7 ways bosses annoy employees

Even good managers frustrate their employees now and then – while bad managers, of course, do it regularly. Here are seven of the most common complaints about things bosses often do without even realizing it.

1. Making social events unofficially required. Employers frequently assume that employees will view office social events, like staff happy hours or holiday parties, as a treat – and then get offended when employees don’t want to go. Most employees would prefer that employers make it clear when events are mandatory, rather than implying they’re optional and then penalizing people who don’t attend. And managers should realize that not everyone wants to socialize with their coworkers, and requiring them to attend events that are ostensibly to build their morale may have the opposite effect.

2. Pressuring employees to donate to charity. Employers often mean well when they organize workplace charity drives, but too often managers pressure employees to donate and even monitor individual participation. Charity drives are great, but participation needs to be strictly voluntary, both officially and unofficially. How employees spend their money is their business, not their employer’s.

3. Calling employees who are on vacation. Too many employers act as if employees are on-call day and night, even when they’re on vacation – which means that too many employees have had their vacations interrupted by calls and emails from the office. Companies that operate this way will have trouble retaining great employees over time, because great people with options will leave for companies that respect their personal lives.

4. Holding endless meetings. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have a looming deadline but being forced to sit in a long and needless meeting – but it’s also incredibly common. Most employees report that they waste far too many hours a week in meetings without a clear agendas or purposes, and that they’re forced to sit around listening to idle conversation when they could be working more productively at their desks.

5. Not making hard decisions. One common way this plays out is in managers who won’t address performance problems or fire underperformers – and if you’ve ever worked somewhere where laziness or shoddy work was tolerated, you know how frustrating and demoralizing this can be. But it plays out in other ways as well. For example, a manager who’s afraid of conflict may hesitate to make necessary course corrections mid-way through a project, but then be unhappy with your final product. Good managers know that their job is to solve problems, not avoid them, and that they can’t value preserving harmony or avoiding tough conversations above all else.

6. Delegating without truly delegating. Sometimes a manager is so nervous about, or invested in, a project that even though she has technically assigned it to a staffer, she doesn’t really let go of it, continuing to drive the work herself or even doing some of it herself. This leads to confusion about who is actually responsible for the work getting done and diminished ownership (and therefore diminished performance) on the part of the staffer it was assigned to.

7. Hinting, rather than speaking straightforwardly. Some managers feel kinder or more polite sugarcoating a difficult conversation, but it’s not at all kind to let someone miss an important message. When a manager sugarcoats to the point that her message is missed, or presents requirements as mere suggestions, staffers end up confused about expectations, and the manager ends up frustrated that her “suggestions” weren’t acted upon. Most employees prefer straightforward communication so they don’t need to try to figure out what they’re really supposed to be hearing.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    From what I have heard, my boss is the one who calls while the employee is on vacation. He has done that to one of my coworkers to find out what day she will actually be returning on because according to him, she did not make that clear. It’s not that he was angry with her; he just didn’t pay attention when she was making her plans. So when I took a vacation, I made sure to switch phones with a family member so I couldn’t be reached personally. The relative would take the messages and relay them to me when I contacted her!

      1. Janet*

        At one of my favorite jobs there was a “sales bulletin board” and everyone could tack up order forms there. You could check it out and order Avon, Pampered Chef or Boy Scout popcorn. Or you could avoid it entirely.

        1. Danielle*

          I actually like ordering fund-raiser type stuff from my co-workers. My fav is the Italian cheese bread kit from Little Caesar’s.

          1. Sarah M*

            I like ordering for fundraisers too, when I can. But I’ve never been accosted by anyone pressuring a sale at work.

        2. AD*

          Yes, I don’t mind things left out in the break room, but it is hard to say no to a personal solicitation. I usually go with “oh, I just bought from my nephew” or something like that.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        My former company used to have quotas for all the managers to hit for United Way. We were constantly pressured to donate to that. “…even if it’s just $1.00, so we can have 100% participation.” Some people would cave, some wouldn’t, but the managers didn’t give up until the fundraising was officially over.

    1. MaryTerry*

      Three years running I left my “Girl Scout” cookie order card out in the break room. Next to the President’s daughter’s card. Guess who sold more cookies?

  2. Janet*

    Love the list. So great. I guess this might fall under the “hard decisions” but I have always loved it when bosses say “I have an open door – come in anytime” and yet when you do come into their office, they won’t look up from e-mail to talk to you. Or one step past that, if you attempt to book 30 minutes on their calendar, they’ll either accept the meeting and not show up to work that day or just ignore the invite, neither accepting nor declining it. Like they know that something tense might come up and they would rather just not deal with it.

