vote for the worst boss of 2013

We’ve read about plenty of bad bosses this year, and now it’s time to vote on the worst one of the whole year.

In fact, we’ve had so many that in selecting these finalists, I was forced to pick managers who aren’t just bad managers but also terrible humans (which sadly excluded the water cooler emergency manager and the one who wanted everyone to give feedback while facing each other in lines).

We’ll crown the worst boss of the year on Monday, based on your votes … so please vote below. (Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.)

[polldaddy poll=”7673404″]

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Anne 3*

    My thoughts here went something like “Oh, #1, definitely! Wait, the second one was pretty terrible too. Wait, that third guy was the worst. Wait, I don’t remember #4 but she sounds like a downright horrible person. Wait, #5 too.”

    1. Chinook*

      I agree. I wanted to go with bereavement fund boss but then realized that having a living victim (and her replacement victims) is even worse.

      1. Jen*

        This was my thought process too. I was like “Well, with the one, he’s a jackass but no one had to face the idea that they might not be able to pay their rent this month because of his jackassery.”

    2. Winston*

      I think the reimbursement is the one where the problem described is closest to the core of the job of the manager (though the others are so lousy that it’s hard to believe they’d do better in areas other than those described)

    3. Professional Merchandiser*

      I know!!! That was a toughie. I voted for bereavement fund thief because I had something similar happen to me when I married.

      I was given a gift (with about 20 names on the card,) and when opened it, it was a piece of glassware from my chosen pattern; cost about $5.00. (this was almost 40 years ago) Now don’t get me wrong; I was not expecting anything, and appreciated it, but a $5.00 gift from TWENTY people!!!????? I thanked the lady who gave it to me and wrote my thank you note and posted it in the break room.

      It took no time at all for people to start coming to me telling me they had collected enough money to get a COMPLETE place setting of everything; from all glassware to all the dishes (over $100.00.)

      Obviously the lady “in charge” collected quite a shopper’s fee!! I never got the rest of my gift, but at least I felt better knowing they thought enough of me to try to get me something nice.

      And they never allowed this person to be in charge of a collection again!! :-)

  2. Adam V*

    As bad as all of the others are, I have to go with the boss who put their employee’s life in danger by potentially ordering them into a tornado’s path.

    1. Anonymous*

      My thoughts exactly. A lost iPad can be replaced. An employee getting sucked up into a tornado’s vortex cannot. Seriously, it’s just inhumane.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I didn’t vote for either of these, but I thought actively stealing from office equipment that an employee might be blamed for and forced to pay for somehow seemed worse than being a rule-following nitwit who did not view a tornado as an exception to rule that employees must be on time. Somehow it was more actively malicous.

    2. A cita*

      I think I didn’t vote for this one because, unfortunately it’s pretty common. While we were in the height of Sandy, so many people I know were still called into work. So sad that it’s so common place that I’ve become sort of numb to it/expect it. :(

    3. Camellia*

      Honestly, I’m a bit surprised at this. I worked for a large insurance company for many years and they told us flat out that the office would NEVER close due to weather. We may choose to not come in due to weather but we would have to use a PPO day or else take the day off without pay which would earn us a ‘point’. They didn’t pressure us to come in, just stated how time off would/could be handled. But if we had called and asked if we “had” to come in the answer would have been “yes” because the office was not closed.

      Unless I’m misunderstanding something, wasn’t that the way this was? She could have chosen not to go in and been assessed the point. Granted, there can be repercussions. At OldJob, three points in one year meant you were ‘counseled’ about your excessing absenteeism, etc. But if the office/store is open, how can they say, “Sure, don’t come in, no problem!” and still be fair to those who had made it in for whatever reason?

      1. KellyK*

        I think the major problem people are having with it is that you shouldn’t face disciplinary consequences for not wanting to risk your life (and disobey police instructions). And a tornado isn’t garden variety inclement weather. If it were sleet or a foot of snow, people wouldn’t be having the reactions they’re having, I don’t think.

