Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Bad, Bad Bosses

Jan-Jun 2004 Archive

Jan-Jun 2003 Archive

Jul-Dec 2003 Archive


I worked at a small public relations company for several years for one of the most inconsiderate and self-centered bosses on the planet. If it had not been for the wonderful co-workers, many of us wouldn't have lasted a week at this company. I should mention that there are only 4 employees in our company and that, with the exception of our boss, we were a very tight-knit family.

Our boss, "Kathleen," comes from a well-to-do family and decided to open her company as a way to become important in the community. When I first interviewed for the job, I was led to believe that she was an active advocate for childrens' issues and was a staunch Republican. I would later find out that her civic involvement was strictly for personal gain and that her contributions to a political party would sometimes take greater importance over her employees.

Having recently graduated, I was thankful for any employment opportunity, especially a job in the field in which I had studied. So, at first, I didn't feel comfortable voicing my opinion when she would do things that were blatantly racist, sexist or just plain rude.

For instance, she would only allow the African American employee to have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off, while the Caucasians were expected to work since "what MLK stood for didn't involve us." Is that not reverse racism? She would quote her father, who was a watchmaker who would work on Christmas, saying "Jesus never bought a watch from him and he didn't feel that he had to observe his holiday," therefore, since MLK never did business with her, she didn't have to observe his holiday either. Never mind the fact that her father was Jewish and did not believe in Christmas.

She also had stated many times that she would not even consider hiring a man to work in our firm because they would only "mess up the dynamic of the office."

Because it was a small office, all employees were aware of the financial situation of the business. Although my boss had said many times that the business was her baby and that she would put her own money into the business to keep it afloat before she would ever shut her doors, she none-the-less constantly reminded us of how grateful we should be that we had jobs even though we had lost a few clients. I can understand that and would have even been sympathetic if she hadn't come in to brag to us about the two new cars she had bought, paying cash, for her son and daughter...both grown children who live out of state but are still are supported by their mother. She also bought a new BMW for herself, just before Christmas.

So, Christmas comes around and we all brainstorm what to get the wicked witch of the East. We decide on a pricy wallet that she has been mentioning for months to match her over-priced hand bag. We waited and waited to hear if we would have Christmas Eve off or an announcement as to when our Christmas party would take place. In the past, our parties have consisted of lunch and presents being exchanged. Nothing was said, so eventually we decided to just go ahead and give her the present.

Now, in the past, she not only has made us work on Christmas Eve, but she waits until that day to give us our bonuses as well. It doesn't help at all with any pre-holiday shopping, but it is much appreciated. That year, she opened her present and the only thing she said was that she already had that particular wallet and would now have to exchange it. Still no mention of a party, bonus or possible day off.

We ended up working a full day on Christmas Eve and she didn't even acknowledge the holiday or mention a bonus. We thought for certain that she wouldn't just not give us a bonus after years of presenting us with one. We also noted the tens of thousands of dollars that she had given to her political party throughout the year and figured that it couldn't be that there was no money for bonuses.

Now, I know that we shouldn't confuse her personal wealth with that of the business, but both of her kids receive allowances out of the company fund (we have been told by an ex-bookkeeper) and she is open about the fact that she keeps her personal and business finances blended together.

And so Christmas came and went and we returned after the holiday with very poor attitudes, to say the least. With it being impossible not to notice how disgruntled we were, she finally took two of us aside and confided that it had been a tough time financially (must have spent too much on the new cars and political donations) and that bonuses would be coming at the beginning of the year, just weeks away. She also apologized for her behavior preceding the holiday and thanked us for the gift. Not only did we not receive a bonus, we also found out that she gave the wallet we had given her to her daughter as a present!

I guess we should have figured out that she doesn't enjoy celebrating anything but herself. After years of birthday celebrations for the employees, she declared at one of our birthdays, during the celebrations, that it was getting out of hand. We had celebrated the same way for each employee for years, but now it was getting out of hand?! Mind you, our "celebrations" consisted of us eating lunch at the office and giving presents and birthday cake. We are all entitled to an hour for lunch and often eat together. She proceeded to say that we will only celebrate HER birthday from now on, with the obligatory cake that one of the employees bakes for her and we used to only buy her presents. Needless to say, we barely put together a make-shift card for her when her day rolled around.

The icing on the cake came when her troubled son returned home after graduating from college. He was unable to find a job and couldn't keep the temp jobs he was assigned, so "Kathleen" decided that he would work at the office. He was struggling with a prescription drug addiction and would often pass out at his desk or act erratically. We were expected to turn a blind eye to this behavior and continue work as usual. This became especially difficult when she started pairing us together on projects. Not only was he completely out of it, he also had no understanding of how we did business, as he studied a completely different subject in college. He was rude and embarrassing to the clients, when he was with it enough to talk to them. And he would take all the credit for work that I had done!

She later demanded that I act as a reference for him when he was trying to get a job. I had to lie and say that he not only worked with us for a much longer time than he actually did, but I had to say that he was a great employee...all while she stood in my office and listened in on the call.

One might ask why someone would work at a company like this for almost five years? Not sure, but I am so glad to be rid of that hideous woman and her totally unethical business practices! Thanks for letting me vent!


Love your website--great job, keep it up! I'm usually a reader of your site, not a writer, but with this, I was so incensed I could scream.

Once upon a time, I had my quarterly performance evaluation.

