the worst boss of 2017 is…

We have a winner! 11,748 votes are in, and the worst boss of the year is the manager who made someone leave a work note at a grave (update is here) … with 56% of the vote.

The four runners-up, who managed to be pretty terrible themselves:

* The boss who got drunk and angry that someone without a license couldn’t drive him back to work — and tried to bill her for his cab fare (update is here) – 20%

* The boss who left a profanity-laden voicemail for someone who it turned out had died – 16%

* The boss who wants 20% of your salary from your next job – 4%

* The boss who wants your help hiding multiple affairs from his wife (update is here) – 4%

{ 170 comments… read them below }

    1. Bostonian*

      Right? I had to re-read the update from Worst Boss of 2015 in order to get a sweet taste of justice…

    2. AMT*

      The drunk, angry boss had a pretty good ending. OP left the job after being told (by HR!) that the boss would retaliate against them if they stayed, and they ended up being unemployed for six weeks, but they got a great new job and didn’t have to work with Drunky McLicense anymore.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m sorry but Boaty is a fine fine broth of a boat; let’s not tar him with the brush of Drunky McLicense.

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    So last year’s Worst Boss intruded on an employee’s chemotherapy and we all thought that was terrible (because it was). Now this year’s Worst Boss has intruded on someone’s funeral (essentially).

    I’m a little afraid of what 2018 might hold.

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Clearly next year’s Worst Boss is going to show up in the hospital as their employee is giving birth and blame her for going into labor at an inopportune time and missing a minor deadline (that of course the in-labor employee left plans for, which the boss just refused to follow). After insisting on cutting the cord, the boss will then immediately ask the new mother when she’s going to be back at work.

      1. AnonAnonAnon*

        You just reminded me of a story with my Old Job Grand Boss! My co-worker went into premature labour while alone at the office late on a Friday afternoon, we were all so surprised to learn that when we returned on Monday (and thankfully down the road, everything was fine!).

        On Monday, Grand Boss asked his EA to call co-worker (still in Hospital) to see if she had finished the report she was working on for him. And he was absolutely serious. At the point where we still didn’t even really know how everyone was doing. What is wrong with people?

      2. oranges & lemons*

        I’m pretty sure at least one commenter here had a story about being called while in labour by a boss who was asking about something that they could have easily found themselves.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          When I worked in higher ed, I had a student submit a final exam online while she was in labor.

          1. K.*

            I just saw a story about a student who did this this week! There was a photo of her in a hospital bed with a laptop.

          2. JustaTech*

            I had a friend proctor my exam 3 days after giving birth.
            I offered to find someone else, but she wanted to because it was a reason to take a shower. Also, not her first kid and it was in her house and I brought a meal and she didn’t have to do anything but sign a piece of paper. But still!

        2. Anonymous for this*

          I swear Artemesia had a story about that happening to someone, but the comment was at least a year ago.

      3. No Parking or Waiting*

        The boss will send an inexperienced recent hire to do it for him, with careful and detailed instructions. Then deny everything.

      4. Kimberly*

        I had a Principal that complained that a teacher was irresponsible for getting pregnant because she was due at the same time as the TAKS (old state testing in Texas now STAAR). According to him, teachers should only give birth in the first week after school lets out for the summer, so they have their maternity leave during summer break. Does that count?

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          My kids’ dad was one of eight births (seven live, one stillborn), all born in August. His mother was a teacher in the 1950s-60s, when they literally DID NOT ALLOW teachers to get pregnant… they’d be fired if they did!! (They were just barely at the point where they permitted teachers to keep their jobs if they got married.)

          So his mother timed all her children for August! She was incredibly fortunate in being both easily capable of conceiving when she tried, and also built in a way which didn’t tend to show until the last couple of months. She wore loose clothing all year and people just thought she might’ve gained a little weight, but nobody said anything.

          She concealed eight pregnancies that way, and her school was none the wiser.