        1. Kerry*

          I think the major problem people are having with it is that you shouldn’t face disciplinary consequences for not wanting to risk your life


        2. Canadamber*

          That’s very true! ;o My dad’s work has people from all over come in. Some people commute like over an hour and a half just to get there. There was a REALLY bad snowstorm not too long ago, most of the roads to one of the towns were blocked or too dangerous to drive on, so a lot of employees who came from the area that day turned back and all called in. I don’t think there were any consequences; they just didn’t get paid for working that day. But I live like not even 10 minutes (driving) from my work, so even if it was really bad, I’d still go in… but those who couldn’t make it shouldn’t be penalized. My boyfriend lives in the other end of town so he could probably just walk to work, and plus there’s also buses, but if he was coming from, say, out of town, then I’d see why he wouldn’t want to go. (It’s a two and a half hour walk anyway, and he does it often enough.)

        3. Apollo Warbucks*

          In the UK, a few inches of snow is enough for the country to grind to a holt, never mind a whole foot.

      2. Anon*

        They didn’t pressure us to come in, just stated how time off would/could be handled.

        Having policies that don’t accommodate inclement–or even dangerous–weather definitely is pressuring employees to come in, just framing it differently: rather than your manager personally urging you to come in, it becomes a matter of store policy. The effect is the same, however, as you face repercussions if you chose one too many times to value your safety over a day at work.

        1. FiveNine*

          The call center I worked for made clear management absolutely believe the point system accommodates emergencies like this. I think 3 points in a year for unplanned days off for any reason led to “coaching followed by termination after maybe six such days. Most employees who were fired were fired for being late (seven minutes — three at some call centers –was a half point, I can’t remember how many minutes and it was a full point for the whole day).

      3. Not So NewReader*

        “But if the office/store is open, how can they say, “Sure, don’t come in, no problem!” and still be fair to those who had made it in for whatever reason?”

        I have to chuckle. that seems a bit myopic. So these are the same employees that will be using company health insurance when they land in the ER as a direct result of driving through all kinds of weather to get to work. And then the health insurance policy prices go up.

        Sounds self-defeating to me. But their biz they can do as they wish.
        (A topic near and dear to my heart: how companies drive up their own health care costs.)

      4. Jessa*

        There’s a difference between bad weather, and the government in the form of whoever in your locale is responsible for this saying “stay off my roads.” And I think there needs to be a difference there. If the company does not qualify for an exemption for that – when I managed the answering service, we answered for public utilities, we had letters that explained WHY we were essential to travel during major storms, so when the cops stopped us they would let us through without giving us a citation. Barring something like that (or an id saying you worked for the phone co or cable co or something,) is the company going to pay the ticket you get for disobeying the county saying “get off my roads today, unless you’re essential.”

        I think it’s outrageous to punish employees in that case. I can see making them use leave or going without pay (some companies do pay some don’t – ones I’ve worked for made the difference are the roads CLOSED. If they were closed the company paid out if they were not you took holiday or no pay.) HOWEVER in either case you never got an attendance point over weather. That’s outrageous.

      5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

        A retail manager in a large chain like Kmart doesn’t have the power to make up his own absentee policy, so I don’t see how he’s the jerk in this situation.

        The letter writer was the employee’s husband, not the employee and there’s no report of what the manager actually said. He might have said “I’m sorry, we’re open. Do what you need to do to be safe, but I don’t have a choice but to assess a point if you’re late. ”

        If you read the actual post, it’s Alison’s title that uses the word “ordered” not the LW, and the outrage reported is from the employee’s husband, not the employee. For all we know , the employee might think he’s the greatest manager in the world and sympathize with the manager being stuck between a rock (corporate policy) and a hard place (her husband’s pissed offed ness).

        This is a common retail attendance policy. The point system is meant to compensate for situations like this where it’s impossible for corporate to make ground call decisions on which employees on which street/town/region have a legitimate reason for not attending due to weather or emergency events.