Naturally, it was timed the day before I went on a well deserved holiday. Much to my surprise, things actually went well--my supervisor has been h*ll on wheels/superb*tch since she had been elevated to the management clique, so I was expecting to get slammed. I also flinched at the thought of payback for daring to tell her that yes, she was actually wrong on a matter (oohhh no, she did not take that well) a couple of weeks before. It was bad enough that earlier that week I got wind of her surmising whether I had gotten laid (I was communicating with her because I'd had the weekend to calm down over her treating me like a village idiot, not because of my sex life!).  But it was what she said at my eval that really got me.

To back up, though, for a brief background on what she is like, before she ascended to management, she was almost everything one could want in a supervisor, although she was famous for saying totally inappropriate things when she chose to air her views...

Unfortunately, the management culture at this company brings out the worst in people... she is now a past master of snarky comments, invincible/always right in her views, and openly talks of her shockingly inappropriate opinions/positions, as well as showing an extremely rude insensitivity when anyone has personal problems--such as saying that a co-worker that had a horrific late-term miscarriage 'should have closed her legs in the first place.' Even people who were closer to her than I and had worked with her longer wondered what's wrong with her. I think you see what I am getting at.

Back to the eval--like I stated previously, it actually went better than I thought, although it was strained. At the end, however, she threw her snarky-dart: "You need to have a child to change your perspective on things."

Needless to say, my jaw was on the ground. Because I was determined to NOT get p*ssed off, I just smiled insincerely and left. I tried not to think about it during my vacation and failed. This was beyond the pale as far as I was concerned! How dare she "advise" me of something so personal? Maybe she needs to get laid and is just jealous, but I don't air my opinions in her fashion. I should have gone to HR, but I didn't--the rep was out anyway. I needed out to my holiday or I was going to kill her. Such cheek! Cripes!

In the end, I resigned two weeks later--I had had enough of her crap.


My first job after leaving university was as a 'research officer' for an employers association. [I put that in inverted commas because I actually ended up doing the payroll, accounts and switchboard because the boss couldn't decide what he wanted researched]. My boss had been with the association since God was a boy and was extremely paternalistic about the whole thing. There were only 12 employees, but we still had a tea-lady, who had to take her trolley around to each desk morning and afternoon to make tea or coffee - the rest of the day she tried to make herself busy with washing up and re-arranging the china-ware (not surprisingly, there was a fairly high turnover in this particular job). One tea-lady suddenly found out that she was pregnant - the boss called her into his office to give her a very stern 'fatherly' lecture and to tell her that she absolutely should have an abortion as she had a 'duty to the her career' not to take maternity leave (remember, this is the tea-lady).  Thankfully, she was a woman who wasn't intimidated and told him where to stick his job. I fell foul of him with my personal habits - he didn't like the perfume that I wore to work one day! As it was an expensive one, I used it very sparingly and had often been told how nice it smelt on me. But, he didn't like it and I was told in no uncertain terms that I mustn't wear it again as he preferred more flowery scents (AAARRGGHHH!!!). To top it all off, every female in the office had to call him 'Sir' or 'Mr. Jones', while every male employee, right down to the 15-year-old working in the copy-room got to call him 'Dave'. I lasted just over a year before I found another job, which I love.      


I work in a cafe that is owned by an older couple; their adult daughter, "Melinda," is one of the managers.  Melinda's mother "June" is notorious for being an unreasonable and pushy person to work for, and all of us cafe workers dread the days when she is around the store doing her version of supervising, which is basically trying to tell us how to do our jobs and complaining that we don't do enough when we are already pretty swamped with her silly requests, not to mention attending to the customers!  

 One day, my coworker called in sick and so the adult daughter, Melinda, came in to work behind the counter with me.  It is unofficial store policy that when this happens, Melinda will not take any of the tips made during the shift, as she is a manager, and makes a higher wage than us, and she is just there to help out when it gets busy.  Melinda's husband is also pretty well-off and her parents own the cafe; it's not like she is ever wanting for anything.   This particular day, June decided that we probably couldn't handle it alone or something and she showed up too, mostly to be in the way and order me around a lot.   At the time of this incident I was living with my boyfriend, who was out of a job, and the two of us were just barely scraping by on my cafe salary plus the dear, precious tips, which would amount to about forty dollars after a busy morning.  Usually this was split between the two employees.  On this day, with my coworker gone and Melinda helping out, I knew I would probably get all of the tips and I was grateful because our electricity was about to be turned off and I thought a forty-dollar payment would keep it on.  It was an especially busy day and I worked my tail off, and so did Melinda, so at the end of the shift I asked if she wanted part of the tips, because she had helped an awful lot.  She asked for ten bucks to fill up her gas tank.  I, who had forgotten what a full tank of gas felt like, still gladly gave her the ten bucks and then went to clock out with the remaining thirty or so.  At this point June stopped me and eyed the tips in my hand and said coldly, in a nasty voice, "Did you split your tips with Melinda?"  I told her I had offered to, and that Melinda had asked for part of them, and I had given them to her; at which point June said "Good, because you know, she has three boys at home to support!"   I came THIS CLOSE to telling her to go Something herself, that she owns her own business and her daughter is rich and she pays her a ridiculous salary and she pays me minimum wage, and it is NOT policy for managers to split tips but I had been nice enough to offer to do so anyways, and that I had myself plus my boyfriend (both of us college students) to support and that my paying my electricity with money I had rightfully earned was more important than her precious daughter having a full tank of gas in her SUV.  Instead, I just walked away.  Unfortunately, I'm still employed there; it's been three years without a raise, and because I've been there so long I know more than the other employees and I'm an unofficial supervisor; I do all the cleaning and work every single day and still receive no title, no real money, and no respect.  Sigh.