    I’ll never forget when I was coming back to work from my first maternity leave, I attempted to talk with my boss 4 times about that first week’s hours (I wanted to see if I could come in an hour later my first day) and after 4 missed phone calls and unreturned messages, I arranged to meet with her in person only to arrive at work and find that she decided to work from home that day.

  3. Xay*

    I’ve run into #1 in my current position: not only are social events required, but attendance was included on the annual performance evaluation. To top it off, social events were often scheduled during the afternoon of a workday but depending on your employee status, some people could count attending the event as work time while others had to use personal leave. I’m hoping that this policy will change because so many employees have complained to HR.

    1. KellyK*

      Can any experts on employment law confirm whether it’s legal to require someone to attend something and have them use leave? (I’m guessing it is, because you’re still getting paid, but *wow* is that sketchy.)

      1. fposte*

        As an interested amateur, I find that the feds don’t generally care about leave. Sometimes states are more interested, and by “states” I almost always mean “California.”

        1. danr*

          Add New Jersey to the list. The laws and courts (so far) are decidedly employee friendly. Of course this has our current Gov (Christie) up in arms about a biased system.

    2. lauren*

      I hate when the holiday party is scheduled so everyone can go. I can’t get out of it if I wanted to. I used to loathe my co-workers that had kids or elderly parents cause they could duck out early on purpose. One co-worker would fake “my kid is sick” the day of, and another would get “called to school” and get to skip it.

  4. Suzanne*

    Oh, the meetings! One former supervisor held weekly staff meetings that routinely lasted 2 – 4 hours. He had an agenda, most of which was him telling us how much work he did and how busy he was. One co-worker often dozed while another pulled out his phone at intervals and texted people. I can’t remember much of anything being accomplished other than to reprimand people for minor, minor things which could certainly have been better addressed one on one.

    1. Tamsin*

      My former boss would schedule meetings one hour before I was set to leave for the day, then make the meeting 3-4 hours long, on a regular basis. She would apologize profusely to me and told me I could count it as comp time (here at university we don’t do overtime), but then she kept on doing it. I would ask to schedule the meetings earlier to stick to the agenda so I could leave on time, but she never did either of those things. She was the absolute WORST about long, pointless meetings. And they were every week.

      1. DC*

        We meet with another department every month – and every month, there are NO agenda items. We literally sit around a table while the director goes, “Ok, so……anyone have anything to talk about? How’s everyone doing?” I hate, hate, hate these meetings. Who meets without an agenda? I’ve yet to figure out what the purpose of these meetings is….

      2. Long Time Admin*

        We used to play our version of “Lingo Bingo”, which was a list of the boss’ favorite expressions and the latest corporate buzzwords. The first person to check all the items on the list would fake a coughing fit. It was fun!

  5. Anonymous*

    I once had a supervisor ask me if I actually thought it was his responsibility to hold my co-workers (and his supervisees) accountable for fulfilling job requirements and duties (I had already talked to my co-workers to try to resolve the issues and was trying to get feedback on how to improve the situation). He also said he liked to hint about issues rather than be straightforward with feedback because some people might have their feelings hurt. The experience taught me a lot about “managing up” and about how valuable good managers are!

  6. Anonna Miss*

    #3. My boss called me while I was in the hospital ICU. Not so much to find out how I was, but to ask when I planned on returning to work because it was our busy season.

      1. Anonna Miss*

        Actually, I don’t work there anymore. He fired me while I was on this medical leave. After 20 years of employment at this place.

    1. Kimberlee*

      Well, while that is a super jerk move, what exactly constitutes “busy season?” I mean, is it really the kind of job where if you have an unplanned absence of more than a couple days, it really screws things up? I can’t really think of what that would mean, but I assume jobs like that are out there… and if the boss’ job is to run the business, without regard for the feelings of employees, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

      I worry sometimes that there’s a disconnect… like, Alison often mentions that if you’re trying to get a raise, you DON’T make it personal, don’t try to tell your employer that you need the extra money because your kid is sick or your mortgage is going under. If you’re going to be in the hospital for a month, and it’s the “busy season,” it could just be that the employer’s job is to run the business, not keep ensure they’re employees are happy. Just a thought… If you were going to be in hospital for like a week, I can’t imagine it’s better for the employer to can you and re-train someone new.