          1. Biff*

            Wow. That is beyond impressive. I thought my friend who could vomit on command was a marvel of self control, but this takes the cake.

          2. Sam*

            Wow! A friend has an academic year job, and she’s timed both her pregnancies so she could take leave at the end of the year and then go straight into summer, effectively doubling the available maternity leave. I thought that was impressive, so timing 8 pregnancies is blowing my mind.

            1. Mrs. Smith*

              Yes, I did this myself. Timed my baby to arrive late March, so I took 12 weeks’ partially paid mat leave plus short-term disability, plus my usual summer off as a faculty person. That got me six months’ paid maternity leave, unheard of for most American women. With my first baby, I gave final exams in the morning, submitted grades to the registrar, then delivered at the end of the day. And who bugged me for this detail or that bit of info mere hours later? Not my boss . . . nope, it was all the damn students.

    2. JoAnna*

      “I died last week. My funeral was two days ago. My boss held a seance with a Ouija board and informed me that he still expects me to be at work on Monday. What should I do?”

      1. Former Employee*

        There once was a girl from Nantucket.
        Who only last week kicked the bucket.
        Her boss was quite piqued.
        Said he’d paid her through next week.
        We wished we could tell him to go pluck it.

    3. AMT*

      “My boss brought a chainsaw into work and used it to saw off my arms. Legally, I know he’s in the clear, but was it ethical?”

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        “Well, to be fair…he wasn’t hired to do the job. But his wife died a month ago, and he was forced at gunpoint to take her job as well.”

    4. strawberries and raspberries*

      I think next year’s worse boss is going to rob a grave because they think the deceased employee had some really important work document on their person.

    5. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      “Hi Alison, I’m wondering if I was in the wrong here. Last week, a direct report of mine died. He kept his corporate credit card in his wallet and I was thinking it would be best to get that back, so I showed up at the funeral home to ask about it. Now the family is angry at me and my other direct reports keep giving me strange looks. Was I in the wrong? I can see why showing up to speak directly to the undertaker might have looked strange – I’d never met him before – but I wasn’t sure where exactly to go, so I’m wondering how to handle next time this situation arises. Should I have gone directly to the family?”

    6. Jadelyn*

      “Dear Alison, I died over six months ago and my boss won’t stop summoning me from the afterlife to answer questions! I left plenty of documentation and these aren’t big, important, or urgent questions, but he just won’t leave me to rest in peace. Would I be out of line to gather a few ghostly friends and haunt the crap out of him until he stops?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, definitely do this.

        You can see there are so many reasons I cannot do what Alison does.

    7. This Daydreamer*

      Dear Alison,
      Last week my ex-boyfriend showed up at my workplace and shot me. Now I’m being written up for creating a bio hazard, taking too much time off, refusing to go along with the new workplace health initiative (treadmill desks), and for accidentally backing into an employee who was standing behind my wheelchair staring down my blouse. Furthermore, I’m in trouble for not disclosing a former relationship with an employee in HR because I didn’t know he had gotten a job in my workplace. And HR now hates me because I got their new star performer in trouble. To make it worse, now all employees have to wear an ID on a lanyard and I hate the photo on mine. How can I convince my boss to back off on the lanyard thing? I know that being such a problem employee lately complicates matters but I was having a REALLY bad hair day in the photo.

        1. MerciMe*

          *dies from laughing* Oh. … Oh no. How am I supposed to check my email and online assignment list so my boss doesn’t try to follow me into the afterlife to berate me for my lack of planning? Allison, what do I doooooo?

  2. JB*

    I voted for the profanity-laden voicemail, because he also, when he learned what really happened, threw his assistant (the OP) under the bus and got her reprimanded, when she had zero responsibility or ability to affect the situation.

    That, to me, is worse than cursing out someone who’s late for work before you find out whether they’re alive. Alison buried the lede on that one.