After getting laid-off from my position as a Billing/Coding Specialist for an independent mental health agency I was desperate for work and applied for a job as an Auditor for a local, but well known, hotel in our area. A few days after my application they contacted me to inform me that the Auditor's position had been filled but if I was interested they had positions open in their Dining/Lounge departments, they intimated that over time I could be promoted out of this dept. into front-desk or back-office work. I accepted the position. I soon began work as a bartender/server in the Lounge, and much to my surprise I made very good money doing so this was a high-end hotel, saturated with history that catered to business professionals and organizations, therefore tips were huge). 

After 6 months I was informed that the Auditor's position was once again available, and if I was interested it was mine. I accepted the new position because I felt that the years I had spent in college were being wasted slinging drinks and food. As part of my new position I was given a pay raise, an in house expense account (for food and such), and an office. I was also given a new set of supervisors. My new supervisors consisted of the hotels comptroller and for some reason the front-desk supervisor (as near as I can tell she was made my supervisor because my work required me to be at the front desk the majority of the time {all hotel cash and receipts were received there} and because of the nature of my work I needed to know how to check people in and out etc..). 

From then on I was put on the front-desk schedule and if I needed days off or vacation I went through this supervisor (I will call her Hell-en). Here are a list of things that Hell-en did to me:   1)Since she was in charge of my schedule she deemed it okay to assign me to shifts in the restaurant/lounge as needed. Because of this whenever a person needed vacation or personal time rather than find another server/bartender to cover them they called Hell-en who was more than happy to put me down, without asking me. At one point she had me scheduled for almost a straight 24 hour period between three departments. My schedule was to be work my shift as auditor from 11pm to 7am, go into a five hour serving shift from 7am to 12 noon get off two hours then go into a six hour bartending shift from 2 pm to 8pm and then begin my shift as auditor again at 11pm. When I brought this to her attention she laughed and said "Your young, you can do it" when I continued to buck the idea she let me off from my auditor shift at 5 am and gave me a free hotel room to sleep in for the day between my shifts. What a gal! 

2)I was in a car accident (not my fault) one morning on my home from work that ended up with me in the ER(for some stitches ) I called her from the ER to tell her (with over 12 hours notice) that I would not be in for work that night as I was pretty banged up. She was upset and said she had no idea if she could find someone on such short notice, when I mentioned that if all else failed she could cover my shift she went crazy and hung up on me. I ended up not going into work that night (she did cover the shift) but upon my arrival the next day she wanted proof of my accident and subsequent ER reports despite the fact that I had visible bruises and stitches. 

3) I requested my anniversary off and she granted it to me only to call me on my cell phone in the middle of my anniversary dinner to ask me to come in anyway. 

4)And finally , the proverbial straw, was when my beloved nephew (age 8) whom I loved like my own child suddenly died I was understandably distraught, and I went to her to tell her that I needed time off, she was on a rant about the hotel manager not allowing her to have a weeks unpaid vacation to go on a cruise that her DH had won, I waited until she was done and tearfully told her what had happened, she looked at me and without even a word went on with her rant about a missed vacation . I began job hunting that day. But Hell-en had not had her last. I did find another job and I kindly gave her 6 weeks notice, she waited until the week before I left to hire someone, and this person had no financial sense and was not even able to grasp how to use our multi-line phone system much less balance accounts for a hotel. I did my best training my replacement, but this person was not able to grasp the job. When I left I told Hell-en that they would need more training which she apparently took as me volunteering. Because she called me at home, on my cell and even at my new job to ask when I could come in for more training, when I told her I couldn't she said "But I figured it out for you, you can work with Dummy on training from 11pm to 3am and then go home and sleep and be fine for your new job at 8am" I hung up on her. 



My part-time jobs in college made me dread working and supervisors. One job was at an amusement park and I worked in “Guest Relations” where we were responsible for helping the guests in many ways, but normally our most important job was taking care or unhappy guests. We had several methods of trying to please the guest, from discounts and vouchers for free meals to a refund of their admission price. In this sort of position there are no set rules per say, you just do what you need to, to please the guest. One of my “supervisors” was a girl a little younger than me, all of about eighteen. Despite her young age, she knew everything, was always right, and liked to micro-manage. After being fussed at her many times for not doing things the way she would have, I finally starting running almost everything past her before I acted. This annoyed her and she took to exclaiming “Use your god-given brain to figure it out for yourself!” whenever I asked her a question. However, that didn’t stop her from complaining about the decisions I made using my “god-given brain.”

I did do one thing to make her happy. I was scheduled to work early one morning and I let her know as soon as I found out that my boyfriend (who was in the military) would be leaving that morning for quite a while and I would like to take him to the airport, but that if I did so it would make me about half an hour late for work, She said ok, and so I came in that morning about half an hour late to find that I had already been written up for my tardiness. I was surprised, but I just noted on the write-up that I thought that by letting her know I needed to be late that I had done what I was supposed to. She may have grown up since then, but she was a pain to work with then!

