the worst boss of 2018 is…

We have a winner! 15,279 votes are in, and the worst boss of the year is the boss who was dating the employee’s dad and wanted them to all go to couples therapy together – with 31% of the vote.

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

{ 159 comments… read them below }

      1. Coder von Frankenstein

        Each year, there could be a Final Round where the worst boss of that year faces off against the reigning champion.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            Now I’m imagining Alison as a video game character who goes around smacking down terrible bosses.

        1. No One

          No way – for me it’s the leave a note for the grieving coworker at THE GRAVEYARD boss. Still horrified about that!

          1. EPLawyer

            And they fired HER for doing it. Because the new employee should have known better than the boss about appropriate behavior.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        OMG it’s like Jeopardy!’s tournament of champions, bad boss edition! Could it be set up in brackets like March Madness? Folks can fill out fantasy brackets?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Whoops—I should have read on further to Museum Chick’s post before responding!

    1. MuseumChick

      I think it would be interesting to to a march madness bracket type thing with all of the worst boss nominees.

      1. ContentWrangler

        I’m immediately picturing that How I Met Your Mother episode where they do a march madness bracket to figure out which woman would hate Barney the most. I feel like the debates over which terrible boss should move forward in each bracket would be both intense and hilarious.

        1. Doug Judy

          Price of Norway vs. Fake Baby! always cracks me up. I felt the ones on the board were a lot funnier than the four actual finalists.

    2. Marthooh

      No, come on! Just this year’s bunch was hard enough to decide on without dragging in the chemotherapy interruptor and the note-on-the-gravestone boss.

      1. Llellayena

        And “I want your liver” boss. (After writing that I’m now picturing a Hannibal Lecter scenario, even though I remember the entire post!)

          1. Coder von Frankenstein

            (Never mind – I didn’t realize liver boss already was beaten by chemo boss. I have to say, while there were some pretty tough contenders in 2018, none of them compares to the horror shows we got in 2016.)

          2. Hills to Die on

            For me, Liver boss and this Therapy boss will always be tied for first place. Keep striving, jerks!

            1. darsynia

              Liver boss is always tops to me. Firing a pregnant woman for not being able to donate? All the swears.

          3. Brett

            I’ve at least always felt that I could write “I want your liver” boss off to an extreme response to an extremely stressful situation because his brother was going to die otherwise. Basically, he was willing to sacrifice his business, including clearly breaking the law, to save his brother. It does not justifying being such an awful boss, but it does explain it.

            Chem boss had nothing like that to explain his behavior, much less justify it.

        1. RJ the Newbie

          …with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. I remember that letter. It can’t be said how awful that boss was, but still not worse than the one who had a letter put on a worker’s relative’s gravestone. That is still one of the worst boss stories I’ve ready anywhere.

    3. Kes

      Yes! That would be fun.
      I still think chemo boss is at the top of my worst bosses list. In fact, several bosses from that year are at the top of my list – liver boss is also right up there, and I think the boss who crashed an employee’s wedding to ask them a work question and then wrote them up after being thrown out was also that year.

    4. AFPM

      +1000! And maybe it’s just that these are the most fresh in my mind, but this year seems to have had particularly evil ones.

          1. Steve

            I had the same thought. I don’t have kids, so I’m not speaking from a place of familiar emotions / experience, but threatening someone about their kids at that fundamental level seems different than an adult employee who has to deal with awful adult parents (which is my second choice, so I’m not suggesting that it’s at all reasonable). Then again, maybe I know too many people who are having to set boundaries with their awful parents, so have I become too normalized to this as a problem?

          2. voyager1

            Yep. I really felt the choices this year were between who had the worst pyschological condition and frankly the dating dad story was really just a naracist vs the sociopathic/pyschopathic behavior of the CPS and tacks/knife in the chair letters. I imagine in any other year any of those would be hand over fist winners.

            1. Clisby Williams

              I was just thinking that it’s a red-letter year for bad bosses when the pushpin guy gets only 10% of the vote.

          3. Jadelyn

            Same – I debated between Therapy Boss and CPS Boss when casting my vote, and the element of deliberate cruelty and outright sadism in CPS Boss was what pushed me to vote for her. Therapy Boss is abusive and has terrible boundaries and was intent on dragging the OP deeper into her sick system, but the “malicious evil *because she thought it was funny*” set CPS boss head and shoulders above the rest to me.

            (And gods, doesn’t it say something that that was the choice? Sheesh.)

