Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Bad, Bad Bosses

Jan-Jun 2003 Archive

Jul-Dec 2003 Archive

A long while back I worked at an ice cream shop in a mall. I would open the shop in the mornings and do the regular things like check the levels of ice cream, make sure there was milk for the shakes do a general clean up. One morning I unlocked the doors and found a dead rat in the pop corn. The pop corn was the already popped kind that you heat with a light bulb. I was grossed out and removed the rat and the pop corn. I scrubbed the machine like it had never been scrubbed before (or after). When the boss arrived I told him about it and what I had done. About an hour later he came out of his office and asked me if anyone else had been around when I discovered the rat. I said "No." He said "You should have just removed the rat and the pop corn that was directly in contact with it!" Arrgh. I never, never eat at any shop at a mall. 


I worked for many years throughout university from a boss-from-hell at a restaurant/bar/hotel. I started 7am on Saturday and Sunday and gradually, the manager shift and the receptionist were no longer scheduled for a morning shift - I just assumed their duties for no extra pay. I was also supervising the junior employee at the time and also cooking breakfast when the chefs were late (often!) and still only receiving minimum wage. Well, okay, no stress - I was just glad to have a regular job.

But what made this job so bad -

1) The owner of the hotel used to come in about once a month to check on me. This was a millionaire, mind you, who could have been cruising the Caribbean, rather than turning up at 7am to hassle me. He used to follow me around and complain that I wasn't doing tasks correctly (including polishing salt and pepper shakers - how can one do that wrong exactly???) The best bit was he didn't approve of my style of vacuuming so he used to take over approximately 50% of the time. (The problem was we had the oldest vacuum in the world - no one could make that thing clean the floors properly but he always thought it was better after HE did it - fine with me, that bit of the job sucked!)

2) On my 18th birthday, I got a dollar-shop jewelry boss from my boss. Nice thought, didn't expect anything. A year later, my workmate has her 18th and is handed a $100 liquor voucher for the hotel bar. In front of me. I think the boss thought she was cute - but I was smiley and happy for her. It was her birthday after all and who wants to rain on her parade.

3) When turning 20 in Australia, you become ineligible for the youth wage. (It's supposed to be an incentive to hire and train young people). Suddenly, I didn't have any shifts, unless the other staff were unavailable. I'd worked for this hotel for five years at this point and was effectively doing three peoples jobs - you would have thought they could spring for an extra $3 an hour.

Poetic justice - I went and found a better paying, less taxing job and my juniors, who were supposed to take over from me, promptly quit as suddenly they were expected to do all the jobs I'd been doing for no money too. Last I heard, the crappy manager and the even worse owner were doing the 7am set up shift. I hope they liked the vacuuming!


My wife "Donna" is a picture framer with over twenty years of experience. After several happy years at one job, the owners of her old shop retired, and she had to work for a series of bizarre employers. This is the story of how she worked at the best-known framing business in town for only three days.

Donna also runs an art show that displays the works of a dozen artists for a weekend in different cities. Before she was hired, she explained that she had an obligation to be out of town the first Friday through Monday after she started, but would be ready to work weekends after that. She explained it again when she was hired, and gave a note to the manager reminding her on Thursday.

She worked three days and hit the road Friday morning.

Monday night we got back home, worn out from driving hundreds of miles, and found four messages on the answering machine.

1. Donna, it's after 8:00 Monday morning and you aren't here. Where are you?

2. Donna, it's 8:30, and you still aren't here. You were expected to be here at 8:00.

3. Donna, it's 9:00, and if you aren't here by 10:00, we're going to assume that you've resigned.

4. Donna, well I guess you've resigned.

Tuesday morning Donna went to work, expecting to remind the manager that she had been out of town, and to generally smooth things over. Instead, she found that her replacement had already been hired and had started Monday afternoon.

I figure that she was lucky to get out of there after only investing three days. They never even asked if she was all right. Imagine if she'd gotten into a car crash, and found that she'd not only lost her car, but her job!



I had a female boss, "Louise," who started out very nice. In fact, she was so pleasant and down-to-earth, I very nearly considered her a friend-- but she was a high-level regional manager, too busy to fraternize much, so I didn't really get to know her. In retrospect I'm glad.

In summer of 2001 I was sent on a month-long business trip to work for a foreign branch of the company. It was a famously expensive country and I worked long hours, so I scrupulously kept track of all my time and expenses. Frequently, I had trouble with the required electronic transmittal of these expenses, due to extensive network problems. I'd been told to contact Louise if I had problems, but she was mysteriously never around and never returned my calls/e-mails-- in fact, I didn't speak to her again till I got home. I had to try to get help from other people in the company and muddle my way through.

I spent a whole week without my corporate food-and-expenses credit card, because someone lost it in the mailroom back home or something and I was out of sight, out of mind, so no one looked for it. When I finally got it and had been using it for a few days, it was suddenly canceled (I found out while standing at a cash register)! It took two days of telephone runaround to get a new card issued, which took another two days to get to me. I found out someone within the company whose name no one recognized had called accounting for unknown reasons and had my card canceled-- why she was allowed to do this, I don't know, and no one will ever know because Louise's promised follow-up investigation never happened.

When I got back, I was recompensed for all of my own money that I'd had to use. That was when Louise started calling me in for near-daily meetings. Before I couldn't get hold of her at all; now she was the bane of my existence. The code she had given me to submit my expenses had been wrong and so everything had gone to the wrong office-- and since I'd been out-of-sight-and-mind, no one back home realized it until the trip was over. Fixable, but a hassle. My now-cold boss tried her best to blame it on me and get me in trouble with National Accounting, but they could see I wasn't the one at fault. This seemed to enrage Louise, who started conspiring to get me fired.

It went on for 6 months. For a regional manager in charge of multiple offices and hundreds of employees, she found an awful lot of time to look for stuff to get me in trouble for. What ultimately worked was when she said I was billing too few hours to clients (aka, slacking off at work). I was pretty low-level and my schedule was entirely determined by my supervisor; for me to bill more hours than I'd worked would've involved dishonesty and fraud. Louise finally got someone at HR to let her say that it was my fault, not poor scheduling. They gave me a written warning, which did no good as I hadn't done anything wrong, and told them so. I offered proof and to bring in coworkers as character witnesses, but HR ignored this. At one point Louise stopped by my cube to sneer that she was meeting with HR and that we'd know by the end of the day if I was to be fired or not. I waited in a state of high stress all day, waiting for the word. I tried to call her once to find out my fate and she just spat "Let's not add insult to injury," and hung up on me, leaving me to wonder who she thought had in fact been insulted or injured. I hung around for an hour after work, waiting, only to find out that she had left early that day.

A month went by with no more trouble, and I started to relax. Then suddenly one Thursday afternoon they fired me and gave me 15 minutes to clear out. After two years of excellent performance reviews and a raise, I had to have Louise stand over me as I cleaned out my desk-- she interrogated me as to whether each item was actually mine, and not the company's-- as if I'd been accused of stealing. I didn't have time to say goodbye to any of my coworkers, who later heard a cock-and-bull story about what I had "done" to get fired, which most of them knew not to believe. I had been fighting to keep my job, but once it became clear that HR was on Louise's side, I just wanted to be out of there. I think it was probably all petty revenge for making her look bad in front of National Accounting.

Two good points came afterwards. One was at the unemployment office, where I was told that the best description of my reason for being fired was "lack of work" (too few billing hours, remember?) which meant I qualified for the highest possible unemployment pay. The other was five months later when I heard from someone at the old company that Louise had been suddenly fired herself, probably for being so unprofessional. I hope somebody stood over her desk when she cleaned it out and then escorted her out of the building.

Thanks for listening!


I love your site!   This story goes back a few years and I still laugh about the stupidity of this guy.   I worked for a small southwestern company that specialized in selling and servicing dictation systems to the healthcare industry. At the time, the economy was tight and it was difficult to find jobs so most people made the best of their situations in order to pay the bills. 

The owner of the company, "John", went out of his way to demean and belittle his employees. He frequently referred to us as "the drones" and thought nothing of calling any one of the employees at home on a Saturday night demanding that they drive to one of the companies corporate apartments on Sunday and do the laundry (the sheets, towels. etc) because he would be spending a few days there.   "John" was also a master at maintaining employee morale. During one trade show business trip to Las Vegas, all attending employees stayed at an "off the strip" hotel. That's definitely not a bad thing but he had 4 people share a single $21.95 per night hotel room (2 double beds) while he stayed in a suite at the nicest hotel on the Strip. He also made jokes about "keeping the drones in order." I also once overheard him telling the Vice President of the company, a young, aggressive woman who basically ran the company, that she should never praise an employee's performance because "then they'll ask for a raise."   

