the thing. He then left his employees to clean up his very unpleasant mess.

The worst, however, was Rick's 12-year-old son, Greg. Greg refused to go to school, and neither Rick nor his wife did anything about it. Greg spent most of his days in the office. He helped himself to whatever he wanted, because "It's my dad's company." He went through our desks and computers the second we left the area, taking things and dis-organizing everything and going through our Rolodexes and crank-calling business contacts. He would pick up the extension when we were on the phone and listen in as we talked. Nothing says professionalism to the person on the other line like heavy breathing in the background! When Rick was out of the office, he would have Greg call in and ask to speak to someone at random, to make sure we were all still there. Greg would constantly try to get us to say something that he could report back to his father and get us in trouble for.

For no apparent reason, another fresh-from college employee and I were suddenly fired one day. No warning, just a box our ransacked desks and a "Get out before I call the police" from Rick in front of the whole office. We never did find out why we were dismissed - to our knowledge we had never done anything wrong and he refused to tell us, our parents, or anyone else why were fired in such a traumatic and cruel manner. Looking back now, from my nice, new professional job, however, I consider myself lucky to have been dismissed from that nut house!


This happened a few years ago. I had just returned from my honeymoon to be informed that my father's uncle had passed away. We arrived home on the Sunday, the funeral was to happen on the following Tuesday.

My first day back at work was on the Monday, so I promptly informed the supervisor on duty that I would be late for my shift the next day. (Instead of starting at 1pm I would be starting at 5, finishing the evening shift). The supervisor on duty was very understanding and concerned about my feelings. I appreciated her kindness and she marked on the schedule that I would be late.

I attend the funeral, and although a solemn occasion, I got the opportunity to see relatives that I haven't seen in years. Uncle was ill with Alzheimer's for a long time and although we did not want to say goodbye, it was a relief to us that he was no longer suffering. We all remembered the good times, and actually it was a lovely way for us to say goodbye, with all the family sharing happy stories and actually feeling kind of good. I did not want to leave so soon, but I had to go to work to finish my evening shift.

I arrived at work to find the head of the department waiting for me (she is the boss of the kind and understanding supervisor). I was immediately hauled into the office to explain my whereabouts during the afternoon. I showed her the schedule where my name was marked with "at funeral until 5", and explained that Uncle had passed during my honeymoon, and I told the supervisor about the funeral at the earliest possible time I could.

During the interrogation by the head of the department, she asked me a lot of questions hoping that I would "trip up" and reveal my true whereabouts. (??) I was then asked to bring a note in to explain my whereabouts so that it could be placed in my file, because "some people have the same relative die 3 times a year to get extra time off". I was also told that the funeral was at a very inconvenient time (curse my selfish grieving Auntie!), it would have been better if it was on the Wednesday as that was my regular day off. (Better tell my relatives to let me know in advance when they plan on dying, so that we can arrange a to have the funeral on my day off!) Apparently she thought that I had had enough time off for my honeymoon (1 week) and that I was just making this story up to have more time off. (1 afternoon in the middle of the week, when I still had to come in for the evening?? I know, it doesn't make sense to me either). Looking back on it now, there were so many things I could have said to her, but this came so far out of left field that I just sat there with my jaw on the floor, completely dumbstruck.

I came out of the office in tears, my co-workers immediately rallied with support. The kind supervisor was very angry with the department head, and instructed me to make an appointment to talk to the head's boss. I did so. I also wrote the note with the addendum that I was being forced to write this because of the reasons stated by the department head, so that even though it was in my permanent record, everyone would be able to see how ridiculous this person was being.

When I met with the department head's boss and explained what happened, she was so completely mortified that she couldn't apologize enough. She said that it was definitely not policy to force employees to explain their whereabouts when attending a funeral, and that she would be speaking to my boss about her appalling behavior. I worked with my boss for 2 more years, and since that episode I was never called into her office again.

My place of work is unionized, but I chose not to pursue the incident as the whole thing was upsetting enough without having to go through it again in a few months when the incident would finally get a chance to be heard.

I wasn't sure what was worse, being accused of lying to get time off work (which I wasn't paid for, nor did I expect to be paid for), or her complete disregard for my feelings after losing a relative. This was really upsetting for me as I take my work very seriously and try my best to do a good job.

This incident went way beyond a "faux pas"; in my opinion the offender is very close to entering real Hell after being so cruel and heartless.