    1. Suzanne*

      Poor communication–huge, huge problem. A situation just arose at my workplace this morning. One of our small staff took half a day off but apparently told no one but the director who did not pass the information on. Meanwhile, the receptionist is fielding calls for her and telling people she’ll be in any time, while someone else is waiting for her signature on some documents not knowing that she wouldn’t be in until noon. Poor communication makes the whole organization look bad, but it is rampant.

    2. Another Emily*

      #7 touched is part of poor communication, but I agrree. There are many irritating ways that a boss could communicate poorly with an employee.

      1. Another Emily*

        Oops, just scratch “touched” out there. I was originally going to write something else. (Ironic typo?)

    3. Piper*

      Biggest problem, in my opinion. My old boss was the worst communicator in the world and it completely derailed projects.

    4. Jesse*

      I just did an job interview presentation in which I covered communication. (I called it patron satisfaction).

      #1: If you can’t answer the question right away, follow up within twenty-four hours. Even if your follow-up is “I wasn’t able to find the answer to your question yet. The person who absolutely knows the answer will be back from vacation on Wednesday. I’ll email you by 5pm on Thursday.”

      Much easier to have a frustrated person in the loop than a frustrated person out of the loop.

      #2: Tell your front-line staff stuff. When you make a decision, tell your front-line staff. Let them know what’s changed. Let them make basic interpretations to the rules which best suit the situation at the time.

      1. Esra*

        Much easier to have a frustrated person in the loop than a frustrated person out of the loop.

        One million yes’s. The most frustrating is when you’ve been begging for content only to find out it’s ready, it’s been ready for a week, and you were just totally out of the loop.

        (Seriously, my manager hates me.)

  7. Sarah M*

    Oy, #1. How about required potlucks as a morale booster? That’s currently being considered. I do not want to spend money that I don’t really have, I don’t want to risk my food senstivities for “morale,” and I don’t want to eat what the non-handwashers (I see them in the bathroom) make AND they bring in food that needs to be refrigerated but leave it on their desks all morning. The worst part, I have to clock out for lunch and take an extra-long lunch to be social. No thank you.

    1. Tamsin*

      ” I don’t want to eat what the non-handwashers (I see them in the bathroom) make…”

      EW. I’m so sorry. Maybe that’s a good day to have a migraine? Food poisoning? Some terrible 24-hour illness no one will question?

      1. Sarah M*

        The “I will eat the lunch I brought due to food sensitivities” statement works pretty well. But I still feel obligated to sit with everyone else and take a long unpaid lunch. (I don’t like my coworkers, if that’s not clear!)

        1. KellyK*

          Glad that part at least is working. It might be worth sitting with everyone else for only the amount of time you’d normally take for lunch, then making your excuses and going back to work. Presumably, you have to work later for the time you spend clocked out for lunch, which might not be possible if you have a kid to pick up or errands to run. If I didn’t want to eat with my coworkers, but didn’t want to make waves about it, I think it would just so happen that I needed to get to the Post Office that afternoon, or some other business that isn’t open all hours.

        2. Diane*

          The potluck excuse fairy grants you the following: You have a deadline, a meeting across town, a webinar, a root canal, an allergy to warm lettuce, and no time banked for such shenanigans.

        3. Kelly O*

          I am so with you on that one. I really dislike forced camaraderie.

          Our CEO just started this “Lunch with Jim Bob (not his real name)” and we have to go to lunch with five other “randomly” selected people from the office and talk about where our company is going and what we’d do to improve.

          Well the first bunch got asked what they’d do to improve the company. That was mostly the new people, with one person who’s been with the company over five years. She mentioned improving our vacation time, revisiting our pay scale, and being consistent in the application of rules across the board.

          I was in the second bunch. We did not get to say what we would change, but instead went down a typewritten list of “things that make people happy at work” from 1988 (no kidding) and I got treated like I was crazy because I just said “no, my opinion does not matter” and then tried not to cry when they talked about “I have a best friend at work” because this is the same company that fired my husband and ran off the best boss I’ve ever had.

          So yeah, peachy. And really a great way to spend a lunch hour.

          1. Jamie*

            Non-optional working lunches – one of my biggest pet peeves.

            At a former job my first day after being reassigned to corporate my new boss took me to lunch. The last thing I want to do on my first day in a new position is spend an hour “getting to know” someone by sacrificing my lunch hour…which I was counting on using to text my husband while crying about how awful the new gig was.

            I do sometimes arrange lunch meetings, because it’s necessary schedule-wise – but we always provide the food and make it clear that everyone is still entitled to take their lunch hour before or after – so they aren’t losing their break.

