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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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