            1. SheLooksFamiliar

              Seriously, the CPS boss got to me, too. I don’t have children but I felt physically ill thinking about this kind of ‘prank.’ You said it: sadistic, malicious, evil…truly vile.

        1. MatKnifeNinja

          My state has one of the highest removals of kids for CPS. Had CPS called the tip line, there could have been a good chance of the kids being placed in temporary foster care. CPS boss sounds crazy enough to make a convincing story.

          I voted for the chair slasher. That had nightly news written all over it if she snapped her last good neuron. She made many peoples lives a living hell, and management went *meh*.

    5. AnonyMouse

      This would be great for every 5-10 years if we go back and vote on the worst boss of the year winners!

    6. whimbrel

      I honestly think the Grave Note Boss would take it, because the rest of the nominees and winners are awful but that one was just so far over the line I’d need the Kepler Telescope to see it.

    7. Vicky Austin

      I’d vote for this year’s Therapy Boss.
      I also think there should be a vote for Weirdest Letter Ever. I nominate the one about the woman who tickled her co-worker’s feet, and then the ticklee bullied the tickler to the point where she had to resign.

  1. glitter writer

    I had a genuinely difficult time choosing among this year’s slate. There were some real doozies in 2018.

    1. Catwoman2

      Agreed! I went with the one who refused to call the ambulance, because I kept thinking about which boss would cause the most harm. Between this, the one who pretended to be CPS, and the no action on the knife slicer, I really had to think about it!

      1. Jennifer Juniper

        That boss was really stupid because she was opening herself and the school system up for a nice fat lawsuit from the abused employee (not to mention nasty publicity if the employee had taken it to the press!)

      2. Rachel Green

        Yeah, I had a hard time choosing and went with the one who refused to call an ambulance as well. I mean, that teacher could have died! Head wounds are serious!

      3. Arya Snark

        I had to go with the no ambulance boss too, for refusing to help someone who very possibly could have been in mortal danger. A relative of a former boss (who was a good one, btw) actually died from a very similar scenario, though he was the one who refused the medical attention after falling then collapsed and died a few hours later. But Jill would’ve gotten my vote otherwise.

    1. KHB

      While Head Injury Boss got my vote, for exactly that reason, in retrospect I can see the reasoning for going with one of the others. Head Injury Boss probably panicked and made a (very) bad call in an unusual, scary, and fast-moving situation. The other bosses’ bad actions were all more deliberate and measured, and in some cases ongoing.

      1. Kes

        Yeah, to me they were totally in the wrong but I can see how they thought they making the right call and protecting the children. Therapy boss was just abusive, repeatedly, with the couples therapy ask being the awful cherry on top.

        1. Jennifer Juniper

          If I had been a parent witnessing that incident, I would have been terrified that principal would refuse treatment for my child if my child had acted up or otherwise incurred the principal’s dislike.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            Totally understandable. I would feel likewise. But…that was a momentary (albeit serious) lack of judgement, many of the others were deliberate, premeditated, and in the case of the winner…ongoing.

            TBH I am kind of surprised at the winner. I was betting on the head injury or CPS boss to win.

            1. Kes

              I think it’s interesting and kind of shows the dichotomy between AAM’s commenters and readers as a whole (and I say this as someone who lurked for a long time before starting to comment). I think the comments were more skewed towards those two – but clearly there were many more people who may not have commented but voted for therapy boss. And if you look at the numbers of votes vs commenters (assuming the same people aren’t just voting over and over) it really highlights the size of the silent readership.

      2. Jadelyn

        The consequences of Head Injury Boss could’ve been the worst out of all of the scenarios – but it wasn’t done out of sheer cruelty because she found it FUNNY, like CPS Boss’s was. That was what sealed my vote for CPS Boss.

        (Also, possibly some of my own baggage, because my dad was that kind of vile “prankster” and I can’t count how many times as a child he did something extremely and genuinely hurtful, deliberately, laughed because he thought it was hilarious, and then heaped on an extra dose of mockery and scorn because I didn’t find it funny. Daddy dearest probably would’ve thought CPS Boss has a great sense of humor.)

        1. Relly

          It’s fascinating thinking about our own baggage, isn’t it?! I’ve been in a “sit here and be berated for not participating in our sick system” situation, which was why the therapy boss hit me so dang hard. And as much as I can logically explain my choice, I know deep down that I picked therapy boss because it tap danced over all my issues.