            I try to minimize that, except for meetings where I know we all prefer that.

  8. Tamsin*

    At the university I formerly worked for, once a semester we would get a memo asking us to donate a portion of our paycheck back to the university. It was always a sugary memo from the president describing how wonderful it is to donate, with little anecdotes from employees who regularly donated – and these employees were full-time professors making around 100k/year, very much unlike the rest of us peons. One year they even sent us glossy full-color pamphlets with said rich professors smiling faces telling us the universe would bless us greatly if we donated. Those always ended up in the trash. Why the hell would I donate part of my paycheck back? Why not just dock my pay?

        1. Tamsin*

          What really killed me was that for every single memo – not just the donation memo – that came from the president or VP staff, an email was also sent. So they wasted paper, ink, and human resources to send 400+ employees hard copy memos every week that had a corresponding email memo. So glad I don’t work there any more. That place stole a part of my soul.

    1. Sarah M*

      When you agreed to take the position, did you know that they were going to “request” this of you? So you could say, “I’m goin to need 5% more salary since you want 5% of my salary donated back.”

  9. Erik*

    #3 is a problem – especially when it’s for a non-emergency issue. My vacation is my time – period. If they can’t handle me being out of the office then they have bigger problems.

    Other items that stand out for me:
    1) Claiming that they have an “open door policy”, but their ears are closed. They don’t listen to any employee feedback or suggestions.
    2) Poor communication – you’re constantly kept guessing what they meant, requiring you to go back and forth several times.
    3) Misuse of text messaging and email. This drives me nuts in my current company. People keep using these tools when the person is only 6 feet away! Get off your lazy butt and walk over there! There’s a lot of noise that can be fixed with a quick conference call or short (5-10 minute) meeting to sync up.
    4) No road map or long term goals/plans. When you have no long term goals set up, you have no idea where you stand and where you should be heading. You end up going day to day, and of course the boss keeps changing their mind along the way, so you’re constantly spinning in circles.

    1. indie_rachael*

      Your #3: My coworkers will call the person a few desks over ON SPEAKERPHONE. Not only does it create an annoying echo, but the people who do this could definitely benefit from every bit of exercise they can work into their day!

  10. Anonymous*

    My boss’s boss, who I interact with a lot, does #6 and #7 a lot. Sometimes #7 is not even about difficult topics. He couches many things as “suggestions” but sometimes he really is giving directives. He thinks this is friendlier or more inclusive, but really it’s confusing.

  11. Blinx*

    I’ll add to the list:

    — Having no control over your calendar. You instructed your admin to accept all meetings, resulting in being double/triple booked, and no one knowing which meeting you’re actually at (or if you’re in the building at all). Also failing to show up for team meetings that YOU organized, but never cancelled.

    — Having hidden agendas, resulting in us never quite knowing where we stood.

    — Taking the time to do long-term planning/goal setting with employees, but never backing these up, day-to-day. Seems like it was just a task to check off of your to do list.

    — Corporations making charity giving competitive among divisions. Giving to charities through payroll deduction and having the corporation match the donations is a wonderful idea and very convenient, but please don’t track the percentages given.

  12. Michael*

    I’ve had my boss overnight my laptop to me while I’m on vacation, and I was even out of the country.

    1. your mileage may vary*

      Please tell me this was because you were desperate to update your Facebook status.

      1. Michael*

        I wish. (Of course back when this happened, Facebook was for college students only.) They realized too late they had a deliverable and needed me to address the technical issues. They sent the laptop signature required. So, when the front desk at the resort showed it to me I told them to keep it in the back and I’ll sign for it the morning I left. (Make sure the official record was on my side) My boss wasn’t upset with me that I didn’t do it, it was done to make the “program manager” happy. Of course, the engineering department wanted to do it, because it was hilarious.

  13. Anonymous*

    Boss bad mouthing other employees for leaving at 5pm, making you feel like you can’t leave until at least 6, even when you get in an hour before said boss.

    My least favorite invention in the world is wi-fi on planes. “Oh, you’ve got a five hour flight? Great, you can work on X, Y and Z.” .
    Besides the expectation of being on call on vacations, the guilt trips leading up to the vacation are also very annoying. (“I’m going to need an entire month off to recover from your three days off, it’s going to be awful.”)