        Nobody said she’d get fired if she didn’t drive in a tornado. Instead they used common sense, heeded police warnings, and she was five minutes late.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*


          I should say I am EXCEEDINGLY grateful to not ever have to be that manager. We gave people free days when we were shut for a week during Sandy. I can tell most of my folks to work from home when they are threatened by weather, and those who can’t due to the nature of their jobs, I can tell them that’s fine, use your PTO (and even pull out an extra PTO day if I have to).

          There are a handful of us who live very close to work (I’m five minutes) and can skeleton staff customer fronting critical stuff during pretty much anything except Sandy.

          So I’m grateful. I think being judgy judgy of him/her as a person is misplaced. He’s a low level cog in a very large wheel.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*


          Not the manager’s fault.

          This is a video with a 2009 “investigation” report over a Kmart employee who got a point from not coming in during an ice storm. It includes a statement from Kmart that a point is not the same thing as disciplinary action, and also has an interview with an employment lawyer.

          You can’t blame the manager for well known and documented corporate policy.

      6. Observer*

        So you are somewhat ok with putting people’s lives at risk because your being “fair” about it? If you re REALLY worried about fairness, rethink the insane policy. Or, if you REALLY have some reason to keep such a policy in place give the people who actually come in an extra reward (something along the lines of hazard pay.)

    4. Jamie*

      I agree it’s horrible, but she had the option to disregard the boss and not go in – she may have been fired, but then she’d be in the same boat as the receptionist who lost her job.

      Again – it was a horrible thing to do.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I agree, too. That does not mean I am less dismayed by the behavior of the others. But endangering an employee’s life for the sake of business? soulless. Absolutely no conscience.

      Yeah, this is more about the quality of the person than anything else.

    6. Kate*

      That was my thought process as well. The fired receptionist was a close second but her life wasn’t threatened.

    7. Anna (and lay off the bananas!)*


      {begin rant}
      Telling people to come in to the office when the weather is creating the significant possibility of death — to the extent that going in would be in direct violation of police instructions, no less — is just a whole other order of magnitude. I might cut the employer a little slack if they were, say, an emergency room, but they were nothing of the sort. They were a department store, for crying out loud. As far as I’m concerned, it should be illegal for employers to ask employees to risk their lives to this degree if they’re not, say, first responders.

      {end rant}

      Anyway, runner-up goes to the dolt who fired someone because a third party got concerned about the cost of errands.

    8. April*

      But he didn’t literally endanger that person’s life. He directed her (wrongly we all agree) to endanger her life, with a penalty for not doing so which was *less than being fired.* Whereas the boss who fired the receptionist – actually fired her.

      In the original letter about the tornado situation, I really view the employee and her husband worse than the boss. The boss wasn’t the one there hearing the sirens and police instructions. The situation wasn’t as clear and immediate to him. They were actually there, the danger was perfectly obvious to them, and yet they still chose to risk life and limb comply with the command – a command which if disobeyed would *not* have resulted in anything so dire as an immediate firing, but simply a point for nonattendance (which could be appealed later). I really question their common sense. (Or else the veracity of the account of how dangerous it really was. If it was truly that dangerous, why on earth did you go out in it?? Even firing, dire and life changing as it can be is not as bad a thing as losing life or limb and we aren’t talking about a risk of getting fired. So the clear choice for employee – if it really and truly is such a dangerous risk – should have been: disobey that order)

  3. steve G*

    All of them win, but I am picking the one who fired the employee. The other ones are plain old examples of complete jerkery, however, the one about firing the receptionist is so sneaky and under-handed, and I hate it because it is the type of injustice that goes unpunished. The other bosses opened themselves up to criticism and dislike for their actions, but the one who fired the receptionist may never face any repercussion because the reasoning would be hard to prove,

    1. Mints*

      Agree. It’s assholery that’s symptomatic of huge issues that go undealt with
      Actually, I voted for tornado boss because it was literally life threatening

          1. A cita*

            I think I’m the only one who doesn’t understand the word “asshat.” So it’s like being a hat for one’s ass? Or is it a nonsensical adjective that just means jerk? Seriously curious! :)

              1. A cita*

                Thanks! That makes sense! I was picturing a small, red, fuzzy gnome hat muzzled over the area and couldn’t figure out how this could be an insult, exactly…I wouldn’t have guessed this explanation!