When I was in high school, I worked in men's clothing store in a mall. We often had big sales, where things were 50 and 75 percent off. I was working at the register next to one of my superiors, the assistant manager. I noticed he was arguing with a customer. The customer claimed that a shirt she was buying should be 75 percent off. The assistant manager said no- that particular shirt was not included in the promotion. The customer was right and the assistant manager was wrong. Because I had been taught that "the customer is always right" and to giving good customer service was stressed in this store, I politely said, "Mike, I think you may be mistaken. If you look at the last 4 digits of the sku number on the tag, it is in the list of shirts on sale." I then showed him the list, which proved that the customer and I were correct. He angrily rang up the sale for the sale price and shoved the bag at the customer without a word - no apology, nothing.

The next day it was a new schedule change. I phoned in to find out when I was next working, and Mike got on the phone. He said I was fired! The reason? I 'contradicted' him in front of a customer! I was totally polite when I had said it! What about the customer being right and good customer service? The customer had thanked me, and, if she hadn't got what she knew was the right discount, she might have never come back. And wasn't his slamming her purchase in the bag and giving it to her angrily without a word worse behavior?

Luckily the District Manager agreed with me when I phoned him, and I was given a transfer to another one of the company's stores in the same mall. I still had to see 'Mike' around. What a petty man. Bosses0914-03

For my fortieth birthday a male friend of mine gave me a wonderful gift -- a trip to England to visit him. As you can imagine, I was elated. I shared the details with my work colleagues, mainly because I could hardly believe my good fortune and was waiting for someone to pinch me! But what my boss did hurt more than a pinch would have. Everyone knew I had met my friend on the internet and were asking questions about how well I could trust my friend and was I certain about my safety ... except my boss. He asked, in front of the entire office, "Did he know what you looked like before he bought the tickets?" Bosses0914-03

I work in a large office and our boss is known for hating confrontation. She's the kind of woman who will send out a reprimanding e-mail after everyone has gone home for the day so she doesn't have to deal with staff reactions.

What happened to me took the cake.

A friend of mine works in the office and came to my desk to ask me to go outside for a break, she had something she needed to talk about. I went out with her. She then informed me that my boss had told my supervisor to tell another co-worker to tell my friend to tell me that I had done something wrong. Excuse me? Instead of my boss sending me an e-mail or calling me into her office, she went through 3 people, two of which had no right knowing my personal business? I was floored. I got back to my desk and sent an e-mail to my boss and supervisor stating that I was sorry for my mistake but did NOT appreciate the childish way I had to find out. I also stating that in the future they could just tell me to my face. Their response? "Don’t let it happen again". The unprofessionalism was unbelievable.


My sister used to work for a prominent national accounting firm, and she passed this story on to me. This firm would hold huge, blowout parties for all of branch employees include large spreads of food AND an open bar. I've found an open bar is usually an open invitation for people to get disgustingly sloppy drunk and this story proves my theory.

One of the higher-ups (who were, of course, married) was having a well-known affair with his secretary. He brought his wife to the party. By the end of the night, both the higher-up and the secretary were so stinking drunk that they were making out in full view of all the employees AND the higher-up's wife. Charming. The wife, in an effort to preserve her dignity, quietly put on her coat and took a cab back home. She filed for divorce soon after.

The firm now puts limits on its "open bar".


From 1987 to 1994 I had a boss who ranked as, shall we say, less than ideal. He was certainly rough around the edges when it came to dealing with people, and often made insulting remarks, even though he probably didn't realize it.

I had the "pleasure" of traveling with him on a few occasions. In 1990, we spent about 10 days working in the offices of another company. There was a no-smoking rule there, and he and I were working in the same office, every day, all day. I can't stand to be around tobacco smoke, so I thought the rule was good. And he obeyed it--for the first day. After that, his attitude was, "what are they going to do to me?" So for a week and a half, I felt like I had a bad cold until we left for the hotel each evening.

But that's not the bad part.

We were on another 10-day trip to a small town in Utah. There were only two places (other than McD's and Taco Bell) to have dinner. One was an independent restaurant across the street from our hotel, and the other was the Golden Corral a few miles away. Every night, he wanted to go to the Golden Corral. Fine with me--I didn't really care.

But then after we had been there for about five days, he told me to decide where to have dinner. The conversation went like this:

Boss: You decide.

Me: No, it really doesn't matter. Wherever you want.

Boss: No, I've decided the last few nights, now it's your turn.

Me: I really don't care--doesn't matter.