    Taking their own stress out on you in various ways.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Wow. You must work for my former boss. For a couple years I worked from 7 or 8 am until at least 8 pm, five days a week. I sometimes worked from home in addition to coming in on an occasional Saturday. On those rare days when I decided to leave at 5:30 or 6 pm he would “joke” and say, “Oh, working a half day today?” To this day, FIVE YEARS LATER and two bosses later, I still feel a twinge of guilt when I leave a 5 PM.

      He also would make a big deal out of me going on vacation. Upon my return I’d have to sit in his office and hear him go on about all the things that supposedly went wrong while I was away. He’d call me during vacation, too. That served to make me VERY protective of my time off. Lord help you if you call me while I’m out, especially if I’m sick. Everyone deserves time off to decompress and there are very few emergencies that can’t be dealt with by someone else in the company. It may take longer and be a little painful, but it will eventually get done.

  14. Student*

    #1 is timely for me. My boss just decided it would be great to require group lunches on Tuesdays for the summer.

    Of course, he hasn’t specified anything at all about the lunches, including when he intends us to start doing this or where we would eat lunch. I had confused co-workers wandering into my office yesterday asking if I knew any details, since the boss was not in his office at the appointed time and hadn’t clarified anything. The only thing worse than an unofficially required work social event is an unofficially required, completely unspecified work social event.

    1. Anonymous*

      At my job, the owner and manager ARE family. They also argue like family, as in yell and get annoyed at each other. It creates an an awkward atmosphere. I don’t need to hear their arguments like they’re at home.

    2. Esra*

      No, see, you’re family when they need people to work a little more (for free) or donate time and money. You’re employees (and this is a corporation, you know!) when it comes to adequate time off and raises.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I know. Whenever someone says the family thing, I always want to point out that my Dad can never fire me (however much he may have wanted to when I was 17) – and ask if they also intend to never fire me, regardless of my actions. Cause that would be useful information.

      2. Jenn*

        Exactly! I love how my dept is suddenly a “team” when more work needs to be done….

  15. ChristineH*

    #4 – I honestly can’t think of one job where there wasn’t endless meetings (except maybe my very first job in the late 90s)! In one place where I volunteered and temped, I was mercifully not required to attend the staff meetings, but there were times when I couldn’t get important questions answered because it seemed like the meetings ran on and on and on. Even one-on-one meetings with supervisors seemed to last forever!

  16. Diane*

    I work at a place the plans endlessly, but never does. Rather, the leadership plays at planning, but never gets beyond the big, fluffy idealistic philosophies, so there’s no measurable goal, no clear lines of authority, timelines, outcomes, let alone all the little steps in between. And there’s no time set aside for anyone to accomplish whatever those of us in the middle try to articulate.

    Meanwhile, my office is being cut because we can’t get anyone around us to commit to–even think about–the details. Hell, we can’t get them to show up to meetings they committed to. So, even when we tease projects out of the ether and get nods of approval, the projects don’t get done, we don’t get funded, and they assume it’s us. But it will be better next year when there’s a new plan in place. Ha.

    It’s also possible that I’m not picking up on hints because I’ve missed the required social events while meeting deadlines on my vacation, which I should not have taken because the money should have gone to the work charity.

    1. Suzanne*

      “It’s also possible that I’m not picking up on hints because I’ve missed the required social events while meeting deadlines on my vacation, which I should not have taken because the money should have gone to the work charity.”

      That is hilarious.

  17. Anonymous*

    Turning every banal fact into a major problem which requires a massive project to be rectified on an emergency basis (e.g. the location of my coworkers’ office, existence of a group drive on the server, etc.)

    Guess what, sir? You’re just training us to withhold ALL information from you and move forward on projects without your approval–big and small. I’m a rule-follower at heart but now I’m a micromanager’s nightmare: autonomous and competent.

    1. Jenn*

      Heh. My boss does this, too. And we do the same thing: withhold details unless absolutely necessary.

  18. class factotum*

    How about having to write your performance appraisal when you never got any objectives?

    Related question: Do managers write performance appraisals any more or is this something all employees do for themselves now?

    Not related but also annoying: Making already overworked salaried people scan and archive their own receipts for their expense reports so the hourly people in T&E don’t have to do it.

    1. AD*

      Oh, I’ve had to do this, but I had clear objectives, so I had to write about how I did or didn’t meet those.

    2. Blinx*

      Did you work at my old place? Objectives usually trickled down to us in June or July. Then by November they’d request our year end accomplishments. That sounds logical.

      They also had managers do everything themselves (trip planning and expensing for instance), so that admins could assist even more people, or be eliminated altogether.

    3. Jenn*

      How about having to write your own performance appraisal at all? I spent all year busting my butt; now I have to spend pages writing about how much I busted my butt??