  4. ThursdaysGeek*

    Hmmm…I’m trying to decide between firing because they couldn’t continue paying under minimum wage and putting someone’s life in danger. The rest are really bad, complete jerks. It’s so hard to decide!

    1. Kara*

      Those were the two I was torn between. I chose the former. I also had to think hard about the one who spent the bereavement fund, because that’s a whole new level of assholery.

    2. SaltWater*

      Those are the two I narrowed it down to also. Those are actual management problems. The other three are horrid people and rank low on the humanity scale.

      1. Jessa*

        The decider between them for me was that the come in during storms is a CORPORATE thing, and the manager who fired the receptionist wasn’t. Because seriously if the corporation wasn’t behind that manager it wouldn’t be happening.

        So I voted for the firing of the receptionist because that’s down to the original singular manager. Not a corporate policy. If it was worst corp, I’d have gone with the weather one.

    3. Kerry*

      Yeah, I voted for the receptionist-firer because he actually did it – and I would argue that taking away someone’s livelihood is severely endangering their life too (aside from things like “having enough to eat” and “having a safe place to sleep”, poverty is a huge risk factor for a lot of health conditions like malnutrition, high blood pressure, etc).

  5. Zelos*

    Reading the crowning moments of AAM history makes me realize that my old bosses weren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things…which is a pretty depressing thought in and of itself.

  6. Adam*

    All could easily be dubbed the Scrooge of their town, but I’ve got to go with the @$$hat who forced his employee to ignore police warnings in a potentially life threatening situation for to comply with KMart rules of all places. Mr. Montgomery Burns would be proud.

  7. ChristineSW*

    Wow that was a hard choice!! All of them are pretty awful.

    I went with the employer who spread the rumor about the OP’s mom being terminally ill because that, to me, is just another level of ick. And I see I’m only one of two people who voted this way. LOL.

  8. Hcat*

    yup, I’d have to say any one of those picks could be a serious contender, but I too would have to go with #1. While they are all equal on the jackass scale, I see the others as simply pathetic. However a boss that demands an employee risk their life and ignore police warnings during a serious weather event, is both pathetic and an idiot.

  9. dejavu2*

    So hard to choose just one. Went with the boss who fired the receptionist over the reimbursement issue. Ultimately, tornado boss was reckless and stupid and myopic in a way that’s horrifying but also sort of typical, just at a worse level than you’d normally see. The bereavement fund thing was terrible, and I almost voted that way, but because the employee wasn’t *entitled* to a bereavement gift (though it was certainly a wonderful idea, and the boss behaved egregiously), I decided the receptionist-fire-er was worse. iPad stealing boss got her due, so while that was bad it wasn’t epic. The false rumor about the employee dying was cruel, but in an irritating way rather than a destroying-your-life kind of way.

    So, yes. I vote boss who fired the receptionist. Because his actions speak to a larger societal pattern of greed, exploitation, and corporate entitlement in a way that the others don’t. Plus, some poor woman who was already struggling is now even worse off just because someone stood up for her right to be paid the bare minimum legal definition of a just wage for excellent work.

    This was a depressing poll.