I had another scheduling issue at another college job. I was waiting tables and had told the interviewing manager that I had some night classes and wouldn’t be able to work on those nights. He said it was no problem and I wasn’t scheduled for those nights. A couple of months later my name showed up to work on my school nights. I let the manager on shift, “Jane,” know about the problem. She shrugged and said it was my responsibility to find someone to cover for me. Luckily another server, “John,” heard us talking and approached me about taking the hours, as he had almost no hours that week. We were both happy to change the schedule. Later that week after John had worked my shifts the Jane approached me about giving my hours to John and said that he had not been given many hours for a reason and I had no right to give him mine. Evidently management wasn’t happy with his performance but instead of firing him they were just going to take away his hours until he gave up and left on his own. Wouldn’t it have just made more sense for Jane to decide who she wanted to “cover” for me? And why didn’t anyone have the guts to tell poor John why he was suddenly not getting hours?

I'm happy to say that I work at a wonderful place now with nice and understanding people.



Dear Jeanne: I love your site, and have a rude bosses story for you. I used to work for a small company (and by small, I mean six people). The owner's daughter worked there as my direct supervisor. Shall I say that both father and daughter were more than a little etiquette impaired. The one incident that left me speechless was the time I woke up sick. I called the office, got the daughter on the phone and told her I was sick and could not make it to the office that day. She asked me to hold, got her father who got on the phone and said, "Yeah, can you be here by noon?" My jaw was on the floor at that point. Not that I needed to respond, since my boss had made it abundantly clear during the time I worked for him that neither he nor his daughter had any comprehension of other people's needs. The kicker is that I was there by 11:45, and worked until 9 that night without a break. Where do these people come from? 


Here is my boss from hell story......   I worked for a small law firm and one of the partners was fairly young and quite impressed with himself.  He also tended to be quite demeaning towards the staff in general.  On more than one occasion he has made remarks/statements that bordered on sexual harassment, but one particular incident stand out in my mind.  This being when he bought a ridiculously expensive desk and credenza for his office.  He would not be in the office when it was to be delivered, but charged me, as his secretary, to make sure it was placed properly.  However, in order for it to go where he wanted it, other very heavy items would have to be moved at an additional charge, which he was too cheap to pay.  So he calls me into his office and after making sure I knew where he wanted everything, very seriously told me that I needed to dress sexy, wearing something short and revealing to show off my assets, and flirt with the movers so they would do his rearranging for free!  And just to make sure that his bases were covered, he also asked our 17 year old high school intern to do the same thing!

However, the beauty of this story was the guys were strictly business, as was I, and when "Mr. Wonderful" called in to see how it was going, I told him that they weren't interested in me or any of the other girls.  I then told him that I thought they might be gay and if he were to come down and flirt a bit with them himself, I was sure they would move mountains to make him happy.  He got very flustered, asked to borrow money from me to pay them to move his stuff and hung up very quickly.  Needless to say, I decided it was time for a change of jobs after that assignment!


I have two stories for the bad bosses page. The more I read these things the more memories return that I thought I'd squashed.

Story No. 1: I worked for three miserable weeks at a drive-up restaurant in a big city. My only excuse for TAKING the job was we only had one car at the time and it was within walking distance.

My job was carhop, oh, joy, but the back-up cook quit and I somehow got "promoted" to that position. It was maybe 50 cents an hour more. These two older women -- older than I was then -- had come factory-installed so they thought they owned the joint and were imperious to the max. Neither one was terribly dainty in her personal habits, not good for a restaurant, but if they'd shown some concern for customers it wouldn't have been so bad.

My first time on back-up cook duty we got an order for our specialty sandwich and when I went to the freezer to get the meat, it was GREEN. Seriously. Not a spot here and a spot there. The whole patty was GREEN. I said to Woman No. 1, "We can't use this, it's spoiled." She said oh, yes, we could, deep-frying it would "sterilize" it. (!!!!!) I argued, but she and Woman No. 2 ganged up on me and got very nasty and threatening and I needed the job so I gave in and cooked the stuff. I never ate another bite there myself, though, I can tell you THAT.

Story No. 2: I was working in a head shop (they were still marginally legal then) that also sold pipe tobacco and fancy pipes and T-shirts and various items like that. The boss/owner fancied himself a Big Important Dude and played keyboard in a band so he also thought he was Mr. Sexy. He loved to tell us girls (all his clerks were girls, preferably early 20s) filthy jokes, sometimes in front of customers. Sigh. That wasn't his worst fault. He decided to go back to college and because he knew I was good at writing, he asked/ordered me to write one of his research papers for him. Not just type it. Not even correct his errors. He wanted me to do the whole thing! Again, I needed the job and he let me do this on work time (wasn't that generous of him) so I did it, but I've kicked myself ever since. "He" got an A.

One day we got an order of merchandise that had come without the customary packing slip. Because they were items we'd stocked ever since I'd worked there (I'd been there a couple of years at this point), I went ahead and priced them at the same price we'd always charged. After we'd already sold about half of this stuff, he came barging in one day and simply REAMED me for the prices (in front of customers and a co-worker). Seems the vendor had raised the prices considerably and we were selling them under cost at our usual price. Well, how was *I* supposed to know that? There hadn't been a packing slip, he hadn't said anything to me (the warehouse was my responsibility -- unpacking, pricing and stocking) and this was a good week or two after the stuff had arrived! This man had turned nearly all of the day to day business over to his assistant and me (he even had me learn to sign his name to checks!) and only showed up sporadically to even make sure his stores were still THERE.