Boss: Look--here are the truck keys. Either we walk across the street or drive to the Golden Corral. You decide.

Me: Okay, well, let's go across the street for a change.

(about 10 steps toward the restaurant...)

Boss: No, I don't want to go there. Get in the truck--we're going to the Golden Corral.

Whatta guy.


I used to work for an insurance agent who was brand new to the business. She was just out of college and had never had a full time job, let alone run her own business.

When I interviewed, I was told if I got the position, I would be her 3rd staff person in the 3 months since her office opened. I was told that the 2 previous staff people were complete slackers, so they were fired. Ok, I was definitely not a slacker, so I wasn't worried.

I started working for said boss and promptly obtained all of my insurance licenses. I worked my butt off learning everything I needed to know and organizing the office (boss lady had no organizational skills what so ever). I quickly knew that place inside and out and could pretty much run it with my eyes closed. I took care of everything-my boss basically never had to lift a finger.

Boss decided she wanted to have weekly "sales" meetings, to talk about ways to increase sales and keep her up to date on what I was working on. No problem! We would meet and she would tell me what I could do to be a better sales person and I would try to implement her ideas into my already very busy day. In one of these meetings, we were discussing my work schedule. I rarely took a lunch break because I was usually too busy, so I was working 8.5 hours a day and only getting paid for 8. I questioned this and it was decided that I could leave 1/2 hour early every night if I didn't have time to take a lunch that day. Cool. In our meeting the following week, boss lady tells me she wants me to keep track of any time I spend on personal phone calls or writing personal e-mails and make up for it because that should not be taking away from my work time. Ok, I guess that's fine, but mind you I am hardly ever eating lunch while I'm there, let alone taking the (2) 15-min brakes I am entitled to.

After working there about a year (I can't believe I survived that long), I went on vacation for a week with my boyfriend's family. While on vacation, my boyfriend proposed. When I came back to work, my boss already knew about the engagement and said nothing to me except "have you guys decided what your plans are now?" Translation: "Are you going to quit anytime soon to go live closer to your fiancé, because I'll start looking for someone else." My new fiancé lived 1.5 hours from me, but we were planning on just finding a place to live in between our 2 jobs and moving in together. I informed boss lady of this and she seemed pleased.

The next day, I get called into her office for a meeting. She proceeds to tell me how she was just fine running the office by herself while I was gone and has no idea what I do all day long and she doesn't think I'm doing my job, etc. I was floored. I worked very hard to get caught up before I left so the only work she would have to do while I was gone was work she created. I'm sorry I was trying to be efficient and help out!! So, I walk out of her office crying and feel terrible about myself. I dread going in the next day, but I do because I don't have a ton of other options. I get called into her office again and she apologizes for being so harsh. She didn't mean it, and she doesn't know what she would do without me. Fine, I'm over it. I get back to working diligently for boss from hell. This was a Wednesday. On Friday morning I get called into the office AGAIN and boss proceeds to tell me she is "letting me go" because I am just not working up to her standards. Whatever!!

So, I sent out an e-mail to a bunch of other agents with the same company, got 6 phone calls that same day and had a job with one of them within 2 days. I am happy as ever! It took boss from hell 2 months to replace me and that person only lasted 2 weeks! She is now on her 5th staff person in less than 2 years, and I was there for just over a year! I don't think it's a matter of people being slackers, I think she's impossible to work for!!


I'm a black woman who once temped at a Veterans services agency. The office was in inner city Boston, and the employees and most of the clientele were black. My first day, I showed up in a suit and heels. The atmosphere was very formal; everybody called each other "Mr." and "Ms." When I met my boss (the president's wife), the first thing out of her mouth after "Hello" was "You talked so proper on the phone, I thought you were white."


Shortly after graduating law school, I moved back home and began looking for work. I was in "professional limbo" at the time - I had just finished my judicial clerkship, but had not yet taken the Bar Exam, so I was not qualified to practice (and therefore earn the big $$$). I managed to get in contact with a lawyer I had met during my clerkship who was working on an appeal. Since my clerkship was for the Court of Appeals, we both figured I could offer some insight into his issue, and I agreed to work for him on an independent contractor basis.

It did not take long for the relationship to begin heading downhill. For starters, he was gay. This has NEVER been a problem for me; I have nothing against it. He liked to go out for coffee to a cafe frequented by the gay community and he usually treated me. However, he insisted on bringing his annoying poodle along, NEVER on a leash. He let the thing run around his office and in the middle of the (very busy) street outside the cafe. He also insisted on sitting outside in front of the cafe - I had this uneasy feeling that he was trying to portray me as his latest "boy-toy" to passers-by, rather than as a professional law clerk in his employ.