    1. Koko*

      Yeah, I voted for that one too because IIRC the boss also seemed to have intervened to stop her from getting another job by telling at least one other hiring manager that she was “disloyal.” That – going out of the way to sabotage the employee’s future prospects after she left – was way worse to me than the note at the grave, even.

    2. Green*


      1. Artemesia*

        I voted for that one too but the icing on the cake for the winner is that it ended up costing the OP her job in addition to the boss’s forcing her to do this ugly thing.

    3. Barney Stinson*

      I voted for Grave Note Boss because he hit the trifecta:
      – horrible and mean person (and stupid, too)
      – hurt the LW
      – hurt the bereaved person

      He left the most collateral damage. They were all horrible, but there was a bigger pile of bodies when Grave Note Boss was done.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Right? My boss may drive me up a wall sometimes, but she’s essentially a good person who believes in defending her employees and sees her role as supporting our success by making sure we have what we need, then getting the hell out of the way. I’ll take occasional nitpickiness and hyperfocus on minutiae over these cruel jerks any day.

  3. LavaLamp*

    Ugh. This makes me want to hug my boss when everyone is back from the holidays. She isn’t perfect but she’s really a kind person who means well and would never ever be so mean.

  4. Phoenix Programmer*

    My comment was ate oh well. Tldr.

    Funny how only 4% voted for affair boss when like 30% of comments yesterday where “what did you expect” about a one night stand complete removed from work.

    1. Green Tea Pot*

      I thought that odd, given the current climate.

      I thought it was bad having a boss make me beg for permission to take an earned vacation day to attend my sibling’s wedding. Guess I lucked out.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Yeah just goes to show what many said yesterday. Cheating is considered a worse offense for the woman.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I feel like you’re comparing apples and oranges here.

          What Affair Boss did was not anywhere near the level of horribleness of Grave Boss, Voicemail Boss, or Drunk Boss. Not to mention, there was a fairly satisfying update in the Affair Boss situation where OP got a better job whereas Grave Boss and Voicemail Boss both got their subordinates fired for their own bad behavior.

          1. Barney Stinson*

            This. Affair Boss was horrible, but didn’t take the LW down with him, or throw LW under a bus to cover his ass.

            It’s very difficult to make these decisions on worst boss; we gotta have criteria.

            1. Oranges*

              I like how everyone has different criteria. Mine formula: complete and utter lack of empathy x pain caused + no acknowledgment of breaking the social contract..

          2. Phoenix Programmer*

            I disagree since grave boss was a one time thing vs a continued problem hosted on op. Just cause op got a new job doesn’t make affair boss better.

          3. Phoenix Programmer*

            Maybe I feel differently since family doesn’t do graves but I did not find it more horrible than affair boss since he was putting op in a no win situation that was ongoing and could have negatively impact her lively hood.

            Voicemail was rude but in some offices that is normal. Finding out after that person is dead doesn’t change the morality of original acct imo.

            Agree that throwing under the bus was terrible but I feel like affair boss was doing that all along.

            1. Murphy*

              Oh it’s way more than just the voicemail though. The aftermath for the OP was absolutely ridiculous.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              It sounds like you don’t really understand how meaningful graves are to some people.

        2. Oranges*

          There was one or two lines of reasoning that made my skin crawl with their implied/stated ewww:
          1) pregnancy is the punishment for sex
          2) scorched earth is an okay reaction years after the initial harm
          3) policing her reproductive choices is a okay

          Thankfully there was pushback in all of them. But still. It’s not 1960….

            1. Oranges*

              Please call out Ray(? or was it Roy…) because he needs waaaay more pushback than he’s gotten. He posted when the thread was older so not as many eyes.

              I think Forrest’s main thing is that he doesn’t see/acknowledge that the OP is sorry for what she did. I saw the “it was a mistake” as in “I made a mistake” as remorse but in a passive voice because that’s easier for human egos to say.

              1. Phoenix Programmer*

                I am also calling out Forest on the “ex doesn’t need to forgive and hasn’t harassed” lines. Will have to look for roys!