So I snapped. He and I had a frank exchange of views there in front of the customers and the co-worker, with many a naughty word and even, at one point, me totally losing it and kicking a chair over. LOL



I work at a satellite location of a community college.  Our site is located in a building with several other state government agencies.  Several years ago the local chamber of commerce chose our site to host a luncheon for a state Commissioner to present his new economic plan to local leaders.  We were extremely honored because we are located in a very remote part of our state and worked for several weeks in conjunction with the chamber of commerce and the other agencies in our building to prepare for the Commissioner's visit.  We invited the upper administration of the college to be present at the luncheon.  The President was not available, but two Vice Presidents planned to attend.  

The day of the luncheon arrives and everything is going exactly as planned…except our VPs have not arrived when lunch begins.  They arrive almost an hour late, they had stopped to make a tee time at a local country club.  We were serving a buffet style lunch and they were very disruptive while preparing their plates of food.  During the remainder of the Commissioner's speech the VPs laugh, giggle, and talk to each other like school-boys.  Then they proceed to leave early without speaking to the Commissioner.  They had to get back to the country club for their tee time.  My supervisor and I were appalled and embarrassed by their behavior.  In retrospect we were glad they had not introduced themselves to the Commissioner, he had no way of knowing which organization they were supposedly representing and we did not care to enlighten him.  


My Dad had been sick for several years and his passing would happen any day. Everyone I worked with, and the bosses, knew all about it. The company I worked for at the time had no funeral or bereavement policy, even though it was a large and respected company. It happened, my Dad died, and I took off 5 work days to plan, attend the funeral and be with my Mom. The very day I returned to work, the funeral policy was announced. The controller of the company announced it at a meeting and I said out loud "Do I get paid for the bereavement I just had, the 5 days off?" She got a look on her face like a dog that has just crapped on the carpet and said no, because the policy was not announced until after I had returned to work. I yelled "I think that really stinks!" I had been through a lot the past week, and yelling that out at a employees meeting-- well I just was not in the mood to care. But no one said a word more, all the higher-ups just stood around watching me, with glassy smiles on their stupid faces.



I had a boss who wouldn't speak to me.

As near as I can tell, he was painfully shy. He was a very attractive man (and knew it -- which wasn't consistent with shyness), but he hated to talk to employees. One day, a co-worker was walking from his cubicle to mine, as we were going to lunch together. I see him stick his head into the boss's cubicle and chat for 2-3 minutes. I am shocked. I have never seen the boss have what is clearly an informal, friendly chat with anyone, much less my friend who is almost as nerdy as the boss. My friend is outside the cubicle, so I can see his reactions, and he isn't acting like this is a work discussion. My jaw is hanging down. When he gets down the hall to me, I ask him what the boss wanted. He says "Oh, I wasn't talking to our boss. X (another colleague from out of town) is using the boss's cubicle as a temporary office, and I talked to him". So the boss kept his record of never chatting with employees.

At another time, his secretary asked me if he had talked to me. I told her I didn't think I had talked to him in 3-4 months, but I couldn't be sure how long it had been, what was he supposed to have talked to me about? Well, the company had given me stock options about 2 months before, and someone (possibly her) had told him that this time he had to go to the employee, shake their hand, give them the letter personally, and thank them for their contribution. He kept telling her he would do it (and apparently had told her it was done, but she was suspicious), but in 2 months, he hadn't been able to bring himself to take the 1 minute it would take to talk to me. Luckily, I got her to give me the paperwork, so that I could officially accept the stock options I didn't know I had.

He later got a sales job where he had to make cold calls on prospects. I never figured out how he decided to apply for such a job or how he was able to do it without it causing himself pain.


My direct boss has gotten to comfortable in his position, He has a nickname for everyone in the office. From the CEO to VPs to his direct employees. A couple weeks ago I stopped into his office as other mangers at my level in the department where chatting with him. One of the other managers mentioned to me, " After your morning are you going to go out for  drink?" I had a few issues with a server that were a little stressful but I had it under control. I responded, "No, my wife is having some friends over for a get together." My boss responds, "You are such a metrosexual, your wife sure has you by the balls." I walked out and went home. Once I was at home I called the VP of Human Resources and filed a harassment claim against my boss - that ass!


My boyfriend (lets call him Joe) worked for a company for about 14 years.  It is a construction company and the owner was his best friend's (since 3rd grade) father ( we'll call him Big J).  Being a man in his 30's Joe became tired of only working part time, he would request to get more hours and Big J would say no problem I promise you 4 days a week.  That would usually appease him and he would get the hours for 2 or 3 weeks, then he would be laid off for 3 weeks!  This went on for probably 2 years so finally in October Joe said I am going to look for a new job after the new year.  Big J was really nice about it, and said no problem.  Fast forward to February, Joe got the call from the new job and he was able to start the next day since he was laid off, big surprise, from Big J's company.  So after a week of working for this new company he went to Big J and turned in his keys.  Big J was surprised but said, no hard feelings, shook Joe's hand and said good luck. 