This was only a minor annoyance compared to the stunts he pulled. Like any good lawyer, he was willing to draft and re-draft his arguments and had me proofreading and researching the relevant case law. We were working on the index of cases (at the beginning of a brief, it is a good idea for lawyers to list the cases cited, along with their corresponding page numbers). He would read out the case names and what pages they were on, then I would write down the page numbers for him. I handed him the handwritten list of the cases & page numbers (that, mind you, HE had dictated to me), then he sent me out to proofread the entire brief one last time. When I returned, he had made several changes to the text of the brief. It was at this point that he decided to check the index for accuracy.

Now, any idiot can tell you that changing / adding / deleting text is going to shuffle some text from one page to another. As a result, some of the cases were no longer on the same page that I had them listed on in my handwritten index. He was somewhat confused by this occurrence, though. At one point, he looked at me and said, "What did YOU do? Why aren’t these cases on the pages YOU listed?" I patiently tried to explain to him that my index HAD been correct, PRIOR TO the changes he made. His reaction: total perplexity. I tried to explain to him that I was only writing down the page numbers HE told me to write down. At one point, I even pulled the original, handwritten index out of the trash (it was covered with spilled cola) and POINTED OUT TO HIM where the page numbers USED to be correct before his changes. At that point, he sat back from his computer, considered the screen for a moment, and said, "I still don't know what YOU did here". It was at this point that I gave up trying to convince him that I was only doing what HE told me to do. The following weekend, he called me to tell me he had decided to finish the brief on his own. I told him I thought that was a good idea.

I don't know how his appeal turned out, but the funny part is, I now work for the county court, and have seen him on several occasions. However, NOT ONCE has he acted like he knew me, or even acknowledged my presence. I consider that a blessing!

In the early days of personal computers I had worked for nearly three years as a computer technician at a national retail computer company that was scaling back operations and subsequently my store was closed. Fortunately there was ample warning and I was able to line up a new job that started the very next day when my old job ended.

My new employer was a small company with 3 other employees and I worked closely with the owner every day. We had similar backgrounds with computers and seemed to get along very well. Many of our clients were medical practices running a custom application and hardware configuration.

Things began to take a downward turn after my first week on the job when he began coming in later and later each day. In his absence I did my best to field problems that came my way and prepare orders that were waiting to be filled. In what was to become a ritual each day, when he finally showed up he would berate me for not making the "correct" decisions. (Remember that I'm the new guy, doing my best to keep his customers happy.) In fact my decisions were correct, but were perhaps not the approach he would have undertaken, and I was forced to defend practically everything I was doing. After these sessions with him each day I would often have to rework already completed problems "correctly". I ended up working 60 or more hours each week because I was doing a lot of jobs twice.

The final straw came when we were doing a new installation at a doctor's office across the state line about 90 minutes away. I had contracted a cabling company that was local to the area and I was very specific with them about how the job was to be completed. We were preparing the system at our office and wanted to be up and running the same day I arrived on site for the installation.

After getting to the doctor’s office I discovered the cabling contractor had wired the wrong connectors and they would have to be replaced before I could proceed. I called the contractor and was told it would Monday (this is a Friday afternoon) at the earliest before he can come back out. I tried to contact my boss, but he was not answering his phone. I left him a detailed message at home and at the office. As there was no one at the office to give any advice or guidance and I was unequipped to redo the cabling myself, there was no point in my remaining and I proceeded back to the office.

No sign of my boss at the office or any indication he has gotten my messages. I left him a detailed email explaining the mix up with the cable connectors and letting him know that I intended to return to the doctors office early the following Monday morning to personally oversee the cabling contractor.

Apparently sometime Saturday evening he finally got my messages and called me at home to explain in no uncertain terms how much I had screwed up the job. He instructed me to return to the doctor’s office Sunday morning, call the receptionist at home, gain access to the office, replace the connectors on the cabling and have the system up and running. Oh, and I cannot tell them why I need to get into the office since he has already told the doctor that the job was finished! (I am not making this up!)

When I finally hung up the phone I decided right then and there I would rather be unemployed than to work for this ass of a boss. Sunday morning I went to the office, gathered my personal belongings and left my key and pager on his desk. I also left a lengthy resignation on everyone's desk detailing the events leading up to that moment. On my way out the door I hit the panic button on the alarm system. I'll bet he loved that.