To top it all off, "John" paid his sales people a modest draw against commission and the commission payments were based on the profit of any deal sold. The sales cycle of this equipment was quite long, averaging a year or more per sale. Over the years, when a particular negotiation was not going to his liking, "John" often attended meetings with prospects and announced that he would give the customer the equipment at no charge if they purchased a long term maintenance contract. After the meeting, when the sales person questioned their compensation on such a deal, they were told " Twenty percent of nothing' is nothing', Darlin' (or Buckaroo)." Sales people were not compensated for selling maintenance contracts but the company made most of their profits on those contracts.   Needless to say, the company experienced 100% turnover every 18 months or so and as far as I know, they are out of business.


Love the site! I have to share this story. I still shake my head, as I'd never heard of any other family doing anything quite like this! At sixteen, I babysat, exclusively for this particular family all day-everyday for the summer while the kids were out of school. Three adorable children, well-mannered, nice cushy job. Mom was a pharmacist, Dad an orthopedic surgeon, and they paid very well (I received $250/week cash. That was a LOT of money for me.)

Summer comes and goes, I have roughly $3500 to my name due to my summer "job". In the meantime, I baby-sit roughly twice a month for this family. Again, I am paid well for my troubles, earning slightly better than minimum wage on a fairly easy sitting job. The couple is always very cordial and nice to me. January of the following year rolls around, and what do I receive in the mail? A 1099-MISC from the US government! It seems that one of the couple's lawyer friends had advised them that "au pair" expenses were deductible...and they had itemized all the cash with which they had paid me in the previous year! The total of my "employee wages" was nearly $4,800!!!! Of course, they hadn't deducted my "taxes" from the "wages", so I would be stuck with any "taxes owed". And as a dependant, I was in fact stuck with some money owed. (If memory serves me correctly, I owed about $500...not something that a sixteen year old has laying around nor feels much like parting with. That figure is the tax rate minus what was then the standard deduction I qualified for as a dependant child)

I was pi$$ed. Mom was livid. Next time the couple called for me to sit, I wasn't allowed to talk to the Mrs. Mom informed her that she hoped that they got something from their tax break that they enjoyed, because as a result they had lost the services of a babysitter that they trusted without question, as I would never watch their children again.

It may have been slightly rude of my mother to tell them exact reasons why, but I felt it was far ruder of the couple to use me as a tax deduction (as far as I can figure, they had to have slightly bumped the dollar figure of what I earned) without either withholding the taxes or at least **warning** me that they had the intention of doing so!


In this situation, the story submitter and her mother are the ones deserving of Etiquette Hell. The IRS tax laws require you to report and pay taxes on your income once you exceed $600/year in income even if you are a minor. Her employers had a legal obligation to report the wages they paid their sitter.  I was filling out my own tax forms at age 17 for just this exact same situation.

I'm not throwing her "bosses" in Ehell just because they obeyed the law and she's  pissed that she  weren't able to thwart the law.

The storyteller emailed me claiming that  the whole reason she had  been paid in cash was to leave no "trail".  My response:

Looks like you were a willing accomplice in hiding income from the IRS. Legally that's referred to as "tax fraud" or "tax evasion".  Regardless of the illegal or unethical or cheating of those who pay, you had a legal and moral obligation to do the right thing and report your income and pay taxes on it if it exceeded $600/year for a dependent.


I'm a nurse who used to work in a unit that frequently infused blood into our patients. It was hospital policy for 2 RN's to check the blood's reference number with the patient's hospital ID, in order to avoid a potentially fatal error should the blood be given to someone else. 

My manager, whose only qualification for the job was her master's degree in nursing, was hell on wheels. This woman had zilch social skills, much less management skills, not to mention poor clinical skills. She thought nothing of berating someone in front of the staff, patients, visitors, and any other unsuspecting soul who just happened to wander by. This woman would go off on anybody, even those not in her department, if things weren't done her way. She had this uncanny knack of walking in to the unit where, in her absence, all was going smoothly, and creating total havoc. It was okay to give us hell if we made a mistake, no matter how minor, but she would never acknowledge if she goofed up. 

One day while she was "helping" me she offered to hang the blood on one of my patients, and I said fine. We went through the protocol of checking the blood, and she went to the patient. Only it was the wrong patient. I was stunned, but I must admit as I watched her it occurred to me that if I didn't say anything she could possibly make the biggest blunder of her bitchy life, hence her comeuppance which she so richly deserved. My meandering only lasted a few seconds before my humanity, professionalism, ethics, morality, whatever you call it, mercifully took over, and I shouted at her "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"


This site is positively addictive...worse than Oreo Cookies or popcorn....   Anyway, this is the story of a boss from h*ll.  To this day, though, my colleagues and I will never know if Sheri was a b*tch or just so incredibly gauche and oblivious that she only seemed evil.

Where to start?  The crimson lipstick that covered her teeth at 9:30 a.m.?  The (self-designed) micro-mini dresses that hiked up even higher to show male co-workers or patrons a flash of undies?  No, that was just bad taste and we could all have lived with it...if she hadn't been so...I don't think there really is a word to describe this lady.  All I can do is give examples:

1) My mother had had major surgery at the beginning  of the year.  Sheri had almost no contact with me that year save for an interview I had with her and her assistant.  Another co-worker and I were both up for the same job.  My co-worker got the promotion and I was neither surprised nor upset: she had been there longer and had more experience.  However, Sheri insisted that I come into her office where she "explained" why I did not get the job.  To do this she sat down with two sheets of paper, one of them my answers to her questions, one of them my co-worker's answers and she proceeded to read the two of them and make comparisons. 

The questionable ethics of this practice were bad enough, but she seemed to be oblivious to the fact that my co-worker and I had given exactly the same answers.  We had phrased them differently, perhaps, but had said exactly the same thing.  And where does my mother's surgery figure into all this?  Well, at the end of this excruciating interview, Sheri asks me how my Mother is doing since her surgery.  I allowed that Mom was doing great and that she and my Father were out touring the countryside and visiting several cities they wanted to see.  Sheri stared at me blankly, smiled and said "Yes, it's very hard when they're that sick and you can't do anything for them anymore."  I said "But, she isn't sick.  She's FINE.  She's just on vacation."  Sheri continued to nod sympathetically "And they only get sicker and sicker and then they die.  There's nothing you can do but hold their hand and hope they won't have any more pain."  I tried, in vain, to tell her my mother wasn't dying any time soon, and she kept trying to comfort me over her imminent demise.  I learned later that Sheri's own parents were quite ill.  Perhaps if I had known I wouldn't have been quite so angry, but even so--why was she trying to bury my Mother?  And why couldn't she have mentioned her own parents' problems so I would know?

2) Our annual Christmas Party featured a gift grab bag.  Anyone who wished to participate purchased a small gift under $10.00 and wrapped it.  When the time came for the grab bag, participants stood in a circle.  Someone read aloud "The Night Before Christmas" and every time they reached the word "the" we passed the gift we had to our right.

With luck, when the reading was finished, you would end up with your new gift.  (One year we didn't have quite enough people and we all ended up with our own gifts back.)    Now, Sheri arrived wearing a bright green chiffon number that ended just below the top of her thighs.  She hadn't bothered to buy a gift of any kind, which was fine, not everyone does and those who don't just don't participate.  Not Sheri.  She wanted to participate.  So she reached across the table and took the gift someone else had brought, leaving that person high and dry.  Then she got in the circle with their gift and proceeded to play the game.  

Half way thru, as she was passing (rather vigorously) the gifts, she grabbed what turned out to be a large glass bottle of bath salts.  We learned it was bath salts in this way: Sheri snatched it from the person handing it to her and tossed it.  Needless to say, the bath salts ended up in a pile of glass on the floor.  So now TWO people were out of gifts they had brought and Sheri kept the one she ended up with rather than giving it to the person she stole the original gift from.  Charming lady.  She thought it was all so funny.

3)  Sheri and another Colleague (we'll call her Jill) pulled into the parking lot.  Although Sheri had her own parking space, she insisted on taking up any space she found, and since parking in HER space was not allowed, a lot of people had to park in the middle of lot.  Now this morning, Jill pulls in to a parking space, gathers her stuff and gets ready to get out of the car.  BAM!  Sheri has pulled in next to her--real close.  She crunched up Jill's left fender and light.  Jill leaps from the car to point this out.  Sheri laughs.  "Oh, that does look bad."  "Yes," Jill said "and it didn't look that way a minute ago."  Sheri laughs and waves her hand at Jill "Well, I'm sure you can find someone who can fix it cheaply for you.  Have a meeting!  Bye!"