      1. Bonnie*

        So you’re willing to rely on your supervisor to remember everything you did an give you proper credit? No, thanks. I’ll write my own performance appraisal every time.

        1. class factotum*

          Bonnie, that’s a good point. But it would help to have my actual objectives if they want to know how I did compared to my objectives.

          It would also help to know that the PA are actually being used for something instead of just stuffed in a drawer, never to be seen again, once they are written.

          1. Bonnie*

            I agree that your company is implementing poorly. I set my own objectives during each year’s PA with my supervisors so that each year I know what they are from the begining. So many companies do PA wrong but I think self-evaluations are always better because they give you a chance to remind your managers of all the things you did right during the year that they might have forgotten about.

    4. Tax Nerd*

      Class factotum, as a manager now, I get why employees are asked to write their performance appraisals. It’s to remind their manager of all the great stuff you’ve done that they’ve already forgotten about. That time nine months ago when you put in superhuman effort to deliver, and it went amazingly well, and the customer loved it? Already forgotten. Six months ago when your manager went to Antarctica for three weeks and you held down the fort with nary a problem? Hasn’t crossed their mind.

      It’s not malice; it’s just forgetfulness. We’re worried about our own reviews from our VPs, all the office politics we blissfully ignored in our youth, that irate customer who is out of line but pays well that we have to deal with. So all the great things you accomplished months ago have slipped our minds. But don’t worry, any minor missteps are well-remembered, and if they’re forgotten, there’s no point in writing them down. So just bullet point your accomplishments.

      As for the receipts and expense reports, this was my first ever job, so I am going to disagree with you. I was supposed to be a staff accountant, but really I spent half my time trying to match an envelope of receipts against some random spreadsheet. (Employees often made up their own since there was no system.) It seemed like there would be a 70% match, at best. There would be large expenses listed with no receipt; random receipts that didn’t match anything listed; dinners out for one person on a business trip that included two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and seven alcoholic drinks. Pluse a few random clearly-personal expenses people thought I wouldn’t notice, like clothing. All for a company of 200 people, 2/3 of which were consultants that were full-time road warriors. I was working Saturdays and Sundays to sort out other people’s expense reports so they’d get the money to pay the company credit card bill. And I wasn’t hourly. My salary was $22K. (I left after 12 months to go to grad school and never be in private industry again. They replaced me with three clerks, which tells you the work that I was really doing.)

      1. class factotum*

        Oh, I’m not defending bad expense reports. And T&E still has to match the original receipts, which get submitted with the report, to the report. But T&E is no longer responsible for archiving them. So the originals have to be submitted, but the employee has to scan them before submitting the report and then archive them for however long.

        I had no idea people did such crummy reports. I don’t enter any expense that doesn’t have a receipt unless it’s mileage from my house to the airport. But my former employer’s system and the one I’m using now to do my husband’s reports (it took me four years to convince him that I was capable of taking this task off his hands) are very detailed and rigorous and will not take an expense without documentation, although I suppose there would be a way to cheat if you really wanted to. I’ve never thought it worth losing a job over a fraudulent expense report.

        You’re a better person than I am. I would never have worked weekends to save someone else’s butt when they had screwed up an expense report! I would have sent it back with a note saying it was missing information. But I’m mean that way.

        1. Anonymous*

          I recently discovered the ‘joy’ of having to do all of my own expense reports in PeopleSoft recently (before, I could just fill out a paper form and give it and the receipts to an admin)….. by the end of my first attempt, I was sincerely hoping that Larry Ellison gets to spend eternity filling out reports in that thing. I have a quad-core Xeon with a ton of RAM, and the Peoplesoft web app interface was lagging so badly it was painful.

  19. CatB (Europe)*

    Long meetings: at my last job before I went freelance (sales director for a FMCG-distributing local company), my boss (the company owner) would come to work around 2 pm, By that time I alreay had a busy morning sending sales reps to the field, making sure the goods are delivered, filing sales reports and so on and I would finally get a break and go out to have a cigarette. Each and every day he would arrive as if he was stalking me, pull his car and ask me “Do you ever do anything here, or I am supposed to pay you for smoking?”

    Then I would ususally end working by 10 pm, when he would call a meeting, or have one-on-one discussions with his staff. The earliest I ever left the office, while working there (two years), was 11 pm. The latest was 4 am next morning. In those cases, still, I would come to work at 10 am. It’s the same boss who didn’t appreciate “the timing” my uncle chose to die.