                1. Oranges*

                  Yeah, if that wasn’t harassment I’m not really sure what is. And now it’s calculated harassment and not just lashing out.

              2. astrid*

                Yeah, that post was just infested by extras from The Scarlet Letter. What’s with their need to continue meting out punishment someone for an one-night stand from years ago, especially when she has already been punished in a manner way disproportionate to any wrong that she might have done.

                I actually think the ex-wife boss should be crowned the 2017 worst boss. It’s one thing to demand your employees’ livers, force them to work Christmas or miss their graduation, or lash out when they’re not psychically in communication with the recently dead in the case of drunken phone call boss, these bad bosses wanted something and don’t care about the costs to their employees. Ex-wife boss had a whole level of pre-mediation and cold calculation to how she went about persecuting Rachel, ex-husband, their child, and their respective extended families. It’s really hard for me to see the ex-wife boss as any kind of victim after her actions after the disclosure of the one-night stand.

                1. Oranges*

                  Basically the damage done by the bosses cited above was collateral damage while in the ex-wife’s case the damages were the ends?

                2. SallytooShort*

                  Couldn’t agree more.

                  Not wanting to work with this woman? Totally understandable. Destroying her life beyond that? Crosses the line into vindictive and awful. Destroying her life without any care for how that will impact an innocent child? Monstrous.

                3. Lissa*

                  Yeah, I think some people in that thread are also using Rachel as a punching bag for their own cheating issues, to the point where some comments literally make it sound like once someone has been “wronged” there is NOTHING they can do that’s disproportionate, and it’s a little…weird.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      For me the boss enlisting the affair wasn’t as bad because he didn’t throw said employee under the bus when it all came crashing down like the Grave note and voicemail did.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        That was my reasoning. I consider the effect on the OP and judge the boss as a manager of people. I’m not saying a boss who has an affair sits well with me, but the situation fortunately did not affect OP’s career.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Only because she got out before it all hot the fan. I don’t consider op leaving on their own to absolve the boss. Like if the bullied woman had wrote in instead of beer drinking boss I would still judge beer boss hard despite op moving on to bigger and better.

          1. Purplesaurus*

            Like I said, that’s only half my reasoning. As a manager of people, the affair boss isn’t as horrible compared to the others, imo.

          2. Goya de la Mancha*

            @ Phoenix Programmer – She left the department, not the company. This still had an opportunity to come back on her if the ex-wife was vindictive enough or boss was even more of a d-bag. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT IN ANYWAY shape or form trying to say affair boss was ok. To me the line in the sand was how the boss let their decision affect their employees – A stupid boss can still be a better boss if they own up to their mistakes and helps to ensure that those they instructed are held blameless (or at least a lesser extent).

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              Yeah but this boss didn’t do any of those things? It did impact op hand he is not opening his mistakes so much as having them spew all over the office.

              1. sstabeler*

                The way I see it is the affair boss didn’t take steps to actively screw over the employee- while the grave boss actively set up the employee to be held to blame- indeed, did so in such a way that he could have but all the blame on the employee (in the grave story, it wasn’t, IIRC, that they disbelieved the employee that they were acting under the boss’s instructions but that they didn’t think it absolved the employee of blame.)

                hence they are both awful bosses, but the grave boss is worse because he was actually malicious, while affair boss was more negligent, and it didn’t- for instance- rise to the level of the boss that didn’t tell their employee their horse needed emergency surgery until it was too late for the surgery. In that case, part of what made the boss at least borderline malicious is the company he worked for worked with horses, so boss should have known how serious the problem was. In this case, affair boss might possibly not have known how batshit his ex-wife actually was- plus- not having read the details in a while- there might not have been much he could actually do.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Right, this is why I didn’t think that one was as bad. The affair boss was a terrible person, but it sounded like they treated their actual employee OK, for the most part. If it had been a contest for “worst person in general”, affair boss would’ve been higher up the list for me.