4) Sheri was about as supportive as a wet paper towel (definitely not a Bounty paper towel, either).  Ours was a public service institution in a large city.  Patrons always expect literal miracles.  My particular favorite was a man who came in and demanded that I present him with a book he wanted.  I couldn't do it because the book he wanted was (as indicated in the computer catalog) no longer with us--it had been stolen.  I could get him one from another institution, but it would take a few days.  He screamed at me that he wanted it now and he wanted it from our university, not another one.  I tried to explain that the book was gone, that it had been stolen and I could not produce it.  He demanded that I go to the thief's home and get it.  I told him I couldn't get the book because I had no idea WHO stole it.  He stormed off and, as it turns out, went to Sheri's office.  She returned with him a few minutes later, all smiles and wanting to know why I didn't get the dear man his book.  I explained to her (and showed her the entry) which clearly stated the book had been stolen.  She turned to him and explained this as if he hadn't heard it from me three times.  He replied again that it was unacceptable, that he wanted the book NOW and he wanted OUR COPY.  And Sheri, ever helpful, turned to me, all smiles and said "Please get him the book."  And left me there. 

5) Because Sheri refused to cooperate with a local government official (this wasn't a company I worked for, but a city) on budgets, and because she made disparaging comments about the official in question, the Mayor cut our particular budget almost in half, necessitating that she fire over half of us.  Somehow I just barely made the cut and got to stay...not that this was of great comfort.  When the day came for the lay offs, Sheri visited each person and gave them a photo she had taken of them and said how sorry she was that the axe had fallen.  When she got done, she turned to me and some other workers that were staying and said "But I wouldn't get too comfortable, if I were you, because I will probably be cutting all of you, too."  We never did get cut because Sheri resigned soon after.  Which brought up memorable moment number:

6)  Before she left, Sheri gathered us all together to give her farewell address.  We are a small university and really didn't need this kind of thing as we needed to be staffing public desks, but there we all were.  She went on (and on) about how she had TRIED to cooperate with us, but she had known from day one that it would be impossible and the reason she knew we would be impossible was this:  we hadn't thrown her a "welcome" party when she first arrived.  Now, for starters, it isn't a custom out here to do such a thing.  (She told us how the last place she worked at had a big welcome party for her complete with roses and barbecue.  I also heard from someone who worked at that place that when she left, they had a BIGGER party to celebrate)  Second of all, the people upon whom she was heaping her wrath for not throwing her a welcome party had not even been working for the university when she was hired.  I hadn't even come on the scene until three years after she had been hired.  And all the people who HAD been there and hadn't thrown the party for her had already been fired or resigned.  (We lost twenty people one summer and when the Board of Trustees asked her about it, she replied "Oh, you always have to expect a turnover when a new and creative person takes the reins."  Yeah, and that creative person would be who???)

When last heard from, I am happy to say that Sheri got herself in a whole lotta trouble at her new job...the governor of the state wouldn't put up with her games where budgets are concerned and told Sheri to make cuts or give up her job.  Sheri balked, saying she wouldn't hurt her employees (wish she had felt that way about us!  We still haven't recovered five years later.).  The governor then fired her from the job.  Sheri continued to go to work--and was finally removed by the police.  It kind of gives us all a warm glow to think about that now.  I just pray I never have to meet up with that ditz ever again. 


Just before my graduation from law school, the firm whose employment offer I had accepted went under and broke up.  This was in 1990 and our state saw many firms go bust that year.  With no other job lined up, I accepted an offer from an attorney, Sam, to work as one of his associates.  The “firm” consisted of me, Sam, another associate, two secretaries and one paralegal.  I soon learned that no attorney had worked for Sam for more than two years and that most left within six months.

Sam would show up after noon most days and go into his office then call in his secretary.  She would go into his office and lock the door.  We usually would not see her again for three hours when she would come out with her hair either pressed/matted in on one side or just really mussed up and head straight for the ladies’ room.  As my office was next to Sam’s, I often got to hear the sounds of what was going on in there.  Sam would be incommunicado for another hour or so and then would call me and the other associate into his office to hear status reports on the cases we had handled that day while he downed a glass of bourbon.  Neither of us ever dared to sit on the couch in that office.

The practice was going down the proverbial hill quickly and Sam began to drink quite a lot.  I could see that I was not going to gain much from working there.  I began to look for work at other firms and soon was happy to receive another offer.  I gave Sam my two-week notice, and he seemed unmoved by it.  As I left his office, I heard him buzz his secretary to come see him.  Within a few minutes of my returning to my office, she walked in and closed my door.  She then gave me the most ridiculous leer (I think she was trying to be sexy) and in what she probably thought was a seductive voice, offered to help me reconsider my decision.  When I told her I already had accepted the other offer, she pseudo slithered over to me and whispered in my ear that she was MY secretary too and would happily make me feel more “wanted”.  It was all I could do not to crack up at that point.  I stood up to tell her to leave as I had work to do, and she acted as if she suddenly tripped so that she fell forward pushing me back into my chair while landing on her knees in front of me with her hands on my thighs.  It was so blatant and pathetic that I couldn’t help but start laughing.  I stood her up and firmly ushered her out the door.    

My intercom buzzed almost immediately with Sam drunkenly telling me to come see him.  When I went into his office (careful to leave the door open) he told me his secretary was about to file a sexual harassment charge against me, but he might persuade her not to if I stayed on with him.  I told him that everyone knew what was going on between him and his secretary and that if they chose to try to sue me, I would be forced to have the court and his wife and family hear about it.   Neither Sam nor his secretary said a word to me from then on, and I only dealt with the other associate and paralegal for the next two weeks.  The other associate left soon after me reporting a similarly bizarre encounter with the secretary.  Sam continues to hire a new associate about every six months and now is down to just him, his secretary and one associate.  Somehow I feel sorry for all three. BadBosses0323-04

The person I'm writing about was not actually my boss - a fact that annoyed her no end - but was the manager of one of the departments I supported as an administrative clerk. Technically I reported to the manager of one department - we'll call it "sales" -- , while she was the manager of another department, which we'll call "customer service". Most of the time the customer service manager was very pleasant and agreeable, but I soon learned that this was a thin façade covering a truly horrific personality disorder.

My duties consisted mostly of shipping out replacement or sample products to customers or prospective customers. Most of them were shipped US Mail, for which we made use of a postal meter in the front office. I had worked at this company for a short time as a temporary, and a few weeks after my assignment was up they called me and hired me full time. It wasn't exactly the kind of work I had been looking for, but I needed a salary and figured I could work my way up.

Unfortunately, the night after my first day at work, tragedy struck - my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack. I called in at work and told my boss what had happened and that I wouldn't be in that day. He was very understanding and told me to take care of whatever needed to be done.

Fortunately, my parents and most of my eight siblings lived in town, so I didn't have to travel to be with my family, help with the funeral arrangements, and support my mother. After this terrible shock, I really needed to take some time off work, but didn't feel that was wise since I had just started there (Plus, my father always tried to instill in us a strong work ethic and probably would have wanted me to get right back to it). I reported to work as usual the next day, which was a Friday, and went through the motions as best I could.

The funeral was held that weekend, and by Monday morning, I was an emotional wreck. Somehow, I managed to make it through most of the day without incident. However, late in the afternoon our postal meter ran out of "money". We had to call the company that issued it and buy more postage, but they were in a different time zone and already closed. This really wasn't a big deal, since our mail shipment had already been picked up for the day, and any stragglers would go out the next day anyway. Nevertheless, I thought better safe than sorry, and I told one of the customer service reps (the one who sat closest to my desk) about the problem. I let her know that it wouldn't really impact anything, but I thought her department should be aware of it anyway. Satisfied that the issue was closed (and pleased with myself that I had actually been able to deal with a minor problem in my precarious state of mind), I went back to work.

Not long afterwards, the manager of customer service came storming into my office, absolutely furious. Why? Because I had told a mere underling, and not her, that there was a problem. I tried to explain that there really wasn't a problem, it was just sort of an FYI, but she wouldn't hear any of it. She yelled that it was HER department, and that SHE was responsible, and SHE should have been notified!