    Mind you, here we have no such thing as “exempt employee”. The law requires the employer to give you a monthly salary, but then the amount gets broken down hourly and the employer *must* pay overtime for every hour above 40h/week, averaged for a whole month. I never saw overtime, as you would imagine.

  20. AD*

    Going to some industry seminar, hearing about a new fad, and bringing it up in every possible meeting, perhaps even assigning people to look into it.

    If I hear one more time about “The Cloud”, I am going to break someone’s arm.

    1. Natalie*

      Ah, yes, and my favorite (related) problem – “fixing” things that aren’t broken.

    2. Anonymous*

      Ha ha ha! I know, “The Cloud” is big at my office too. The best part was when IT moved our email to the cloud and then everyone started blaming ALL IT issues on it even though it was only our email that was impacted. “Ack, Word crashed! It must have been that move to the cloud!”

      1. Yup*

        Subproblem: Reading every dopey half-baked business book that’s published, and insisting that THIS is answer to our ongoing problem XYZ. Extra points if the book involves really asinine metaphors/imagery, or special lingo that will be forced into the company lexicon.

        1. Kelly O*

          Dude seriously if I hear “putting the right person in the right seat on the bus” one more time I am going to explain VERY loudly that as long as the damn driver knows where the bus is going and can steer well, it doesn’t matter where you sit, but no one wants to sit next to the jerk talking loudly on his cell phone all day about his gastrointestinal tract.

          Seriously. I get it. You read a book. You want to know what I read? A Song of Ice and Fire. So does that mean I can go around lopping off the heads of those who displease me? Or tossing them out of extremely tall castles built on the highest mountaintops? Does it? Because seriously I could use a dragon or three…

  21. Heather*

    I’ve never commented before, but #3 was so timely it pulled me out of lurkerdom. Yesterday afternoon our group’s director had his admin send an email telling us that we were all to send him our vacation days for the summer and provide a contact number where we could be reached when out of the office. Morale was already in the toilet, but he seems determined to drive it all the way back to the sewage treatment plant.

    Most of us are salaried non-exempt, so if he wants to call us on vacation, he’s going to have to pay us for that time. (He’s a lawyer. You’d think that would have occurred to him.) And there are 8 of us doing the exact same job, which is project-based, so when a problem comes up and the task owner is out, one of us just covers it. We’ve never had a problem related to vacation absences.

    Instead of providing our numbers, a few of us are responding, “I will not be reachable when on vacation.”

    1. your mileage may vary*

      It’s astounding how many vacations I’ve taken to places where the cell service is “questionable”. :)

      1. Anonymous*

        My Dad is on the road during the day. When it comes to lunch, he knows all of the pubs which have no cell coverage.

        1. Heather*

          Ha! Sometimes my boss (my direct supervisor, not the one making the fuss about vacation) will call me on my cell at lunch for something that can totally wait for an hour. But somehow, my phone is always “on vibrate” and I don’t hear it ringing ;)

    2. Jamie*

      “Instead of providing our numbers, a few of us are responding, “I will not be reachable when on vacation.””

      Good for you. I really think work calls on personal time (not just vacations – but after hours and weekends as well) should be limited to true emergencies.

      And there are positions where there are legitimate true emergencies. I had to call the maintenance engineer once on his day off, because of a power issue no one else had the expertise to handle…but I made sure his boss knew about the time he spent and that he got his OT and a thank you (in the form of donuts from me.)

      As the only in house IT, I always want to be called if there is an emergency that’s impacting connectivity or production. Always. There were times where I had to diplomatically point out to some colleagues what constitutes an emergency. I found that for the non-emergencies a polite response that I would take care of it upon my return, or directing them to someone there who may be able to help, went a long way towards minimizing the trivial calls. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to drive 30+ miles to check on the servers after a power outage. I’ve shoveled through 5 feet of snow to get in the front door after a blizzard to make sure I was there when the power came back so we can get going. I’ve worked many holidays so I could do server maintenance without disrupting the users.

      If you prove that you will be available without complaint when really needed, good management will try to insulate you from the stuff that can wait. Most of the time.

      Also, good management will make it clear upon hiring if your position has an on-call element to it. That is not something that should be sprung upon someone after the fact – because people have differing levels of availability and should be able to take that into account when accepting a job.

      1. Heather*

        Yes, that’s exactly it. There’s nothing about our jobs that requires us to be on call when on vacation – someone else can handle it and it’s fine. I can’t think of a situation that would be a true emergency that only one person could handle. And we already track vacations via Outlook, so it’s not like people are disappearing for vacation and no one knows why they’re not in the office.

