During our working years, we spend most of our days working and learning how to deal with people who share our workspace. Our experiences can be fun and invigorating or they can suck the souls from our spirits and cause immense pain. If you have ever had to deal with outrageous bosses, you'll empathize!
Originally posted as Most Outrageous People I’ve Met in the Workplace on Yahoo Contributor Network, January 20, 2010, when I was battling breast cancer.
What follows are four true stories about people I've had to call "boss" since I was a teenager. These four people win the prize as the worst of the worst employers. I invite you to share your worst of the worst in the comments area below.
Most Outrageous Employer #1
Toupee Man was my first boss. He was the owner of a gift shop that housed expensive items and greeting cards. My job was to dust the shelves and to retrieve items from the storage room.
In those days women wore skirts, short skirts, and this dirty old man, instead of climbing the ladder himself, would tell me it was my job to climb the ladder while he stood at the bottom, holding it.
The day I realized that I needed to leave was the day he asked me if my parents knew that he stood outside my bedroom window watching me get dressed. I was 16. He was probably in his 50s or 60s.
Most Outrageous Employer #2
Stereotypical Lawyer munched on a cigar and leaned against his white caddy when he wasn't in the office. After my first four months with him, I was told that it was my duty to climb under his desk every morning and perform a particular act, something his former secretary had done every day.
I thought he was joking until his partner told me he wasn't. This happened in the days when women consistently dealt with sexual harassment. I never would have thought to report him. Instead, I asked for my check early that week and never went back.
The following spring, when I hadn't received my tax information from him, I called his office. His former secretary picked up the phone. What a surprise.
She was expecting my call and told me that the only way I could get my tax forms was to come in to get them.
I reported him to the IRS. When my tax forms came in, he altered my social security number. I reported him again.
I was 19 when I worked for him. Several years later, when I'd found my voice, I went looking for him. Fortunately for him, I never found him. (Update, years after I originally wrote this article, I found him online – in an obituary – he died 3 months before I wrote this article.)
Most Outrageous Employer #3
Evil Harry wasn't my actual boss. His wife was. But he ended up coming to work for her, because he thought he could help by training me to become an accountant (I was hired to be her assistant for a local cable television program).
Harry's "help" came in the form of incessant badgering, condescending comments, and constant belittling - all reserved for me.
Every morning, when he finally made an appearance, he stank so badly of alcohol, I couldn't stand being in the same room with him. But I put up with him, because I liked his wife and I was hoping this whole accountant phase would pass.
We were shooting a film during that time and he asked me to order a bench that we needed for a scene. I asked, "From where?" He looked at me with a sneer that showed such disgust, I couldn't imagine any human being looking at another with such seething hatred.
"Just find one!"
"What kind of bench?" I asked. At that point, in front of everybody in the room, he went into a tirade telling me that I should KNOW what kind of bench they needed. He then screamed, "FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF AND STOP BOTHERING ME!"
Later it turned out that he had assumed I had read that part of the script that described the bench (nobody had shared it with me), and rather than apologize to me, he ignored me.
So I went up to him in front of everybody and demanded that he treat me with the same respect he used to treat everybody else. I was fired the following week by his wife, who was so obviously racked with guilt, she had a very hard time telling me.
Most Outrageous Employer #4
The year was 2007. At a time when jobs were hard to come by, I was lucky to have found a job I knew I would enjoy. I was to be the "idea person" for a local radio station. However, just before I started, the station manager who hired me was fired and replaced with another one. They also hired a new promotions director.
Raunchy Roma was a former stand up comedienne who somehow started working at the radio station the same day I started. For reasons that will never make sense to me, she became one of my new bosses.
All three of us started on the same day and my job changed from "idea person" to sales rep. I immediately started looking elsewhere for a different job.
In the meantime I had to put up with Raunchy Roma (30 something), the promotions director. She thrived on making everybody uncomfortable with what she thought were comedic comments. It gave her great joy to see the young 23-year-old man cringe every time she opened her mouth. And she found great pleasure in watching the women gape in astonishment at her unprofessional remarks.
In our first sales meeting she announced to the 23-year-old, to me, and to two other women, one of whom was in her 30s, the other in her 40s, that she was "effing" bleeding out of her "effing" vagina like an "effing" pig. And she didn't say "effing".
She managed to say the raunchiest, vilest things in our sales meetings - so completely unprofessional that all of us were looking elsewhere for jobs. A month later we heard the same "effing" comment. She swore us to secrecy and told us we weren't allowed to tell anybody in the office what went on behind closed doors.
Not everything she did or said was kept inside, however, because on one sales trip, she mooned the 23-year-old on a busy highway in the middle of the afternoon with me in the back seat behind her. The guy was in the car next to us.
Fortunately the entire staff was let go and I thankfully lost that job.
Today, I write from the comfort of my bed (not that I'm lazy - I'm just battling cancer). And today, I would speak out for others who were putting up with people like those mentioned above. I'm glad I spoke up for myself with Evil Harry. I would have loved to have been given that same opportunity with Toupee Man and Stereotypical Lawyer, but I never got the chance.
As far as Raunchy Roma is concerned - I hope she found an audience for herself. I personally don't find that kind of humor amusing, and I definitely do NOT want to see it in the workplace, but I'm sure some people enjoy that kind of humor and really, because she had two small children, I wish her the best.