When she finally finished with me, she went storming up and down the hallways, telling everyone who would listen (most notably, my boss) how terribly WRONGED she had been. SHE had to be told first! SHE shouldn't learn about it second hand! She harped on and on about it for what seemed like hours. Most people responded the way they usually did when she was on the warpath - they ducked for cover. Meanwhile, I sat in my office, on the verge of losing it. I desperately wanted to tell her that, since I had just buried my father two days before, I was really having a difficult time understanding the gravity of this situation. I also seriously considered walking out of there and never coming back - but I knew neither option was viable. I needed the job and was in no position to make waves.

(To be absolutely fair, it's possible that she didn't know about my father's death, since she hadn't been in the previous Friday. However, I really don't think it would have made any difference either way - her bruised ego was clearly more important than such trivial concerns as life and death!)

She finally ran out of steam, and my boss came in to make sure I was OK. I did manage to finish my shift, but it had been without a doubt the most stressful day of my life. My grief still felt like an open wound, and I did NOT need the added stress of an aggressive, long-winded, and completely irrational verbal attack.

You would think this would be the end of it, but no.

A couple of months later, I found myself in a similar situation - we were running low on postage, and because of some sort of accounting snafu, it might be several days before we got more. I dutifully went straight to the customer service manager and informed her of the problem.

She looked at me as if I was crazy. "What are you telling ME for?" she asked.

I bit my tongue, then calmly reminded her of the instructions she had given previously, that she be the first one to know if we were out of postage. (Everyone else in the company was well aware of these instructions thanks to her previous outburst, but she either didn't remember or was just trying to be difficult.)

"Well, we can't just stop sending mail," she insisted.

I told her that I realized that, but if she and those in her department had a choice, they may want to opt for a private carrier rather than US Mail, if possible. That way, the small amount of postage left could be stretched out until we could get more. She refused to accept this. This was her prerogative, so I told her we could work around the problem, if necessary, by making a trip to the post office and paying cash rather than postmarking the packages in the office. I went back to work.

So what did she do next? For the remainder of the day, she sent most of the overnight packages out by US Express Mail, which was much more expensive, much less reliable, and much less convenient than the commercial carriers we normally used. We ran out of postage almost immediately. This time there was no yelling, but the message was loud and clear: SHE was in charge! All considerations of productivity, efficiency, and basically just getting the job done were secondary to that message.

What really got me was that the second incident proved that the first time we ran out of postage was a non-issue. She needn't have worried about being out of postage, because we could always send someone (namely, me) to the post office. Therefore, her ranting and raving served no purpose whatsoever, not even from her own standpoint.

Thankfully, she quit not too long after this. No one really missed her.


My boss, Ned, really gave substance to the "dumb as a box of hammers" description. I won't go into the daily micro-managing, the flagrant disrespect, or the assumption that I was his personal lackey. I was 26, but had five years of experience in my field, and my business card said, "Manager" on it. I considered myself a professional. However, the incident that told me that I would never be viewed as a co-worker happened on a business trip to Chicago. After an afternoon of meetings, we were to go to a favorite restaurant of his for dinner.

At the restaurant, he told the hostess, "My daughter and I would like a table on the terrace."

I think I may still have the bruise on my jaw from where it hit the floor.   BadBosses0401-04

Right after graduating college, I landed my dream job. It was in a locally-owned toy store, as "program manager" - I'd be a retail manager, but also in charge of programming for the play room they had, as well as outreach to local organizations and designing window displays. I had experience in all of this except the retail part - I'd never worked retail in my life, and the owner knew this when she hired me. I have toy-industry aspirations, and I wanted to learn the details of how a toy store was run, especially buying decisions, and as I am a quick learner who had just graduated from one of the top colleges in the country, I didn't think it would take me long to learn the basics of retail management.

On my third day there (one of which I was feeling extremely ill but in an effort to make a good first impression had tried hard not to show it), she gave me the schedule for the rest of the summer. I was also doing a musical that summer (one of my majors had been theater), and the schedule had me closing the nights of performances, which meant getting out of the store a half hour before the show started. (You're supposed to get there a good 2 hours before the show starts.) This is still nearly a month and a half ahead of time, so at the end of the day I tell her this is a problem, and ask if there is any way I can leave even an hour earlier on just three of the nights.

The next day, I meet her at the door to open, and she says that because of the scheduling issue she isn't sure this is going to work out. I quickly explained that the job was obviously more important to me than the show, and I'd do what I could to resolve any conflicts. She said I should go home for the day and call her to let her know when I got it worked out. I go home in a panic, thinking I'm about to lose my job over three lousy days over a month away. I email the directors and producers of the show, tell them the situation and that if no other solution could be found I'd have to quit. I was, luckily, only a chorus member, but it was a very small chorus so it wasn't an insignificant inconvenience for them.

I call the boss back and tell her I've gotten it worked out, and she says well, I'll call you back later. What? I solved the problem, what more is there? So I stew for the next few hours, still panicking because I have NO idea what is going on now. She finally calls back, and tells me that the REAL problem was that she wasn't sure I'd be able to jump into the retail management part as quickly as she needed me to, I hadn't been as outgoing with customers (in my 3 days of work, one of which I was extremely sick) as she'd hoped. When she KNEW hiring me I had no previous retail experience, and personally I had thought it was better to not start jumping in with the customers until I had some clue about what I was selling them, which might have taken a huge two more days. She hadn't, at any point, mentioned that I was doing anything wrong - if she had, I would have fixed it immediately!

She also said she "just couldn't trust me" because of the scheduling thing. She said she had specified in the interview that she really needed someone who could be a closer later in the summer, and evidently she felt I'd lied to her when I said I could. I had no idea at the time that this meant that if I couldn't close on three specific days the deal was a no-go.

I'd learned earlier that two of her three current managers had just finished grad school and were moving away, one out of the country. It turned out that this was happening within the next couple of weeks or so and that part of the reason she was worried about me was that a) I needed to be up to 100% management-wise by the time they left (I think I could have handled this, just not in the first 3 days) and b) she would be short-staffed for a bit, thus the scheduling crunch. It seemed to me that she *probably* knew that these women were finishing grad school, oh, a whole semester in advance and that they might not stay in retail management once they had advanced degrees. Why had she only started interviewing replacements a month before their departure? Especially when she wanted to turn one management position into an entirely new position (my Program Manager job)? She dug that hole herself, and I felt like I got unfairly thrown into it and buried. Not to mention, I panicked the poor producers/directors by quitting the show for a day! I let her know about this, and that I would have appreciated a bit more honesty up front rather than being led to believe one thing was the problem when it was really something else entirely. She said that if she couldn't find someone for the whole PM job, she'd love to have me do just the non-management parts of it. (Even though she'd said earlier in the conversation she couldn't trust me.) Like I wanted to work with someone like her after this!


This story may make me look bad, but presents an odd, and humorous, etiquette dilemma.

I interviewed for a position and afterward, my potential boss took me to dinner as part of the interview.  She claimed she took all prospective employees to this particular restaurant because of the great chocolate souffle.  Not once, but several times, did she extol the virtues of the soufflé.   I would have to order it at the beginning of the meal, because it took half an hour to prepare, but it was worth it, because the soufflé was *that fantastic.*

I like chocolate enough, and figured it would be a little rude to ignore this recommendation she had made over and over again, so I ordered a light meal and a chocolate soufflé.  However, my potential employer, who ordered second, did NOT order a soufflé.  Danger, Will Robinson...

We finished our meals, and I started feeling really funny about eating dessert at a business meal when the person paying for it isn't having dessert, or coffee, or anything.  I would never have ordered it at the end of the meal, but too late, it was coming.

I know you are all imagining a small dessert-plate-sized soufflé, perhaps garnished with a little caramel sauce and a sprig of mint.  Uh-uh.  This thing came on a *dinner plate*, smothered in chocolate syrup, and was literally the size of my head.  I was in shock.

It was immediately clear that no mortal could eat this entire soufflé alone.  I offered to share, but my potential boss declined, saying, "I don't eat sugar."

All I could do was keep eating until I was stuffed, about a third of the dessert.  By then, the thing was gushing its gooey insides all over the place, making it impractical to try to take it home for later.  I spent the rest of the night alternating between feeling guilty about my perfectly gracious host having paid for something I barely ate and feeling indignant that she all but insisted I order the damn dessert.

The conspiracy theorist in me believes that the evil soufflé must have been some kind of subtle trick to see how I would behave in a totally bizarre situation.  What would you have done?

P.S. I did, in fact, get the position, but by the time she called me I had accepted a better job.