        I guess it might sound a little petty on its own, but there are so many other issues that it’s like death by a thousand cuts. No surprise that every single person in the group is job-hunting.

        (It’s pretty funny, actually – every time the boss gets notification that someone applied internally, he calls them in and tells them that he values them and that they’re “on his radar.” Then when they take a job, he asks them what he could do to make them stay and when they say “nothing,” he tries to block the move or force them to stay with the group for an extra few months.)

    3. J*

      The strategy in my department is to, AT MOST, state in our out of office response that “so-and-so can contact me in the event of the emergency” and then make sure that so-and-so has my cell phone # and knows what is truly an emergency.

      The beach I go to on vacation most years has no internet access and very poor cell reception, and it is delightful.

    4. JT*

      “I will not be reachable when on vacation.”


      That said, I’m very willing to be reachable on vacation because my boss and co-workers don’t abuse that – they only contact me in emergencies, or send questions to my work email in case I happen to be checking in.

      Respecting vacation = employees willing to help in real emergencies even if on vacation. Win-win.

  22. CatB (Europe)*

    Cam I add to this list the micromanaging-to-the-smallest-detail habit? With a bonus for the bosses who blame the outcome on you for following orders?

  23. Bonnie*

    I’ll second all those who said communication. We almost fired a guy early this month who did nothing wrong becasue the senior management of the department were talking to everyone but each other.

  24. Tamsin*

    I have one to add – reminding everyone five million times that VIPs are VIPs. I have a boss who LOVES reminding us that when the VIPs come to us for help, we are expected to drop everything and attend to them. He reminds us multiple times throughout the problem resolution process. And he never does anything to help with the problem resolution, he just sends a bunch of emails to us worker bees, always copying our director of course, to remind us how important the VIPs are.

  25. Anonymous*

    If someone doesn’t do something, have consequences, and enforce said consequences.

    For example, don’t say to everyone they MUST email everyone if they are taking sick time/time off, but don’t say anything about what will happen when they don’t, or if the consequence is not getting first pick at vacation next time, actually enforce that.

  26. Anon*

    #8 or so: Hire all your golf buddies, invite them for games on company time, talk shop on the course, and let them snicker at the women who had to stay at work and aren’t in the know on department plans. Suggest that one of the women needs to be demoted because of some confidence shared on the course, but don’t say what the problem was or who spoke of it, and then don’t act on the threat but don’t explain that either. Curse golf and all other *exclusive* male bonding sports.

  27. Susan E*

    And what about the manager who takes out their poor humor about something on their staff. I’ll never forget the manager who set up a 30 min meeting with me, then spent the first fifteen minutes angrily going on how someone up the line had told him to work on improving communications and going on and on about how he was good at communications (no comment). He then had two irrelevant (to my job anyway) announcements which took about 2 minutes. Whew, I was glad to get out of his office….He must have thought someone had complained about him, and maybe they had, but it wasn’t me….

  28. Seen a Lot*

    Another one–the manager who has one solution for all problems, regardless whether the solution relates to reality or not. Awhile ago, recent staff losses required major realignments of all team members’ responsibilities and assignments. Less than 2 months after that, a manager whose main *theme* is staff development and *the right person in the right job* asked me what I was doing to expose members of the team to new assignments. I had to say they felt they had had enough exposure for the time being….

  29. Charles*

    In addition to not calling on vacations; don’t call on holidays either!

    I once worked for a real jerk who called people on Christmas (we’re in the US, where Christmas is a federal holiday). I wasn’t home so fortunately I missed his three calls; But, he felt that Christmas shouldn’t be a holiday as it was “religious” in nature and it wasn’t his religion. So, it make his point he would call folks to ask stupid and trivial questions. He also didn’t issue paychecks on time – there’s another one Alison – don’t mess with people’s money.

    At another company they sent someone around to “pressure” people into donating blood. Wow! I, quietly, let the blood bank folks know and they quickly put a stop to that.

    Lastly, in addition to don’t hint around, I would also add don’t LIE! You disrespect me when you lie to me. (my one REAL pet peeve is folks who do lie and I am enough of a fool that I call them out on it and get in their face for doing so – never a good career move)

    1. Charles*

      Oh, one more . . .

      Don’t use meetings or even office time for your political rants. I had one manager who used to use meetings to pontificate his political viewpoints, endlessly.

      “Okay, I get it, you really hate so and so, can we get to work now?”

Comments are closed.