      3. Lady Phoenix*

        Not to mention the boss got his karma for being a sleezy dbag. All these other bosses treated the OP’s like shit, chased them out of their jobs, and suffered no consequences.

    3. Ella*

      For me the kicker was that the grave-stalking boss not only drove the recipient of the letter off the job, but that the original Letter Writer ended up getting fired as well. I know the boss got fired, but he took OP (who was new to the workforce) down with him, and that sucks.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      For me it’s also the wacky factor with the grave note boss. Affairs are commonplace, scumbag men are commonplace, and I’m guessing the OP in the affair boss letter is far from the only assistant to ever have been asked to help cover up affairs for a boss. This example was pretty egregious, but it’s still pretty much within existing standards of bad behavior.

      I mean, I recently re-watched Iron Man, and one of the duties of the assistant-who-does-it-all is to politely kick the billionaire playboy’s one night stands out the next morning with their clothes freshly dry cleaned and a private car wherever they need to go. It’s a movie, not real life, but it plays on certain tropes about bosses and assistants and how powerful men are allowed to behave.

      But a lot of the other worst boss candidates in this and other years are just coming up with brand new ways for how a boss can be out of line, and I think that’s part of why they get so many votes. Who ever heard of someone leaving work notes at a grave site?

      1. Former Employee*

        I’ve never seen Iron Man, but this does sound like something that a Personal Assistant as opposed to an Administrative Assistant might do. (Of course, I’m assuming that the ladies who were here today, gone tomorrow were all willing participants, not victims of drugging or other types of illegal or unethical behavior on the part of the man.)

    5. Working Hypothesis*

      Affair boss was horrible, but there were some even worse ones there. I was one of the people who didn’t vote for affair boss even though, when it was originally posted, I was completely appalled.

  5. I am Fergus*

    And honor mentions are

    the boss that thought it was unprofessional for the employee to wear a blanket in her own car, a douche bag

    and the other one who thought she was unprofessional to just quit because she was not given time off to go to her own college graduation..another douche bag.

      1. Jessica*

        But if she were to do so, I’d vote for the boss who ostracized her star employee for being older and allegedly not fun, ditching her at the office while the rest of the team went day-drinking under the guise of networking opportunities, taking away projects that Star was specifically hired to work on, and making fun of her on Snapchat behind her back.

      2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        Ah, that explains it. I was wondering why so many horrible bosses didn’t make it into the poll.

        1. Oranges*

          Yeppers. If the goal is to have less bad bosses all around we don’t want to put up ANY barriers for them writing in.

          1. Anony*

            There’s also that if a “bad boss” is writing in, they are at least self-aware enough to realise “I ****ed up, Big Time” and hopefully from there, rethink their behaviour and become a better boss/person. (I guess some of them are trying to save their own skin, but I try to be an optimist.) Whereas a “worst boss” would have to be both outstandingly awful and unrepentant about it.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Not all of them are writing in because they’ve realized they screwed up. Some of them are writing in asking for validation, but they often learn to recognize that they screwed up *after* Alison and the community points it out to them. It’s still worth giving them room to do that, though.

              1. sstabeler*

                yeah, it’s for the same reason that Alison is strict about people who just tell the OP they’re in the wrong- since AAM is an advice column, the assumption is that anyone who writes in wants advice on how to handle the situation. Therefore, telling them they’re a pile of crap just discourages people from writing in, since someone who legitimately needs advice- and may be concerned that they were at fault for the situation- might think that commentators would just judge them, rather than help them. (remember that a common lever used by abusers is convincing their victims they deserve the abuse. Similar principle- AAM is there for advice on how to resolve the situation- even if that’s just “I don’t think you can resolve this” not judging someone for getting into the situation.

      3. SallytooShort*

        It’s a good rule. It’s a bad practice to mock people who write in for advice no matter how deserving.

        But the skin cancer one would definitely get my vote otherwise.