My husband is in the military, and while we were stationed overseas, I worked for the daycare center on base. I liked it, and when we returned to the States, I got a job at another daycare center, this time as the cook/bus driver. At the same time, I was going to school.

We were all hired before the building itself was completed, and the manager, assistant manager and several of the caretakers all knew each other from other centers. The one thing I heard constantly was, "It's too bad we can't afford to hire Cookie (a cook from another center they all knew)-she's so good!" They couldn't afford her because we were barely open, and had no income yet.

We spent three weeks unpacking decorating, and in general putting the finishing touches in, then we were officially open for business. A month after that, we had a staff meeting. I had a big test that evening, but was told the meeting was mandatory, so I made arrangements to take the test the next day. For the first hour, all we did was play stupid ice-breaker games-this after we'd been working together for nearly two month. I don't know what we did for the second hour, since I left. The boss wasn't any too happy, but I reminded her that I'd said right from the interview that school came first.

The kicker came on Day 88 of the 90-day probationary period. I made breakfast, then left on my morning bus run as usual. I stopped at Costco as requested, and the post office. When I returned, the manager and her assistant met me at the door, and informed me--in the lobby--that I was being let go, as we were not a good fit. Guess who was in the kitchen already? Yep, Cookie, who they could now afford to hire, since we were at 97% capacity.

However, karma in action is fun to watch. Several months later (right after I'd graduated, and right before we were due to transfer) I got a call from the assistant manager, *begging* me to take back the kitchen, even if only just for a few days. She offered to double my previous pay, anything, if I would come back. Turns out that Cookie had eloped with the manager's fiancé, and the manager had gone on a bender from which she still hadn't sobered up, and the assistant manger was trying to do four jobs (hers, the manager's, cook, and bus driver) at once.

It was my very great pleasure to tell her no.   BadBosses0413-04


Let me begin by saying that this web site is AWESOME!!!!! Ok, now on to my story. In August 2002, I had an interview for the position of Office Manager of a small non-profit agency. During the interview the Executive Director (Fran) complained about the former (2) employees and how they both quit within a week of each other and that they were both terrible workers and screwed up the office. That should have sent big WARNING flashers in my mind but I needed the job with insurance. 

Well, obviously I got the job. At first it was great, it was just Fran and I in the office. I started off making $10 per/hours and within a year was raised to $13.25. In the meantime Fran hired two other employees a case manager and property manager (Chris). After about 2 months Chris had gotten tired of the crappy way that Fran was treating him and quit. So I got moved up to the property manager position, which I had absolutely no experience in, but decided to give it a try. I held that position for over a year and did a pretty darn good job at it, all of the tenants liked me and everything was always under control. 

Among other job responsibilities, I also wrote all of the checks for the bills. So in November 2003, Fran told me that I had too much work to do and that she was going to bring somebody in to write the checks since I didn't have time. Keep in mind that she said I was "so busy" that I didn't have "time" to do the checks. So...lo and behold she brings in her daughter who was in college and needed some extra money. No big deal to me, my hand got tired writing all those checks anyways. (Later I looked in the check book and notice that she paid her daughter $125 for writing checks for 1 ½ hours.) 

Right before Christmas Fran told me that I need to learn some more things concerning property management, such as how to do apartment inspections, etc. I agreed and said I would buy a couple books and look into it, and everything was fine. Well...the Monday after Christmas Fran called me into her office and said that I wasn't doing my job and that she was going to a) change my position from property manager to office assistant (she had hired a receptionist so I couldn't do that), b) change my pay from $13.25 to $10.00 per hour and c) move me from my large office to a dinky little room. And all this was going to be effective immediately. 

Well, understandably I was very upset but soon became accustomed to the new set up. However every other day Fran would call me into her office and lambaste me on what I wasn't doing right and how I needed to improve my attitude. So...I tried to be nicer to her, because I really needed my job. I even fixed up my new office to look really nice and began to enjoy people not calling me 50 times a day. 

Then on January 12, 2004 (my birthday!) I noticed that Fran had taken all of my work out of my office, so I go and ask her how can I work if you take everything I have to work on. She said to wait and she'd talk to me in a few minutes. 30 minutes later she tells me that I was not working out, I had a major attitude (which I disputed), I took things that I wasn't supposed to (work from the old office to the new one, so I could work), I told people outside of the company about what she had done, (not true!) and that she was firing me. Oh boy was I pissed!!!!! So I packed up my things and left (on the bus because I didn't have a car at that time). I later found out that she hired her daughter. Hmmm...isn't that strange... Well...I did get her back, I wrote a long letter to the Board of Directors about all of the things she had done to me and my co-workers, also telling about how she used to company card to purchase personal items for herself. She was such a WITCH!!!!!


I work as an assistant to investment advisors (IAs) and have done so for about 11 years. One of the observations I have made over this time is that the personality traits that make someone a good IA do not necessarily make them a good person.

Anyway, here are a couple of stories about an Advisor team I once worked for. (It consisted of three Advisors and two--later three--Assistants.)

One of the advisors, "Nigel," enjoyed flaunting his wealth in public. (He made $500K plus. I make...uh, a miniscule fraction of that number.) The other assistants in my corner always got to hear about the exotic trips he took and the swanky parties he attended. As his assistant, I got to write up his checks to the local Mercedes-Benz dealership--TWICE in one year.

Anyway, one morning, I was about 5 minutes late for work because I missed my bus. (On the days that I came in late, I would make up the time by either taking a shorter lunch break, or leaving later.) Anyway, I explained this to Nigel, and he responded with: "Well, can't you just take a taxi?"

On another occasion, our team had a planning meeting. These meetings involved sequestering ourselves in an office for an afternoon and discussing production targets and upcoming projects and how we were going to achieve them. Anyway, I was in charge of ordering lunch for the meeting. I asked everyone on the team what they wanted and ordered from the cafe in our building. The cafe brought everything up at the appointed far, so good.

Nigel "kindly" offered to carry the lunch (it was on a tray) into the meeting room. Since I (and the other assistant on the team) was busy with another task at the time, I accepted his offer. The other assistant and I came into the meeting room to find that, while we had been servicing his clients, Nigel had eaten BOTH our sandwiches. He did not offer to buy more sandwiches (we had to buy our own) or even apologize; his justification of his behavior was "I'm a hungry boy."

Ironically, Nigel considered himself to be more cultured and well-bred relative to others in the office, and especially relative to the administrative staff.

(For the record, from that day on, I tried to get the cafe downstairs to put each sandwich in an individual box. They were less than co-operative with me; every time I ordered lunch from them, the sandwiches came on a tray.)


I love your site!  I thought I'd never have anything to contribute, but here's my story-   After working for a large financial institution for several years, I got the opportunity to work for a small technology firm close to home.  The company was small, family owned, and had a great atmosphere.  I was the Accounts Payable Administrator, and my co-workers were great.  I thought it was going to be my dream job- more money, better benefits, and five minutes from home!    

About six months after I started, I found out I was pregnant.  My boss was happy for me, but soon after I told her I was pregnant, she began to question my work, when I was only doing what she told me to do.  When I was about 4 months pregnant, imagine my surprise when I found an ad for my job in the Sunday paper!  I confronted her the next morning, and she said that she really couldn't talk, she had to get home to a sick child.  I told her that I had no plans of quitting after I gave birth, and if she thought that, she was wrong.   

I got back from maternity leave, and all was well- I thought.  The boss was very gossipy, and would have other people back in her office all day, whispering and giggling.  None of my business, but how professional is it when your boss and one of your co-workers sit around and gossip about other employee's marriages, salaries, etc?  Finally, I had decided that I had had enough of the high school games.  I was in the process of looking for another job, when one afternoon, she called everyone in the accounting department (all my coworkers) into a meeting, but not me.  After their meeting, we had cake for someone's birthday, then all of my co-workers left early for the day.  She called me into the conference room and said, 'I let everyone else go home early because we've decided to let you go.'  I was stunned, but not entirely unhappy.  I got back to my desk and a box was waiting for me to pack up my belongings.  As I packed, I tried to call my husband, as he had given me a lift to work that day.  I couldn't get a hold of him, so she says, 'if you want, I'll give you a ride home.'  What?!  You just fired me, but you'll give me a ride home?! 

Anyway, I now work back at the bank, and am much happier.  I later found out that she did a group firing not long after I left, telling everyone that she still thought of them as her best friends. 


This is so ridiculous that I thought I would share it.