    1. Anonymous*

      I am not sure how the receptionist is worse off? (at least financially) Presumeably she’s getting paid minimum wage now, so she’s making more money than before. (Unless she is no longer full time? I don’t remember from the original post)

    1. Del*

      Ultimately I went with Mr. Who Needs Reimbursement. Rereading the 2011 “worst boss” comments made the matter gel for me; these are all terrible, terrible people, but this gluteal haberdasher in particular was being the worst at being a boss; Mr. What Tornado could have been simply shortsighted or suffering from “weather warning fatigue,” and Ms. Bereavement Funds was a dishonest thief, but Mr. Who Needs Reimbursement doesn’t have much of anything in the way of even vaguely plausible deniability and engaged in an ongoing pattern of terrible boss-ship instead of one incident of being utterly awful.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Perhaps Del would like to craft a name for the biggest loser award…. like “Darwin Awards” but for bad bosses.

          1. A cita*

            Well, that would be interesting….all the others are asshats (gluteal haberdashers) in that they wear the hat, but the one voted worst would be donned gluteal milliner in that he’s so bad, he makes the hats.

  10. Matteus*

    Had to go with #1 (althought he’s really a right #2). Endangering lives crosses the line between banal evil like the rest of the jerks in the list and real evil.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    I want to choose them all.

    I’m going to have to go with the boss who fired the receptionist, even though the tornado boss deserves to have a tornado drop a refrigerator on him. Some people are really, truly ignorant of the level of danger a tornado can create, while the boss who fired the receptionist KNEW he was doing something illegal and punished the worker for it. Come to think of it…the tornado needs to mess HIM up instead.

    1. Mints*

      Hehe that first line I read as “collect them all” which makes Alison bad boss master.
      (Does anyone get my Pokemon reference? [Do I look like a middle shooler now?])

      1. VintageLydia*

        It’s a 15 year old franchise so I think you’re safe! They just came out with another game a few months ago, too, so it’s old AND relevant!

  12. VintageLydia*

    I chose the one who fired the receptionist only because in retail, the tornado thing is very very very common. It was hurricanes and nor’easters where I grew up but the same thing. “Oh, well all the roads between your house and the store are severely flooded? You know how to swim, right??”

  13. Rapmaster2000*

    Tough choice, but I’m going with the soulless KMart manager who put an employee’s life at risk. That’s just inexcusable.

    The boss who fired his receptionist because someone thought he should reimburse her for legitimate business expenses is a good second-place jackass, though.

  14. Camellia*

    I had a tough time choosing between the one who stole the iPad and the one who fired the receptionist. I chose the iPad manager simply because the employee could have been charged for ‘losing’ the device and had to reimburse the company for it and it wasn’t true because her manage STOLE the thing and then denied it ever happened.

  15. Camellia*

    Arghh!! Wait, I went back and read the iPad story again and I had forgotten that the manager was let go and therefore did suffer the consequences! I want to change my vote to the one who fired the receptionist and who has NOT suffered any consequences (at least yet). Pleeeeese can I change my vote????

  16. Observer*

    For me it was a choice between firing the receptionist and requiring someone to come in during a tornado.

    I chose the firing because it hit more types of wrongness than any other:

    clearly and blatantly illegal
    Puts the employer in harms way (which the employer deserves, if they let this go)
    potentially life destroying (unemployment benefits from a minimum wage job are not really enough to even starve on)

  17. Hapax Legomenon*

    I went with #3. I can easily imagine #5 having a strange explanation that made the manager’s behavior understandable on a human level, and #1 is just run-of-the-mill bureaucracy; the manager was probably required to say that to keep their own job, or not swift enough to recognize that a tornado might be a mitigating circumstance. #2 and #4 are also forms of theft, but on such a comparatively small scale. #3 was a lot of theft over a prolonged period of time and would have continued indefinitely if the manager hadn’t fired the receptionist.

  18. Rebecca Z*

    Was there ever an update on the manager who stole the donations for herself? It’s hard picking between that and the guy who fired the receptionist – well, it’s hard picking between any of them!

  19. The Other Dawn*

    I think, hands down, it’s a boss who knowingly endangers the lives of their employees. It was an easy choice for me.

  20. Chantal*

    I chose bereavement fund, because that’s kicking someone when they’re down, but really, they’re all awful! Makes me so thankful to have a decent boss.