With the passage of time (it has been several years now), I realize that my bad boss was probably an alcoholic or possibly a drug addict. That would explain his ever increasing late afternoon arrivals and his bizarre behavior.


I once had a petty, vindictive boss. But to understand why, you must know the great boss who I worked for until he retired young from the same company. The bad boss inherited me after the good boss left.

My great boss, Parker, had a reputation for being difficult. Well, actually, he was just a really intelligent guy with a low threshold for dumb people, and he needed someone who he could rely on. Perhaps he treated me so well because if he lost another secretary, the company might not look favorably on him.

Parker took me out to lunch every two or three weeks, to very expensive restaurants, on his own dime -- not putting it on his expense account. We hardly even discussed business; just two guys shooting the breeze. Lunch for two usually cost two to four hundred dollars (this is Manhattan and the guy likes great food). He introduced me to colleagues as his associate, when he could have just said secretary. And at restaurants, he introduced me as his friend. He invited me to his wedding and his home for parties, after which he paid for a car to take me back home from New Jersey to Queens on the other side of Manhattan. Sure, he has wealth, and these gestures were financially insignificant to him. But his spirit was what was impressive. He always stood up for me, tried to get me promoted, and even took the blame on a couple of occasions when I made an error. Oh, and at Christmas, two years in a row, he wrote me a personal check for $5,000 with the words "Merry Christmas" on the check. It made me cry. That was a tenth of my salary, and it was astonishing. It was also humbling. I learned to tip people well and to be much more generous after working for this man. We're still friends.

A shoeshine guy visited our floor once a week, a really decent guy. (I remember at Christmas, Parker gave him a $50 tip.) When I told the shoeshiner that Parker was leaving, he was crestfallen. "Parker was my best customer," he said. I knew Parker used his services a lot, and the guy counted on him for weekly business and good tips.

I mentioned to Parker this guy's reaction to his retirement. Well, before Parker left, he set up a "shoeshine fund" for the company, treating his former co-workers to free shines upon request, just to make sure the guy had some business. He left me a check for $1,000 and asked that I administer the fund, which I did joyfully.

During the first few weeks after Parker left, I was very vulnerable emotionally. Not only had someone very dear to me gone away, my life changed at work and I had two new bosses. When I started working for my new number two boss, Wayne, the first thing he did was start bad-mouthing Parker. It was nasty, it was continuous, and it was always with a sense of malice. It wounded me deeply. He also bad-mouthed his former secretary, which taught me immediately to watch my back.

Wayne also has tremendous wealth, probably greater than Parker's. Our company treated us to free train fare vouchers each month, but Wayne didn't take the train, so his vouchers accumulated. Whereas Parker had been faithful and generous, Wayne actually tried to sell me -- sell me! -- his vouchers. He was looking for an angle to make a few bucks off me, after bad-mouthing the guy who looked after the lowest person in his life.

Wayne actually had very little work for me to do, and what he gave me to do was mostly trivial personal tasks. He physically threw his work at me and treated me like I had the plague, never a kind word or hello. But he still made my life difficult enough and poisoned enough people against me so the company let me go. And the day I left, he didn't dare show his face or thank me for the work I had done. Because he was ashamed.

He was one of the smallest men I've known.


I was working for a doctor's office, which I thought would be a really great learning experience, but ended up being hell on earth. For starters, the doctor I worked for would leave an exam room, with a patient in it, to go talk to his wife for at least an hour. This happened about 3 or 4 times a day sometimes, which made the standard wait time to see the doctor about 2 hours. One day it actually got to 4 hours. Patients screamed me at every 15 to 30 minutes, and when I went to talk to the doctor about the patients’ abusive behavior and what I could do about it, he told me that the abuse was happening because I wasn't doing my job right. (Um, no - it’s because they're mad that they had a 3 PM appointment and that they're still there at 7 PM!)

This actually isn't about Dr. Idiot, though. It's about the "team leader" I worked directly under. This girl made my life a living hell. I did my job perfectly (and was told so by the office manager), but whenever I did something as little as place a paper clip where she didn't want it placed (I am not exaggerating in the least), she'd go walk around the other office staff and complain about what an awful employee I was. This happened whenever SHE screwed up, too - I got the blame. By two months' time, the rest of the office staff hated me, thinking I was the biggest idiot on the face of the earth. This job caused me multiple health problems due to stress, including three times daily severe migraines.