I worked at a hamburger restaurant as a server for 2 years while going to college. After I finished college I became a substitute teacher while still waiting tables at night. As lots of younger people worked there my "supervisor" was only 18 and still in High School. I had even subbed for her class at her High School! We got along until one day when I had had just about enough.

It was a busy Friday night and when I came in to work my shift I saw that I had the salad bar area (for the servers use only to make salads) to clean up as my side work to be done before I left for the night. I usually tried to keep whatever my side work was kept up all night so I wouldn't have much to do at the end of the night. Since I didn't have any tables yet I started filling the salad bar up since it was very empty to help out all the girls. A little while later my supervisor said to me that the other servers were complaining that I was doing my side work already so I could go home early and it wasn't fair!! I had just started my shift!!! Anyways, I thought "Fine, I'll just stand here and do nothing and not help." The final straw was though when I brought out drinks to one of my tables and I dropped a glass of water and it spilled on a baby. The baby wasn't hurt but everyone in the restaurant turned and went "awwww". As I looked up where all the servers were they all just stood there- no one came to help! After I cleaned it up I went and sat down in the back because I was upset. My supervisor came back and told me I had to go out there. I quit.


As a teenager, one of my main ways of making money is babysitting.  Most of the time, the kids are great, the usual troubles, i.e. not listening right away or fussing over who gets to play with what toy, but I manage to get through them.

One September however, I had had enough with this particular family, the kids weren't the greatest but the parents were just horrid to deal with.  Let's call them the Jones family.

I had been scheduled to baby-sit on this particular day, a school night, from roughly 5 to 8:30, while Mr. and Mrs. Jones celebrated a friend's birthday.  When I arrive home from school that day, I note a message on the machine from Mrs. Jones, asking me to pick the kids (a boy and girl) from the bus stop and drive to their house, a half block away and baby-sit until 8:30.  Okay, no problem for me, I call Mrs. Jones and let her know that it would be no problem. 

At 3:45, I'm at the bus stop, standing outside my car waiting.  I call to the kids and load them in.  They look grumpy to see me, but I can deal with it, I used to be the same way.  I had baby sat the kids before and yea, they could be trouble makers, but they were fun once you got to know them.  Inside the house is a list of things the babysitter (me) needs to do:

*Feed the kids a small snack - no big deal there 
*help with homework - again, no big deal 
*feed dinner - I like cooking, so that's fine by me 
*clean up kitchen - Um, just my mess or the entire kitchen?  I ended up doing the entire kitchen just to be safe

Once the list was complete, the kids were allowed to play for the half hour before bedtime, I moved into the living room with them and half heartedly studied for an English test I had the next day.  8:00 came, and I put the kids to bed, read them stories etc, and went back down to study.

8:30 came and went, no sign of the parents, and unlike most, they left no contact number.  I called my mom and asked what to do, she said wait there until they came home, if they weren't home by quarter of midnight (midnight being my driving curfew), call her and she'd wait for the parents.  Luckily, the Jones'  came home at 10:00, and asked me if my rate was still 5-7 dollars an hour.  I confirmed that yes, that was still my rate, and they paid me.  Remember I had been there from 3:45 to 10:00, roughly 30-50 dollars worth of babysitting.  I was expecting maybe 30 from them, at least, for they hadn't called to say they were late and it was a school night.  No, I got $10 from them for the 6 hours I had worked.  I left their house fuming, I hadn't expressed my disappointment to them, but I was FURIOUS.  Needless to say, I've manage to politely decline any job offers from them, and decline to recommend any other teenager I know for the job.  


I was hired into a company, and soon found out I was pregnant. When I developed some complications with my pregnancy, I was not allowed to do several things, like check my blood sugar and eat when I needed to!  At one point, my blood sugar had crashed and I was in the main office of the place trying to bring my blood sugar up and I had the assistant to the boss screaming over a walkie talkie "get her back to her classroom NOW!" The office ladies told him that it was a medical excuse and he replied with "Unless she's dead, I don't give a ****!" Now, when I went on maternity leave, my last day, my boss wished me good luck on my VACATION! I didn't know maternity leave was a vacation.



So, my boss is not only bad, but she turned into a Bridezilla shortly after getting engaged.

"Curly" is the stereotypical female executive. She was single, never had kids and trying to break out of her low-level executive position. She never understood married life or kids or other family commitments. Our company was her life. She spent 12+ hours in the office, never leaving until after 9:00 p.m. and expected us to do the same, with no overtime.

She did have a boyfriend, who she had been dating for 18 years, but they saw each other once a month and never spent more than 2 weeks together at one time. Well, upon hitting 40, I guess her biological clock started ticking and she started nagging her guy into proposing.

Finally, they went away one weekend and she came back engaged. Her ring was huge and she wanted everyone to know it. As she put it to everyone who would listen, "He spent $2.00 a day for every day we dated - you do the math ." (That's $13,140.00)  During the planning process, she exhibited typical 'zilla behavior:

--Strong-arming a band into playing her wedding. --Getting our company designer to create her wedding invitations, thank you cards and for free. --Insisting constantly that everyone who was anyone was coming to her wedding. (BTW - my colleague and I weren't invited. She said she was only invited "up".) --Pushing all her work on my colleague and me because she was too busy planning to get work done. --Having our IT department spend hours "fixing" her computer because the Vera Wang web site wouldn't load. --Telling sob story after sob story about having to plan a wedding alone because her parents had passed away. I had to do that when I was 20 and had no money. --Excluding her husband-to-be from all decisions. After all, it was "HER day". He was "just there as a garnishment" to her.

But, the thing that killed me was her reaction to our group gift. Because my colleague and I weren't invited to her wedding, we didn't get the chance to partake in the shower festivities, even the office one. So, my colleague and I collected money from several people that worked with Bosszilla, but were too "low" to be invited to the wedding or showers. I knew she was registered at a department store, so I checked that registry and found nothing in our price range. I decided to create a honeymoon survival kit for the happy couple, which included beach towels, beach bag, paperback books, suntan lotion, underwater cameras, travel journal, photo albums and a ton of information on the Virgin Islands (their destination). It was a highly personal, very though out gift. I even wrapped everything in paper that matched her wedding colors. On her third-to-last day, we gave her the present and she was underwhelmed, to say the least. She plastered on her fake smile and made fun of every item in her bag.

On her last day, she pulled me aside to ask me if I knew she was registered at the department store, as well as the swanky outlet store. When I told her I didn't know about the outlet store, she exclaimed, "So, that's why you got me something not on my registry! I couldn't figure out why someone would be so rude by not buying me the things I spent the time to specifically pick out. But, since you didn't know about the outlet store, I guess I can forgive you for buying me all that cheap stuff."

Needless to say, I was floored. And, I'm still waiting for the thank you card.



While in my junior year of college, I worked at a place in the Pacific Northwest which I'll call "Only Place Open After the Bars Close." This establishment sported a variety of etiquette difficulties, most of which stemmed directly from cooks (sometimes with the day manager) smoking various substances in the deep freeze, alcoholic and meth-abusing waitresses under the influence on shift, and managers and patrons who found this all quite normal. 

One case in point: Stoned cook Larry "loses" a Band-Aid from his finger in a vat of mashed potatoes, and the fateful scoop-cum-bandage turns up buried in my customer's meal. The manager successfully resolves the issue by offering the upset customer (are you ready for this?) a gift certificate for a free meal! I suppose this shouldn't be surprising, but not only was the customer satisfied, he allowed us to serve him a new meal immediately, which we did using (you guessed it!) the same vat of potatoes, reasoning that Larry was only wearing one Band-Aid and we already knew where it was--and who knew what might happen if Larry mixed up a new batch in his condition.

Another memorable incident occurred when an elderly woman told the manager that she thought one of our waitresses was "sick" in the restroom--apparently her uniformed legs were visible sticking out from under a stall door! I was sent to investigate, but none of us were surprised when it turned out that Susie was sitting on the floor in a drunken stupor. Since Susie regularly worked under the influence, the manager simply propped her up in the break room with her head down, clocked her out, then waited for her to sober up a little and decide whether to return to work or call for a ride home.

The workplace was especially interesting when Susie, whom we already know, John, who just got out of jail, and Tina, who was usually on methamphetamines, were all on shift together. One day, for example, a new waitress forgot to introduce her tables to Tina before going on break; after cursing and yelling at the woman in a closed section of the restaurant, Tina leaned into her terrified face and said "If you EVER do that to me again, I'm going to HIT (punching her hand into her fist two inches from the waitresses' nose) you so hard you NEVER FORGET, you stupid *****!" Of course all of this took place just around the corner from the open, busy part of the restaurant, so the patrons heard every word. The new waitress left crying and never returned--so I took her shift, Teresa "talked" to Tina, and business continued as usual...oh yes, except that the overtime I accrued while working both shifts never quite made it to my paycheck.