Fast forward to July.  Big J owns a cabin on a nearby island so Big J's son had invited us out there, as he had done many times.  ( We had actually been there 3 weeks before when Big J was out of town and helped do remodel work for a full day free. ) Us going out to the beach cabin was always welcome until this day.  Big J's son mentioned that we were coming over the night before to go diving and Big J. said, "Well, uninvited them".  So come the next day we load everything up in the truck for a day of fun and while we were waiting in the ferry line we got the call, " Joe we have a problem over here, but come over anyway. "  Well, the ferry line looked like about a 2 hour wait so we wanted to find out what this problem was.  So Big J's son told the story about how we were un-invited, and that Joe was an ungrateful SOB, and a traitor and is not welcome on any of Big J's properties.  This made Big J's son very angry and he stood up for his best friend saying that he had done nothing wrong.  In defending Joe, Big J's son was also banned from all properties for the summer.  Joe and I turned around feeling bad that things had become such a mess and wondering how someone that had said no hard feelings could consider Joe a traitor. 

Anyway almost a year later Joe is not welcome on Big J's property which is okay, but Big J and his son do not really talk anymore because his son "Needs to grow up and see where his loyalties should lie."  Hmmm,  that one is a real thinker.  This is why you should not work for a friend or their family.


Dear Ms. Hamilton:   I have read and re-read the pages of repeatedly, eagerly awaiting every new installment. In fact, reading the Wedding Hell section helped me tremendously when planning my own blessed event. However, my submission falls under the Business Hell section.

 Last year, my fiancé and I moved across the country because he was changing careers, and required training in his new field. I had recently graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, and was seeking employment in the field of education. Unfortunately, the city to which we had moved was experiencing a major decline in hiring teachers, especially freshly-out-of-school teachers. The only work I could find was with a daycare center that housed both a preschool and a before- and after-school program. I was hired immediately, due to my credentials, and set to work in the latter. My job included writing curricula for the program, which I eagerly set forth doing. I was hired to work from 6.55-9am, then from 2.30-6pm. In the beginning, I wrote all the curricula from home, putting in many hours for which I didn't even think to be paid. This is how teachers normally work; you prepare at home for work you do in the classroom. Eventually, my boss told me that I should be "billing" those hours I spend writing curricula. As I was only working 27.5 hours a week, and not earning much from those 27.5 hours, I decided to "bill" those hours. Furthermore, my boss, knowing I was constantly short of money (27.5 hours a week does not equal a large salary, especially in education), told me that any time I wanted to earn more money, I could help out in the office, doing clerical work. I also made myself available to help out in the preschool, whenever needed.

I should probably interject with some more description of my working environment. My boss, *Nicole*, was fantastic. She was highly professional, and a joy with whom to work. After she resigned (to spend more time with her baby), she told me she did not like working at that place. She had been professional enough to keep this information to herself when she was working there. She kept a professional distance, yet was warm at the same time. She would ask me how my wedding planning was going, and would give me advice, as she was a recent bride. I was very sad to see her leave.

My second boss, Nicole's Assistant Director, was not such a good boss. She (we'll call her *Alice*) constantly conducted her personal business at work, using the office phone and the office computer for this. (She used the office phone to discuss her child-care needs with her sister, friends, mother, and anyone else. She used the office computer to seek other employment, and she used it as a dating service, eventually finding her boyfriend on some internet dating site.) All in all, I would conject this woman spent a grand total of two hours a week doing actual work. When I was hired, and asked to write the curricula, Alice told me she had been writing all the curricula before I started working there. She said (with a big sigh) that she was grateful to be able to offload this job to someone else, as it really wasn't part of her job. Later, I discovered that this was a big, fat lie.

Apparently, she had not been writing curricula at all before I worked there; my predecessor was doing all of that. Alice figured that I would never speak to my predecessor about this type of thing, so she was safe to lie away! (My predecessor substituted, one day, for my co-worker. We got to talking. I found out the truth.) Anyway, initially, I was rather friendly with Alice. She sought me out constantly to talk about her personal life. I mistook this as a sign of friendship. She was actually just using me as a sounding board for her life, and, may I add, managing to not work whilst talking to me. I never billed the hours she spent whining about her life, wasting valuable hours of my time. Eventually, I realized what was happening, and attempted to avoid her. She caught on that I was avoiding her, and berated me for it! There are a few other misdemeanors; but I won't bore you with them.

As I mentioned above, my main boss, Nicole, left work to spend time with her baby. The woman who took her place is the person I wish to submit to Etiquette Hell. (We'll call her *Jamie.*) From the start, Jamie was very patronizing, using sarcasm as her main vehicle of communication. (Example: "See the sign on the kitchen door? It says to keep it closed at all times. Do you think you can do that? Do you?" My co-worker and I had forgotten to close the door once. That happened to be the one time she was present.) That first week, Jamie decided to completely overhaul the office and our work schedules. As the boss, that is her prerogative. She brought me into the office to reprimand me for working too many hours! My schedule was reduced to only 5.25 hours a day. My co-worker's hours were reduced from 3 hours to 2 hours. This made it impossible for her to continue working there, as she was spending more money on gas to get to work than she was earning. By the way, my co-worker was informed of her schedule change on Friday afternoon to take place effective Monday. She was also informed via an informal discussion out on the playground. My co-worker, sadly, told work that since her hours were being cut, she could no longer continue working there, and the following Friday would be her last day. My co-worker and I surmised that Jamie only wanted to project a positive budget in her first quarter, and that was why our hours were reduced. My co-worker wrote a letter to the parents, explaining that "schedule conflicts" meant her last day of work would be Friday. Since her reduced hours meant that she was no longer at work when most parents picked up their children, I was left to explain the letter. My co-worker told me that, if parents asked, I could tell them "the real reason" why she was leaving (i.e.. the reduced hours). I decided that I would jokingly refer to how much money she was spending on gas to get to and from work, and that was why she could not work there any longer. (That part of the United States has extraordinarily-high gas prices, over 50 cents more per gallon than the nationwide average.) I told this only to parents who asked, and I tried to keep my tone light, and project both work and my co-worker in a positive tone. (Remember, my hours were reduced, and I was not feeling very positive about work, given my reduced hours and working conditions with both Alice and Jamie. However, I tried very hard to NOT give away how I was really feeling.)