There's so much more, but for the sake of brevity, I'll cut straight to the Really Bad Thing. I have two children who were 3 and 6 months at the time. My 3 year old was just fine, but my 6 month old's immune system wasn’t adjusting to day care. She was sick constantly. (She's now 14 months old, and she's since been diagnosed with severe asthma.) My husband was taking off to take care of her as much as he could, but he reached his boss’s limit. My mother tried after that, but she got sick as well. Finally, I had to use my sick days, which I knew my office wouldn't like at all.

After I had taken a day to take care of my youngest after she had been in the ER all night, I came back in to have Miss Team Leader tell me that if I was out again, my child had BETTER BE DYING. She was serious. I was not allowed to be gone from work again unless my baby was at death's door. I quit soon after, without notice. Bossess1229-03

When I’d just turned 16 I got a job at a small boutique men's store. Excited at the prospect of a good wage, good hours, and a close proximity to my home, I readily accepted the position with much enthusiasm. I often pride myself on working hard and the reason I applied for the job in the first place (even though I was still at a high school notorious for the heavy amount of assignments and homework we often got given) was to be independent in buying my owns things, contributing part of my wages to my parents for board and trying to lessen the burden on them as the said high school I attended was particularly expensive. I would also be working alone with the manager, a foreign woman who shall go by the name of 'B'.

Anyway, on my first day I was told that no, I would not have to make any alterations to any of the pure wool suits sold at the store, and I replied with relief as my sewing skills were practically non-existent even after many many lessons from my grandmother. I was surprised, therefore, when I arrived at work to find a pile of expensive wool suits I was expected to alter. Ok, I thought, this will be interesting. My boss knew I’d try to learn sewing before and, after 5 minutes into her own sewing lesson for me she discovered I still couldn't alter the suits to her standard, she yelled, "Stupid girl, even a n***er can learn this!"

I was shocked at her attitude, but let it slide as it was only 8 days into my work. As the weeks went on I continued to struggle with the alterations (bear in mind this wasn't in my job description) and was continually labeled a "stupid snob". 'B' also had her husband continually in the store, who could not keep his eyes to himself and did not make me feel me comfortable at all. One day, he commented 'My, you are well developed, aren't you!' Disgusted, I said, "EXCUSE ME?!?!" but again fumed silently.

This was the catalyst to even worse behavior from 'B'. The next time I arrived at work, I was told I dressed like a 's*ut' (even though I wore long black pants and a white turtleneck whenever I was at work) and was told I had to wear a men's shirt and bow tie. And, being 16 and needing a job, I did, even though I looked like a fool in a massive, baggy shirt. I suspect this was only for 'B''s amusement.

My last day of work was possibly the worst. Adjusting a suit for a middle aged man, I was pinning the bottom of his pants and was almost finished when he said 'It's been awhile since I had a young girl on her knees in front of me!' I was almost sick, and after giving 'B' an astonished look, she told me 'Enjoy the compliment, you won't get too many.' After that customer left the store, I grabbed my bag and told her I wouldn't come back to the store. On hearing this, 'B' grabs a pile of wire coat hangers and proceeds to throw them at me, telling me to get out, that I was scum and would end up pregnant in a gutter. I kid you not. I never went back to the store and I look back now, a year on, and wonder how (and why) I put up with such abuse. I now have a wonderful part-time job, with a boss I get on very well with, and feel great sympathy for whoever is unlucky enough to become an assistant to the 'Men's Store Boss From Hell'.


I used to work for a man who just didn't have a clue. First, he wasn't native to the U.S. and English was not his first language. He was also from a culture that didn't necessarily give women "full" rights. And we won't even start on his intelligence (or general lack thereof).

This man was in a position where he was in charge of technical staff, even though he couldn't have programmed his way out of a paper bag. I had gotten sick one night, necessitating an emergency room visit/overnight hospital admission. I went in on a Monday night, for example, and was released Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, it was snowing. Since I live in an area of the country where people freak out when they see a snowflake, the boss was apparently fielding calls about being late and/or not being able to make it into work at all. I called him from the hospital to tell him I was in the hospital and wouldn't be in for a couple days. The first response I received from him was "oh, yes, there's a lot of snow, please try to come in as soon as you can." I said, "Didn't you hear what I said? I'm in the hospital."