  21. Sandrine*

    Manager who fired the receptionist.
    I was about to choose the bereavement one, and then I looked at the one where the innocent person lost a job. And yeah. Ouch. To all of them.

  22. Elisabeth*

    I’m another one who would like an “all of the above” option. I haven’t voted yet – still trying to pick.

  23. PuppyKat*

    Oh my gosh—this was the toughest decision of the month so far! After much back-and-forthing, though, I went with Tornado Boss.

    Alison, next year can you copy part of the beauty-pageant format and let us vote for the winner plus two runners-up?

  24. Emma*

    I had to go with the boss who fired the receptionist.

    In all the other cases, they seemed to be incident-specific examples of tremendous jerkassery, greed, or shortsightedness (and weather-tolerance, a la “well, they told us the last storm would be awful and it was nothing”).

    But regularly shorting the receptionist seemed standard operating procedures for this business, and likely will continue to be so for the next poor (as in pitiable, but financially too!) employee.

  25. Kou*

    The thing that made it tip over to the receptionist firing for me was that, well, they actually did fire her (not just disciplinary action) but also because the receptionist didn’t even DO anything! I’m trying to imagine being the receptionist, suddenly getting fired out of the blue because my boss realized people will notice if they aren’t treating me well. At least with the tornado I’d have seen it coming.

    I actually just realized I did have a boss like that once, when we got in a world of hurt for finding out that a partner org could/would cover emergency medical expenses for us at no cost or fuss for our org… Because it embarrassed our boss for the other org to know we didn’t already have that coverage from his company. I’ll give you one guess why we were talking about the issue in the first place.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I was just about to comment the same thing. The tornado OP at least knew what was going on and knew the boss was full of crap. The receptionist got canned for no reason other than a third party standing up for her in private. And was told her work ethic was subpar, which is bound to mess with your head even if you know you’re a good worker.

  26. Mephyle*

    I voted for the receptionist–firer, for the reasons explained well by steve G., Kerry, dejavu2, Del, Elizabeth West, and Hapax, among others. No need for me to repeat what they each expressed so well. But it was a tough choice, indeed.

  27. Anonymous*

    I went for the one that fired the receptionist. While the rest are a real hot mess, that one takes the cake.

  28. A. D. Kay*

    It was a close call between #1 and #3. I finally picked #3 because it involved the risk of actual DEATH.

  29. Daisy*

    I really wanted to salute the water cooler manager, for their hilarious ineptness. These choices are just far too depressing for voting to give any satisfaction. (Can we have an alternate ‘hilariously inept boss’ poll?)

    1. tcookson*

      Yes, a poll where the entries make us laugh, rather than cringe . . . it could be the comic relief to the depression caused by remembering all these horrible bosses.

    2. A cita*

      Maybe we can have a consequence poll. Like the winner here receives some sort AAM sponsored consequence, like a singing telegraph to show up at the boss’s place of work singing a little diddy about “why you so shitty?”

  30. Mary Jo*

    #3 That boss victimized a victim. That is as low as it gets. And the consequences were HUGE. And there was NOTHING the employee could do about it.

    The tornado lady only faced a consequence of a demerit if she disobeyed (which, as an adult, she should have). While the boss was a terrible person to ask it, facing the tornado was a choice she should have proudly made (I know some of you will disagree).

  31. Ruffingit*

    I’m not sure if I should be comforted that there are so many horrible bosses out there so I’m not alone in having experience with psychos…or if I should just be horrified. Probably both.

  32. Callie*

    I had to choose the one who wanted the employee to come in during a storm. They were all terrible but that one could have gotten the employee killed and NO job is worth that.

  33. Another Emily*

    This poll could be renamed “Worst Human of 2013”. I voted for the tornado jerk, but the jerk who fired the receptionist for terrible reasons was a close, close second.

  34. Chocolate Teapot*

    Stealing the bereavement money was my vote, but the not reimbursing and then firing the receptionist was a serious contender.

Comments are closed.