On my co-worker's last day, Friday, I was called into the office "on a very serious matter," as soon as I arrived at work. Jamie launched into an attack on how "a parent" called to tell her that I was saying my co-worker "was forced to resign because work had cut her hours." She yelled at me about how unprofessional this was, and that she was shocked I would act like this. She gave me an ultimatum of "continue working, on probation, and if I catch you doing anything else, you're fired" or "resign immediately, today." She ranted for half an hour about how unprofessional I was. Never once did she ask me for my side of this. She presumed the "parent" was correct, and was willing to take that information over my side of the story. I tried to explain that I had only spoken about how my co-worker could not continue working there because she literally could not afford to work there. I tried to explain that I had put the company in a positive light, not bad-mouthing it, as I could have done. I tried to explain that many of the children felt my co-worker was abandoning them, and a better explanation was necessary. This all fell on deaf ears. As Jamie's face was getting more and more red with yelling at me, I decided to tell her that I would resign immediately. That done, Jamie then decided to tell me that she was glad I was leaving because I "had not given [her] a chance," and that she thought we did not get along. She asked me to explain why. As I was resigning, I decided to be honest, and tell her that I agreed with her; we did not get along. In the hour and a half that I was stuck in that woman's office, she did not let me speak once without interrupting me. It was horrible.

To add to this, the Big Boss and CEO, called the center to yell at me about "being unprofessional" (regarding talking about why my co-worker was leaving). Again, not once during that half hour tirade was I asked for MY SIDE of the story!!! The CEO even admitted to me that she didn't know the whole story, but regardless she was going to yell at me anyway. The only positive thing I gleaned from being yelled at by the CEO was that I discovered that the person who called the office to tell them I was "spreading secrets" was, in fact, NOT A PARENT but was the preschool teacher who is a very malignant person. So, all in all, the CEO and Jamie were willing to believe the other teacher who heard part of a conversation over my side of the story!!!

Ironically, I do agree, albeit partially, with the CEO and Jamie that I should not have "spoken for my co-worker." However, I think it is completely ridiculous as grounds for letting someone go. Perhaps I should have let my co-worker's letter speak for itself, and remained silent when parents questioned me about it. However, I felt it my duty to inform the parents, and to keep a healthy dialogue between parents and school. Sadly, my work record there of all the extra hours I put into that place, all the extra work I did, and how much I actually cared about the children was forgotten in a heartbeat over an issue that is really not much of an issue.

Sincerely, Glad to be Gone. 



I took a job at a family run business. David (the father) was the general manager and Anna (the mother) was the office administrator. The deal was that I would train with Anna for a few months, she would take a semi-retirement and I would be the office administrator. Was I naïve? Yes I was.

For the first 4 weeks Anna was the loveliest creature I could ever imagine. Her generosity, her cheery nature, was second to none. I looked forward to seeing her in the morning and could not for the life of me work out why her workers in the factory attached to the office hated her with a passion. I was convinced that they were the most ungrateful, horrible people I had ever met (sure, it seemed a little odd – but she was SO NICE) – how could they dislike such a lovely woman? Little did I know….

The first thing that was a little odd was that I was banned from communicating with the computer repairman. The computer system was old & dodgy & prone to breaking down. One day I called him for some advice and she became extremely annoyed – I figured she would relax eventually. Ha ha.

In the following weeks a few other little odd things happened. I was banned from using the internet, even for business purposes. She tried to stop me leaving the office during my 30 minute UNPAID lunch break. I had been taking the banking & post to the shops in her company car – suddenly I was banned from using it – no explanation given. I came back from lunch one day, she is standing by my computer demanding that I open the files she can see on my computer desktop, as she has become convinced that they are personal files. Of course, I opened them for her and they were business related files. No apology was forthcoming from Anna. I could go on. Nothing I did was quite right for her.

Anna & David had a blind poodle that came to the office every day – I loved that dog, she was so sweet. One of my jobs was to take it for a poo every afternoon. I actually preferred to be outside supervising the dog doing a poo that be inside with Anna.

The main office was split into 2 rooms, with a large window in the middle so that from her desk Anna could see my computer screen at all times (fair enough), and a door that she could close for privacy. In her room there was a huge cd player attached to a p.a. system so we could play music in the office and factory. The cd player held 100 cds, mostly pan pipes and organ music that Anna had chosen. The only speaker for the p.a. system was directly over my desk. To hear the music in her office, Anna needed to turn it up.

As a punishment, whenever Anna was angry with me, she would turn the music up loud – so loud I couldn't think – and close her office door, so she couldn't hear it. If I tried to make her turn the music down she would get angry and insist that I was invading her privacy by coming into her room to turn the music down. The only way I got it to stop in the end was one day to say I was going home if she didn't turn it down. I suggested that we could have the speaker moved to her office (David was agreeable, he said it would be easy to move it) but she wouldn't hear of it.