Then he listened. Yes, I was in the hospital. Oh, but could I please give him my phone number just in case he needed to get hold of me. Oh, yeah, sure, I'm in the hospital for my good looks and I'm not sick or anything, sure, anything you want. I mumbled something about not knowing what my direct line was and telling him to look up the number for the switchboard as my mouth was dragging on the blankets.

The second incident was just his lack of knowing the language. He had a contractor working for him, who wasn't the easiest person in the world to get along with, but who definitely knew what he was doing. He and the contractor got into a fight where he was firing the contractor, the only person who knew the system that he supported. The contractor says, "You're cutting off your nose to spite your face." The boss says, "Then I will grow a new nose!" Now I know that you shouldn't laugh at people because of their lack of command of the English language, but we all did.

The upshot: I quit, the contractor quit/was fired, and the boss was laid off about a year or so later.


In my early twenties I worked as the marketing director for a 124-store shopping mall. It was your average mall with a Gap, Eddie Bauer, J.P Penny and Bon Marche i.e. Macy’s. It was my 1st managerial job and I had a lot of responsibility. I was in charge of a sizeable budget, media buying, two employees and oversaw a huge range of tasks. I did everything from coordinating the Christmas décor installation to making sure stroller rental money got deposited in the correct account. Like any job it had ups and downs but overall I loved working there and I was very content for a few years.

Luckily, all my bosses were forgettable. However, the co-owner of the Real Estate Company and President of marketing made my skin crawl. She was my nemesis and while I worked there I felt trapped in a dodge ball game against the epitome of corporate evil.

For the story’s sake we’ll call her Drusilla and the reason I stayed with the company for so long was I actually didn’t see her too often. She and her henchwomen worked out of our corporate office located in the Midwest and they didn’t like to travel to my location. Still, even from a distance she was able to wreak havoc in my life and pushed me to a level of hate that I never knew existed in myself.

Drusilla was a walking example of "money can’t buy you happiness." Her husband owned several major shopping malls and the family was worth millions. Yet she was beyond being a miserable person. She was arrogant, demanding, and thought everyone was stealing or trying to take advantage of her. Sadly, her paranoia was somewhat justified. Drusilla was a self-fulfilling prophecy; she treated people so poorly that anyone with ethics immediately left the company shortly after sizing her up. The employees that stayed did so either because they were trapped, too young to know any better or because they hadn’t seen what she was capable of. Once there, Drusilla would go on rampages for minor infractions. Your marketing storage room wasn’t clean enough. You came back 10 minutes late to lunch. In short, there was no love for this woman and her despicable behavior inspired petty acts of retaliation in even the most honest people.

Shortly after starting I was informed that I was going to need to sign a

non-competition agreement. No problem. I’ve signed many and thought this was just standard operating procedure. To be safe, I called a lawyer friend and asked him to review it before I signed. I was too busy to read the suspiciously thick contract so I faxed it to my lawyer friend. Later that evening I got a message on my machine, "WHATEVER YOU DO – DO NOT SIGN THAT DOCUMENT."

This agreement practically had me surrendering my right to terminate life support and supply them with my first born male child. Actually, it was far worse than that. In about 30 pages of legal vomit it stated that if I voluntarily left my job for any reason to go to any other company within three years they had the legal right to garnish a portion of my new salary. I couldn’t believe it was legal but my lawyer did the research and it seemed this company had a history of bullying employees into signing these carbon copy contracts. Of course, Drusilla pressured me to sign and in a bizarre game of chicken she backed down and I got away with signing a three page contract stating that I wouldn’t work for any of their major competitors. I had the upper hand because they were afraid of loosing another marketing director.

It quickly blew over and that situation taught me learned everything I needed to know about Drusilla and the people I worked for. Then I started hearing more stories about contracts. I learned that that employees in different departments wouldn’t be hired unless they signed the same contract I saw except they had to work for the company for 10 years before they could safely move on. I learned they wouldn’t hesitate to sue you and that other employees had lost their new jobs because their new company didn’t want any legal hassles from them. Some of these people were making as little as 35K and this multimillion dollar company was garnishing ½ of their wages simply because the person tried to get away from the bastards.

My 1st question was, "What would compel anyone to sign such sever contract?" Well, most of the people that did lived in small towns and there wasn’t a lot of work. To them, it was guaranteed employment. Others had just graduated from school and thought the company was so well established that this had to be a good deal. In the end everyone regretted signing it and unless you were completely unemployable you left the day the contract ended. This was how they managed turnover and now that you couldn’t leave they took full advantage of you. There was no shortage of horror stories. I think the worst I’d heard was about a maintenance employee whose house burned to the ground. Naturally he needed some time off to get his affairs in order – they refused to pay him for that time! Talk about *COLD*.