      3. MatKnifeNinja

        Head injury boss isn’t unusual (at least around here)

        Ask anyone working in a non union manufacturing job what happens if you get hurt, and it’s busy. You are staying until your drop.

        Why? You leave and it costs you PTO/sick day or you don’t get paid.

        My friend is a doctor at an industrial urgent care. His zoo time is when the shifts let out. Broken hands, real bad lacerations, concussion screen (common), broken toes, chest pain.

        I understand Head Injury boss was from a white collar, college educated dealing with children job. For a lot of non white collar job folks, you don’t get to leave work unless you are literally half dead, at least in manufacturing/restaurant work.

    2. Becca

      It would have been interesting to see the results for a ranked system like people were suggesting. I think a lot of people would have gone for either threatening coworker or the head injury based on “potential physical harm” and then votes ended up split depending on whether they prioritized the immediacy of the latter or the length of time and/or psychological impact of the former. (I think people who were voting on maliciousness also had votes split between couples therapy and CPS, though.)

    3. I exist

      yeah. I think the boss ignoring possible death was still worse than the one dating the person’s dad, but they were all really awful.

    1. Kes

      So true.
      Even being nominated to the shortlist is (dis)honor in and of itself. And there are many awful bosses who do not rise (sink?) to that level but are nonetheless terrible.

      1. EPLawyer

        which is kinda a “good” outcome for a given value of good. As far as we know, Jill is still in charge and lying to people about how awesome she is. Chair Slasher Boss still has her head … in the sand about how serious the issue was. So if you go with ongoing issues, then yeah, Jill. Because Chair SLasher at least left the company so everyone else can be self even if Boss is indifferent to safety.

    1. Noah

      I think the CPS story was the single worst thing any of these bosses did, but I’m not persuaded they were the overall worst boss. Worst boss incident, though.

  2. joriley

    Jill was truly awful and probably did deserve to win, but I still voted for the CPS boss. Jill has many, many problems but for me it came down to the fact that the CPS “joke” was intentionally cruel. It’s one thing to be delusional (though that’s understating Jill’s actions, I know); it’s another to delight in hurting people.

    1. Kes

      Eh, I do think delusional is kind for Jill – she was consistently verbally abusive to the OP, and I really doubt she didn’t know what she was doing was cruel.

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      Yeah, I felt the same way. CPS Boss was the most deliberately cruel, IMHO. But they’re all awful bosses, so everyone’s a winner. Or, um, a loser.

  3. Lana Kane

    As a parent, that CPS story just punched me in the gut. I try to imagine myself in that situation, and each scenario involves me being carried out kicking and screaming by security.

    1. Mommy MD

      I think I would have filed some kind of lawsuit. And I’m not litigious. You don’t get between moms and their babies.

    2. Jadelyn

      That boss was frankly lucky that the employee they pulled that crap on doesn’t seem to have A Temper. I know a few people for whom I’m fairly sure the consequences of pulling a stunt like that would’ve included several broken bones for CPS Boss. Or at least a keyed car and slashed tires after the fact.

  4. ProgrammerDude

    You know it’s a bad year when the boss who could have caused permanent bodily harm, including DEATH only placed third…
    (I actually voted for first place myself though)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I voted for him too, but as someone who had a “nosy neighbor calling CPS on me for no reason” as one of my top three fears the entire times my kids were growing up, I had a hard time choosing between that and the CPS boss.

    2. Robbie

      I have a theory that it was also written in early in 2018, so by the time we got to CPS boss and couples’ therapy boss, the amount of ridiculous had desensitized us all. If I was more statistically-minded I would put together a graph of when the winners were posted on the site during the calendar year vs. their overall horribleness.

      Instead we shall toast that they are all the equivalent of pond scum on our shoes.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        Hellmouth Boss should really have been on the list. Its still 2018 and the update had so many layers of bat guano WHOA! stuff in it

  5. Relly

    Alison, would you be willing to tell us which one you voted for? I always think it’s interesting seeing a manager’s perspective on who was the worst, and why.

      1. Relly

        She may not have, you’re right, but I seem to remember her commenting on previous Worst Boss polls with her votes and reasoning.

    1. Kes

      I think Alison has said in the past she votes more on who is worst *as a manager*.
      I think purely from the management perspective, I would say maybe chair boss because the boss and HR just totally abdicated their duties and failed to protect their employees – they literally just did not do their job.
      I’d definitely be interested to hear Alison’s opinion, though.