One day I had a headache. I mention I'm going to have a headache tablet. Anna says "No, you're not, those are only for EMERGENCIES". I said that I best go home to have one and left for the day. There wasn't a thing she could do and didn't pull that one again. (Strangely enough, my headache immediately cleared up once I left the office and I had a lovely lunch with a friend).

The final straw looms closer. I finally get my booking date for an operation – a personal operation – and as by this stage I've got plenty of leave worked up I feel confident in saying I'll be available on the date the clinic has given me. I could have taken this leave on sick leave, but as I want to have some extra recovery time (an extra week) and not rush back, I decide that holiday leave would be fine.

I approach Anna about taking leave. "What's it for?" she asks me (none of her business). I hum & haw and say its personal. Finally, I admit its for an operation. "What's the operation for?" she asks. I tell her that really IS none of her business. "Well in that case, you're not taking leave." I was dumbstruck.

In the next few weeks she snoops and presses to try to find out what I need an operation for, reading my email, standing next to my desk if she suspects I'm taking a personal call, even questioning my husband once. Her stupid husband gets in on the act "What hospital?" (a clinic actually) "But you're not sick" (you don't need to be on your deathbed to need a little op). It was all so frustrating – it was NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.

In the past I had seen Anna gossip about other co-workers, even coming to the decision one day that one of the factory workers was an alcoholic, because he drank beer and he'd needed a sick day – obviously he must be an alcoholic – I could never figure out how she came to these conclusions. When another called in sick another day she bought the newspaper and checked the Employment ads, convinced he hadn't come to work because there must be a good job in the paper. Why would I tell these people any of my personal business?

I pushed the date of the op back a month, hoping that they would be reasonable. Now, I still could have taken sick leave but I was getting as warped as they were – now it was on principle.

About 2 weeks before the op date, I am called into Anna's office. She said she' d never had as much trouble with the computers as she'd had since I'd been working in their business. She accused me of deliberately "sabotaging" the computers. I could not believe my ears. Then she tells me I will be having my lunch at 1pm today, not 12 noon. When I ask why, she just says "Because I said so." No reason other than to bug me – that was the last straw – no-one comes between me and my food…a little tiny thing but that was it! I'd had it!

And so it was with great delight that I handed my 2 weeks notice of resignation. And here's the best bit – Anna cried! And David begged me to stay! A few days before I left, Anna told me tearily that I was the best secretary they'd ever had and wouldn't I reconsider my decision.

I told her no. I'd rather be unemployed. Ha ha ha! I lasted 9 months at that job, the girl who replaced me last 4 months. I've never been so happy to leave a job. Since I've left I've actually run into Anna at the shops twice, said hello and had a nice conversation. You got to be sorry for a person like that because she must have mental problems to be such a cow and there's nothing to be gained by being awful to her. My op was successful and I love my new job.



Here's a story for your "Bad Bosses" category.

I work for a very large US corporation in a regulatory/compliance function. You would think that working in this particular capacity would require you to be above board and totally ethical regarding the work place. Several years ago, I had a manager who was probably the most unethical and immoral manager I've ever worked for. His employees (including myself) were often required to go seminars or conferences, with registration fees, hotel expenses, and airfare paid by our company. One day "Bad Boss" said, "You know, I think about this stuff all the time and I know you do too. I know I think about it at night too and I think you do. So as far as I'm concerned, if you want to come into the office and only work one hour and just go home, that's okay, because I know you think about this stuff all the time. And don't worry about recording any exceptions in the time keeping system. And as far as I'm concerned, when you sign up to go to conferences or seminars paid for by the company, I think you probably know just as much about the subject matter as the people holding the conference, so just register and sit in the back of the room and after an hour or so, just leave. Then go sightseeing and enjoy a couple of days of paid vacation courtesy of the company!" This would be considered both time keeping fraud and fraudulent use of company funds, but he never seemed to have a problem with it, mainly because he would do these things himself. While some of my coworkers agreed with his philosophy, I never even thought about doing what he was suggesting. Eventually, it got so bad working for him (aside from being unethical, he was also just plain stupid and made dangerous decisions) that I had to leave a job I loved and was good at just because of "Bad Boss".

All of this time keeping fraud and fraudulent use of company funds was brought to the attention of our Ethics and Security departments, but this guy just lied about what he was doing and said he never ever told his employees to do this. The investigators believed him and didn't even slap his hands.

What was particularly upsetting to me was the fact that I was passed over for his position when it was advertised, even though I was much more qualified and had more experience and education in the field. He knew nothing about this particular area of regulatory law, but he was good buddies with our Chief General Counsel so that's how he got the job. That and I am female and the company I work for just doesn't promote women much. That is probably why they were recently sued in a class action law suit for gender discrimination relative to hiring practices, salary and promotional opportunities (the suit settled the night before the trial date!).

Several years later "Bad Boss" got his particular business unit in so much trouble (including potentially criminal trouble) with the U.S. Government that he was "removed" from the position. He wasn't fired, just put somewhere else where he could do no harm (which is nowhere as far as I'm concerned). But I'm sure he wasn't fired because he's buddies with our Chief General Counsel! Nepotism is alive and well!!!


Page Last Updated May 18, 2007