Of course what made this all possible was their team of beady-eyed lawyers in shiny cheap suits. Because they were a real estate company they had more than 20 lawyers at their discretion. They weren’t very good lawyers but I guess when you’re suing some poor sucker barely making a living it doesn’t take a legal eagle to win the case. And they loved to sue! The 1st words out of Drusilla’s mouth were, "Can we sue?" And people were sued for all kinds of ridiculous things. Call her a bitch? She’d go after you for slander. Did you take a stapler when you left the company? She’d go after you for stolen property. When I got my new job she wanted to sue me for using their email to send resumes. Luckily, I never did any job hunting from work. The list goes on. Drusilla’ would try to sue you for any reason simply because she could. And if she couldn’t sue she’d get just as much fulfillment out of putting you through the hassle of getting a lawyer and tying you up with legal fees. She is that evil.

As for my personal struggles I soon abandoned the role of marketing director for the role of kissing employees’ backsides so they’d stay. Without the advantage of a heinous contract it was next to impossible for me to keep decent employees motivated to stay with the company. The pay was crap and they wouldn’t offer anyone lower than a manger health insurance. YES, Can you believe that? I wanted to say what is this? Bangladesh? These people have more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetime and they can’t offer cough up the cost of taking care of their people? I thought it was DESPICABLE. You literally got a better deal slinging refried beans at Taco Time than being the assistant marketing director. I tried numerous times to budget in raises and benefits but my efforts were always stopped. I was told that although I was in charge of my budget I wasn’t allowed to allocate funds in the ways I saw fit. I was told that we needed to desperately redirect money to more important things like, new glitter for the Christmas display. Turn over was never ending and in many cases I ended up hiring people that were completely unemployable because they were the only people that would take the job. I could never decide which was worse – been short staffed or filling the space with unemployable losers.

In a press release I was provided on the death of her father in law and the original owner of the company he was hailed as a philanthropist. It said, "One time Mr. X was at a famous college and he said, "What do you need?" and the school said, "A new piano." And the next day it was there! Too bad my employees needed a decent wage and health insurance instead of pianos. What a philanthropist! I often asked, "Would I get a piano if I asked for one? Then I could sell it, take the profits and make sure my secretary gets thyroid medication paid for."

Drusilla would always take an employee leaving as deeply personal. It wasn’t just that someone got a new job and was trying to better their lives it was that they were spitting in her face and turning their nose up at her pathetic attempt at generosity. She would throw tantrums and make idle threats about suing.

When I left I wanted things to be different. I worked to make the transition smooth by finishing all the budgeting, paying all the invoices and even hired my replacement. I felt nice about leaving on good terms.

The following week came and I never received my last check from them. I called and was immediately referred to the legal department who said they were with holding my last check because I had stolen property from the company. What was I accused of taking? A business card holder! And Drusilla was looking into suing me for using office email for personal mail! Because of me, they later removed all computers out of offices and replaced them in public places so email could be "watched." I called a lawyer who called Drusilla and said I had a whopper of a case and my check was over-nighted to me. I never heard from her again. May she burn in hell.


I used to be a veterinary technician. A few years ago, I worked for a local small animal vet whose wife managed the office. These were the most unreasonable people I have ever worked with. They would often get into heated personal arguments in front of pet owners, which embarrassed me greatly, though a few customers seemed to be entertained by their battles.

On morning at work, I got a sudden attack of diarrhea and went to the rest room. The phone rang while I was in there, so I missed the call. My boss was mad because I had not taken the phone to the restroom with me.

The incident that turned me against the place for good occurred after the boss's wife had bought a bunch of animal health books and displayed them on shelves around the office. She never read them and she never offered them to anyone else to read. I think she just thought they looked good. One day I took a book from a shelf to look up something. She stormed into the room and said, "You can't take that home. It cost a lot of money." I was offended, first because of the assumption that I would borrow something without asking, and second because of the insinuation that I could not be trusted with expensive things. I replied that I wanted to look up a genetic disease and had no intention of taking the book. She told me to buy my own and skulked away. I felt like saying, "Maybe if you paid me a decent wage I could afford one." But I didn't. I decided that day that I would quit as soon as something better came along. After it did, I thanked God daily for several years.


Page Last Updated May 18, 2007