      1. Not really a Waitress*

        Amen. I had forgotten about that one. She should have made the list. Didn’t she write the letter and could not believe her employee had quit over it?

        1. Evan Þ*

          Yes – and that’s why Alison didn’t want to put her on the list: she doesn’t want to discourage people from writing in.

  6. Suddenly Free*

    Yeah, mine just “laid me off” less than two months after my spouse passed away (I was his primary caregiver and watched him die) and about a week before Christmas. After almost a decade of “exemplary” work. I think he should get an honorable mention.

    1. Ella*

      That completely sucks. I’m sorry for the loss of your husband, and I hope that you will soon find a job where your supervisor is not a terrible person. (Am I allowed to say “human garbage fire” on this blog?)

    2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      I hope your ex boss has to sleep on a bed made of Lego.
      (Ex-job had a infamous 1% raise for top performers followed by round of layoffs the Friday before Christmas a couple of years ago. In a 30% yearly inflation country. You can imagine people’s faces. )

      1. The Vulture*

        A bed made of a pile of jumbled up legos, not carefully stacked legos, like the trash heap made of bricks that Wreck-It Ralph has to sleep in!

    3. Suddenly Free*

      Thanks guys. I’m lucky; I can weather this financially so I have the luxury of simply walking away. My union would back me up if I chose to contest, and for the sake of my former coworkers who are still subject to this guy’s whims I wish I had the energy to fight that battle. But I don’t. Badboss waited until I was well and truly down before he kicked me to the curb. I don’t see any upside in giving him another shot. I feel a little guilty about that. Survivor’s guilt?

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Survivor’s guilt, indeed, but there’s nothing you can do to fix that. I’m glad you have the financial resources to walk away from this but everything else is terrible. Your boss is a horrible person and I hope you get a fantastic job with wonderful people very soon. And I am so very sorry for your loss.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Ironic, eh? You posted to a blog that is read around the world. This boss is so myopic that he cannot see half the world knows what he did and is yelling “Shame on YOU” at him.
      You post his email (No, don’t) and the guy would get buried in an email assault from all corners of the planet. Sometimes visual images like this can bring some small feeling of equilibrium into the issue.

      I have had a boss or two where I have smugly thought, “the only thing between you and prison is my desire to move on with my life.” It helped in an odd way.

      1. Suddenly Free*

        Yeah … as tempting as it is to print out and send him these comments anonymously, this a$$hat is no longer my problem. I really don’t have one second of give-a-$hit to spare for him.

  7. Barney Stinson*

    Technically, isn’t it a case of ‘we have a real loser’?

    How horrible that the guy who was making his assistant cover for multiple affairs and out of wedlock baby couldn’t even make the top three. THAT whole mess wasn’t disgusting enough.

  8. Green*

    I would have voted for the boss who wanted 20% of your next salary because that is just a wholly different reality from where everyone else lives, but at least there the OP had an easy response: “#lolno.”

    1. SallytooShort*

      That’s the only reason I didn’t vote for it. It’s so OTT absurd it can at least be knocked down.

    2. Catarina*

      If you read the OP throughout the comments of the original post (search for “Tired of Bad Boss”) you’ll see it wasn’t quite that simple. OP was in a niche IT field, bad boss was a contractor for OP’s new employer, and in retaliation bad boss had contacted OP’s new employer to repeat his demand for a cut of her salary in addition to greatly increasing his rates towards new employer. New employer demanded he stopped contacting them, and OP was afraid he would torpedo her new job.

  9. beanie beans*

    I may complain about my job a lot, but at least I don’t have a boss anywhere near as bad as these!

  10. Weaselologist*

    I wish it was possible for someone to interview these awful bosses so we could have some insight into the mess behind their decision-making.

  11. Quackeen*

    Color me unsurprised that the winner was the awful human being who made someone leave a note at a gravesite. I have had terrible bosses before, but never that terrible, for which I am eternally grateful.

Comments are closed.