A few months later, the trio were all together again, and I arrived for my shift to see them all in the parking lot. John was restraining Tina, who was screaming and cursing at Susie, who was cursing and screaming as well. Apparently there had been a dispute about a missing tip, and Suze and Tina had decided to "take it outside" immediately. John had sensed a fight coming (he'd been in prison, after all, and found ample opportunity to use his prison skills in Only Place Open). Sure enough, the ladies were about to settle their business when he arrived, Susie bare-handed and the ever-prepared Tina swinging a full coffee carafe! Of course several customers were peering through the "morning room" picture window at this charming tableau, not that any of them were likely to complain. They were, however, hungry, as several tables had been sitting unattended in the restaurant while this half-hour drama played itself out.

Fortunately, Aaron, the day manager, arrived before I had to call the police to settle them down. He surveyed the scene, said it was all no big deal and took what he felt to be sufficient action: he assigned John to "Tina duty," which meant watching Tina to make sure she didn't make a scene. He made Tina and Susie apologize and calmed them down. Then he and Larry (remember the Band-Aid?) took a breather in the deep-freeze to calm their nerves.

Admittedly, Tina was extremely popular with the male patrons and often slipped them her "naked pictures" in hopes of achieving her dream of becoming an exotic dancer. She could also do the work of five without taking a break--a typical side effect of her preferred drug, but one she deserves credit for nonetheless. Did she ever achieve her dream? Alas, I left for a study-abroad program and am afraid the world may never know. The only wisdom I can offer in this account is the following: If you ever find a Band-Aid in your mashed potatoes, think twice before accepting free meals as compensation!


I’m 22, fresh out of college, newly relocated across the country, and broke.  I decide to apply to work at one of my favorite department stores for the holiday season, until I can find a “real” job. (I’m a friendly, helpful sort of person – plus, nothing’s better than discounted clothes).  I get accepted, attend my day of training, and spend two days learning the ropes in the plus size department.  

Towards the end of my shift on day two, I hear my name over the PA and report to HR as requested.  There I am introduced to “Angela,” the Merchandising Manager for one of the major clothing vendors and am asked if I would be interested in being a merchandising assistant for her company.  My paychecks would still come from the store, but the Vendor would be reimbursing the store for my wages – which also meant I would receive an increase in pay – and I would be working solely with the Vendor’s clothing lines.  Angela would be my supervisor, but because she was in charge of merchandising for several locations of this department store, she would only be in my location once or twice a week, and my work would be fairly independent, though I would speak with Angela every day.  I was very excited about the new position and told Angela I could start right away.

The next day I arrived in the Misses department to begin the new position.  I introduced myself to “Satana,” the department manager, who seemed very nice at first, and I spent most of the day following around “Vera,” who specialized in the Vendor’s clothing lines, and she helped me figure out what I was doing.  The day after that, however, I began to see Satana’s true colors.  When I arrive at work, Satana announces that her project for the day is to remove all of the purple-tagged items from all of the sale racks throughout the department, and that everyone in the Misses department will be participating in this task.  I went through with the other ladies in the department and pulled the purple-tagged items from the Vendor’s sale racks, and then began to work on some other project for the Vendor’s clothing lines.  Satana yells at me, saying I need to be helping the other ladies, and although I tell her that I was hired by the Vendor, she insists that I continue with *her* project.  Later that day, I called Angela to check in, and let her know what I had been doing all day.  Angela was even more upset than I was that Satana had made me work on her project instead of the projects I was hired to do.  I spoke with Angela first thing the next morning, and she tells me that she told Satana’s supervisor that Satana needed to let me work on the Vendor’s projects, which were my first priority.

Just before the store opened, Satana made a big deal of calling the department together and announcing that I was “only working with Vendor clothing lines from now on,” and that it was everyone’s responsibility to make sure this was happening (as if I needed help figuring out which clothing lines belonged to the Vendor).  Apparently the other ladies on the floor were afraid of being on Satana’s bad side (as I then was), because every so often someone would note that I was not staying with my assigned clothing line because (Vendor’s line bearing name of Vendor) was over there, and I was in the (Vendor’s other line not bearing name of Vendor) section.  Once I spelled out for the other ladies exactly which clothing lines I was and was not hired to work with, they consented to stop policing me.  Satana, however, refused to talk to me unless she had to, and in those rare instances she was brusque and condescending.  She could not handle the fact that she was not my boss, and worse, that I would not let her act like she was. I, being the bigger person, was my usual sweet-as-pie self, smiling, nodding, and being generally agreeable in her presence.  

Satana made no effort to even hide her attitude from other managers.  In one instance, I had run out of an item I needed for outfitting displays, and I waited patiently while Satana finished her conversation with another manager to ask if she had any more.  Satana informed me that she had none to give me, as the ones she had were reserved “for more important vendors.” (My Vendor carries a major designer name and was one of the biggest money-making lines in the department.)  I smiled, nodded, said “Alright, I see,” and as I turned to go, the other manager remarked at my ability to be nice even as Satana was so nasty to me.

A few weeks later, mere days before Christmas, Satana sends her Assistant Manager, “Lucifera,” to my department, instructing me to remove as many clothes as possible from the storeroom to prepare for Inventory.  I ask Lucifera when Inventory is done and she tells me “late January.”  (I have already announced that my last day is the day after Christmas).  I asked Lucifera if Inventory should be the job of people here in January, as much of the Holiday staff is dismissed after Christmas, and it is my priority to sell the new, full-priced merchandise, rather than the older (and uglier) sale merchandise that did not sell when it was new.  Lucifera tells me that she is only doing what Satana has told her to do, then she proceeds to haul several large piles of fall-colored (ugly yellow, green, and brown) turtlenecks out of the stock room and instructs me to put them out in my display (already full of winter-colored turtlenecks, with a few leftovers from fall that I knew were not selling).  Rather than have them clutter up my register, I hung them all on a rolling rack and rolled them out of the way so that Satana’s next victim could deal with them. 

Although Angela was a fantastic boss, I have not for one minute missed working in Satana’s department.


I'm not sure if this is an etiquette faux-pas or not, but I felt it was.   Our company had recently been taken over by new management. We (the shop floor workers ie, lowest of the low) didn't know them very well, and what senior management that was left over from before, we didn't get on with very well (one of them had been heard to say, in front of us, that we didn't need paying very much as we were 'housewives (we were mostly women on the shop floor) who did the job for pin money'. As a single person struggling to survive on their wages, I was fairly upset by this.) 

So, in an effort to improve relations between senior management and us, the people who did the actual work, and had to implement their short-sighted policies, they decided to hold a barbeque, so we could get to know each other. Fair enough. Except;

1) The senior management were cooking the burgers themselves. Given the high rate of food poisoning in barbeque food, and the general incompetence of senior managers when it came to practicalities, I felt this was, literally, a recipe for disaster.

2) They decided to hold this event in a park. At night. In September. In England, where the weather is never certain and often bad. No provisions for going indoors if it rained. Not to mention it gets dark very early in England in September.

3) The park was impossible to reach by public transport, which most of us used. It would have involved, for most of us, an hour bus journey, then a half hour walk. Once again, in a park, at night. Did I mention most of us were female?

4) Most of the management team lived near the park...but that's because it's the posh, expensive end of the borough. Most of the invited workers lived at the other end of the borough, far away from that particular park. I should mention that management had free access to many venues, both indoors and outdoors, very close  to where we, the workers this was supposed to be benefiting, lived.

5) The event was held on a weeknight. The invitation 'jokingly' informed us that, although we were to have a good time, this was to be no excuse for coming in late the next morning.

Not surprisingly, the barbeque was attended mostly by senior staff, who couldn't understand why we weren't prepared to traipse all across the borough in the dark to eat badly cooked burgers. Looking back, maybe it wasn't a faux-pas as a total inability to understand the people that worked for them...if it had been an indoor event, close to home, and properly catered, we would have gone, and relations would have improved. As it is, two years later, we still don't like management, and they still don't understand the workers.  



A long time ago, I worked as a contractor for this small consulting outfit, and the owner was notoriously cheap. He would constantly nickel and dime me to death on my invoices, by telling me things like you were only there for 50 minutes, yet you billed for an hour - meanwhile HE would bill the customer for 1.5 hours. He was the kind of person that would think nothing of taking your pen, but then later demand the you reimburse him for the floppy disk you used.