      1. Relly

        I think that gets into interesting grounds of what makes a manager the worst. Is it a near criminal level of neglect/inaction (pushpin, head injury), a single instance that seriously was beyond the pale (CPS, head injury), or a pattern of behavior that while not as outrageous is still consistently toxic (therapy, surveillance)?

        1. LGC

          For what it’s worth, probably the pattern of toxicity. The single worst management decision this year was CLEARLY the head injury. The worst single situation was the CPS boss.

          But I can see a mediocre boss panicking and trying to cover up potentially harmful situations (like a teacher injuring themselves or a prank going awry – and this admittedly minimizes what happened in those cases). Therapy boss waged a campaign of emotional abuse and manipulation against…if I recall, multiple employees including the LW. The lede was the suggestion for couples counseling, but that was the tip of the abusive management iceberg.

          It’s like the boss that wanted her employees to help with her Tinder profile (!!!): the post title doesn’t begin to do it justice.

  6. irene adler

    So what does the worst boss of 2018 win?
    I’m sure we can come up with something appropriate.
    A big giant ‘finger-salute’ trophy? Fully engraved, of course.

    1. yebroqlp

      I would love to hear that “This was my boss & I (anonymously) e-mailed a link to the article to him/her.”. I wonder if any of the bosses in any of the annual worst-of lists discovered they were on the list & either reached out to Alison (to justify or admit horridness) or to anyone who has/had the misfortune of working for them. Basically, I’d love to hear about the reactions from any of these bosses if they ever found out they made the list.

    1. Lady Phoenix

      The CPs Faker got updated this year during Update season. Her boss investigated the write up and fired her.

  7. Lady Phoenix

    I always decree that any boss that is punished for their actions is automatically disqualified from my vote because… well… they got punished.

    That is why i did not vote for the CPS faker. She got fired for her stupidity.

      1. Lady Phoenix

        I think they others are worse because they DIDN’T get punished or wouldn’t handle things that require swift judgement.

  8. That One Person

    Was hard to decide, almost voted for the one that came first because that was some really nasty psychological warfare including the father. Ultimately wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of any of these actions, or working for any of these bosses for that matter at the end of the day.

  9. Stranger than fiction

    OMG do we have an update from the Op on the winner?? I didn’t see the original post and am just learning of this.

  10. CatCat

    It was a tough field this year. I think this is evident by the winner not even coming close to a majority of votes.

  11. Elle

    I know it’s petty, but honestly I’m still so mad at the boss who wrote in about denying their employee her birthday day off/gift/cake because she was born on a leap year. The update to that made me so angry.

      1. Elle

        Yeah, the update was what really pissed me off. I can’t believe the way she doubled down! Gah. Some people are truly impossible to reason with.

    1. Chuck

      Right?? LW didn’t seem to understand how unfair they were being. I wouldn’t put them in the worst, but they’re definitely the best at missing the point.

      1. Elle

        Definitely not as bad as the other bosses who were up for the vote, but yeah, that one really got to me. Maybe because the letter made me wonder about other things regarding their personality, and what other hills they’ve chosen to die on. Working for people who absolutely refuse to admit they’re wrong about something (especially something so petty!) is terrible. I bet that boss is an effing nightmare.

  12. Jennifer

    It made me really sad to read that the woman with the worst boss of the year thought that maybe she was just “being a millennial.” We have demonized that generation so much that young people are second-guessing themselves about getting out of very serious, abusive situations. I don’t know why some people of older generations pride themselves on staying in terrible situations and making life as difficult as possible.

    If you are reading this, find a job waiting tables and just leave this horrible situation off your resume. Many people your age wait tables while they look for a “real job.” You’ll be much happier.

        1. Arya Snark

          I think ’65 is the cusp of the second wave of Boomers & Gen X. You can join me in Gen X if you’d like – we apparently hate all of the things!

        2. Vicky Austin

          I read that if Boomers were born between May 1946 (nine months after WW2 ended) and November 1963 (JFK’s death). So you’re one of the oldest Gen-Xers. I’m one of the youngest as I was born in the late 70’s.

      1. Jadelyn

        From a beleaguered Millennial, thank you. I was so grateful when an older (definitely a Boomer) coworker spoke up in defense of Millennials at a meeting the other day – I’d tried to counter them and gotten talked right over. She didn’t change anyone’s minds, I don’t think, but she was able to shut it down and get us back on track on other subjects, which is good enough for me. It’s so helpful to have someone they (might) actually listen to on our side!

        1. