Many of us have a story (or more) of working for a terrible boss. Between moral flaws, lack of qualifications, or an inability to manage well, bad bosses make work terrible for everyone. At DIFW, we believe that God calls each of us to redeem the broken parts of our work, but this can be difficult when we work for a challenging leader.
We wanted to find out more about good bosses, so we developed a survey for #NationalBossDay and asked participants to tell us about their best–and worst–bosses. We weren’t sure what to expect when we asked for stories about our worst bosses, but our survey respondents did not disappoint. We picked our favorites and awarded them our Worst Boss Superlatives.
While we tend to celebrate good work and recognize exceptional bosses, it’s helpful to consider the opposite side. Hopefully these stories remind you that your own boss isn’t so bad. If you’re a leader and see yourself reflected in these, even slightly, perhaps it’s time to consider some ways to change your approach to management.
Without further delay, we now present the “winners.”
We worked in an open office. My worst boss would have meetings with us one-on-one in their "office," which was the backseat of their car. One time they shared an HR issue for another employee, and asked me what I would do. I gave them my answer, then they asked me to handle it for them.
As a new employee, I had made an error. Instead of privately coaching me about the mistake, my worst boss yelled at me in front of my co-workers.
At a staff meeting, my worst boss celebrated the employees who used the fewest number of personal days and, without an ounce of irony, gave them bonus personal days as their reward.
I served under a pastor who watched 8–10 soccer games each week so they could blog for a MLS syndicate. My worst boss passed off all responsibilities to me.
I used to work in a bagel shop, owned by a man we'll call “Steve.” One day, one of our regulars walked up to the counter with a quizzical look on his face. He leaned in and said to me, "I don't hear any yelling, so I guess Steve must not be here yet?"
One boss was so narcissistic and loved chaos. My worst boss would always leave really late for the airport. One day they left so late they had to speed all the way on the shoulder of the highway. They were in a rental car and instead of returning the car, drove to passenger drop off. They opened all the doors, threw the key in the front seat, grabbed the bags and left the car there. Then they called the rental car company and screamed at them while asserting that the reason they were not able to return the car on time was because someone stole it. (This is one of the mildest stories.)
My worst boss started every meeting or conversation with “You are the worst excuse for an employee I’ve ever seen.”
The boss held a strategy meeting with all of the department heads because they were supposedly developing a five-year strategic plan for the company. After about an hour of listening to everyone's (really thoughtful and good) feedback, my worst boss threw a temper tantrum and starting screaming about how they just wanted to have fun and coming to work every day should be fun for them.
When my worst boss was stressed out, they’d often snap at people trying to give constructive ideas to move towards efficiency. The worst part is, they only lashed out at the females in the office.
Editor’s note: In addition to these stories, our #NationalBossDay survey revealed some surprising findings. Take a look at the initial survey results. Additionally, we’ve made minor edits to the stories above to maintain confidentiality.
Dustin previously served as the director of communications for Denver Institute of Faith & Work, with prior communications and marketing experience at the University of Colorado Boulder and Wycliffe Bible Translators. He holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Colorado Denver and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. He and his family attend Storyline Church in Arvada.