Anyway, the holiday season rolls around and he decides to have a company 'holiday party' (he was Jewish so it wasn't a Christmas Party). Since he was inviting both customers and staff, he requested that if anyone wanted to bring something, they should bring a food item to donate to the local homeless shelter. I thought that was a very kind gesture, and decided to bring a shrimp platter for the homeless people to enjoy - after all, I don't think they get much shrimp there.

I get there and I see lots of people brought nice dishes to give to the shelter. His wife took each dish to a refrigerator in the back. The party was in the afternoon, and about 7:00 PM a photographer shows up. They load all of the food brought by the guests into a mini-van and drive off to the shelter.

The next day I shocked when I pick up the local paper and see this guy holding MY shrimp platter, with a caption below saying SHRIMP FOR THE HOMELESS - and a little blurb about the generous donation XXXXXX XXXXXX  makes every year during the holiday season. He made it seem like HE went out and bought all of the food himself and donated it to the shelter! There was no mention that it was all donated by employees and customer of his customer.

Some time later when I saw him, I casually asked what dish he contributed, and his response was, 'well my gift was taking the time out to gather all the things' and do the interview with the newspaper. (Apparently he called the paper himself!)

I stopped working for him right after that. Regardless of what the paper said, I sure hope those poor folks enjoyed the shrimp.


I must start by saying this site is cringe-inducingly fabulous!  I thought it would be nice to add my own tale of supreme tackiness.  I was very involved in musical theater in high school, but after one show in college, I had taken an extended break from performing.  When I moved to a new city with my fiancé, broke and unemployed, I thought it would be fun to get back into performing and I went with a local friend to audition for a show he had done in school, but that I had always wanted to do.  While I was called back for second-round auditions, I was not chosen for the role, but the director “Dud” said he would like to work with me in the future and offered to keep me posted on upcoming productions.  Unfortunately, I accepted this offer.

A few months later, he emailed me saying he was directing a small (10-person) concert version (some minor staging and dialogue, mostly singing) of a classic musical and would like me to audition.  I was made a part of the chorus and production began.  Dud had recently purchased a building and was converting the space into a concession shop/theater, where we would be performing, and where all rehearsals were held. The cast was a fun bunch and everything ran smoothly until about a week before Opening Night.  As the performance dates drew ever nearer, Dud, as all directors do, attempted to impress the importance of learning lines on those who had yet to do so.  However, one performer “Flake” was having continued difficulty remembering her lines and the lyrics to her song.  Two nights before opening, as we are doing one of our final run-throughs, Dud stops her and screams at her, at length (as the rest of the cast stares at him from the stage), until she collects her handbag and leaves.  Now, I am no stranger to screaming directors, however, this was only the tip of the iceberg. 

When we arrive at dress rehearsal the next night, we find that not only have there been no apologies or making up between Dud and Flake, but that Dud has already found a replacement for Flake.  Of course, for the first week of shows, until Flake’s replacement becomes familiar with the show and her role, Dud will be performing Flake’s role, and her songs, two of the biggest songs in the show.  Lovely.

The first two week’s performances went rather well.  Everyone who came enjoyed the show, including several friends visiting from out-of-town, for whom Dud kindly allowed me to buy tickets at a discounted rate.  Closing weekend, however, even as the cast was loosening up and enjoying the show more, Dud seemed to become progressively more stressed out. 

On the night before Closing Night, it all comes to a head.  The girl playing the female lead, “Star” had invited her family and many of her friends to see the show on this particular night.  One friend had even brought professional video equipment and was setting it up to videotape the show, offering copies for the cast members.  All in all, at five minutes to starting time, there were probably a dozen people in the audience.  Suddenly, this number became unacceptable to Dud.  He insisted that we delay the start of the show to allow for more people to show up, as he claimed he could not justify the “expense” of running the show.  (Bear in mind, the only expense Dud will incur by running the show is the cost of electricity.  All performers were paid a flat rate for their participation. Surely the entrance fees of twelve people would cover the cost of running a few stage lights for two or three hours.) When no more people showed up fifteen minutes after start time, Dud summarily cancels the performance, presumably refunds everyone’s money, and rushes us to clear all the chairs from the theater space to make room for some event he was having the next day. 

Meanwhile, Star’s family has been ushered out to the sidewalk, with very little idea of what is going on, and having driven nearly a hundred miles to see Star perform.  The minute all of the chairs are cleared, Dud hurries us all to collect our things because he is leaving and locking the building up for the night.  No apology to the cast, and only a hasty one to the would-be audience.  Poor Star was in tears that not only did her family not get to see the show, as they had a prior commitment the following night, but that Dud had been so rude about canceling the show.  Feeling awful, but still wanting Star’s family to have a good time, we all went out for coffee and enjoyed what was left of our evening.  Star’s family never got to see the show, there was no professional video recording, but we all had a good time.

But here’s the kicker – for our Closing performance the next day there were no more than *8* people in the audience (twelve was too few, but eight is enough), and Dud videotaped the show with a *handheld video camera*, setting it down every time he had to operate the follow-spot, as well as when he ran up to the stage to fill in for an ill cast member.  After three weeks of performances, this is the only video recording of the show was this jittery, inconsistent, unprofessional tape from someone none of us wanted to speak to, let alone work with, again.


I spent a summer working with the supervisor from Hades and thought you could use this story about a truly unethical boss.    I am a nurse in a skilled nursing facility that was sold to a new management group. Our old supervisor had moved out of state and the new company had found a temporary nursing home administrator for a period of 6 months until the administrator job could be filled by a permanent administrator. The new administrator appeared to have a severe personality disorder as she refused to meet or participate with patient's families or their concerns, immediately cut nursing staff positions to dangerous staffing levels and would terminate any individual who would criticize or disagree with her decisions.  

 One employee who had worked as a nurse in the facility for the past 17 years had asked for some personal leave time to assist her mother with some elective surgery. The surgery was a minor elective procedure and the new administrator had granted the nurse three days off with the agreement that the nurse would return to work and work extra shifts to cover for her missing hours. Tragically the unthinkable had happened- her mother had suffered a severe reaction to a simple anticoagulant drug and suffered a massive stroke. The nurse's mother was declared brain dead twelve hours later. The nurse and her family had to decide to continue life support or decide to donate their mother's organs. 

After several meetings with the hospital chaplain and transplant team they ok'd the tests to see how viable the tissue and organs would be for further transplants. Needless to say, the nurse was of course unable to return to work within three days.   The nurses at work had approached the administrator and had offered to cover the missing nurse's shifts- and six had offered to donate their vacation time. The administrator was pleased that there would be no disruption of nursing coverage and agreed to our plan.   The nurse was able to plan a funeral and memorial service approx. 15 days after the diagnosis of "brain dead" (it took about two weeks to complete the organ testing and arrange for recipients for the organ transplant so the nurse's mother did not "die" for about two weeks). The administrator then called the nurse and stated "You've had three weeks off- I need you back at work. I can't give you anymore special treatment. You can decide to go to the funeral or the memorial service but I'm not authorizing any more days off. You can only chose to go to one service."  The nurse, of course, took both days off and had asked me to cover for her.   

On the following Monday both of us where called down to the administrator's office and were both fired for "disobeying my direct orders!" I had no problem getting fired (or freed!) from such a awful manager but I felt so bad for the nurse that had been with the facility 17 years and was fired without any further benefits.   It didn't take long for the incident to spread- and the company owners had fired the administrator 2 days later. Luckily the nurse was reinstated with all further benefits. I've been a nurse for about twelve years and I never even came close to meeting someone with that level of complete absence of compassion in my life!


Okay here's one I have been wanting to tell you but have not gotten to a computer.     A friend of mine was working at the agency that her cousin worked at well my friend (True)  did not have such a good experience working at that office She was at a training one weekend she had to attend.   True arrived to find those waiting for the training locked out of the building.  True and the instructor (not from the company) and all those waiting to enter that training (many of whom did not work for that company.)   They basically stood outside for a good half hour before someone with a key could be notified to let them in.     Jump to the end of the day the owner herself came in to the office to lock up.  After introducing herself the guess instructor she informed the instructor that she was ..."rather rude".  to my people. (meaning the person unlocking the door.)   So who really was rude the instructor who insisted someone come down to open the door or the Owner and her staff?


Page Last Updated May 18, 2007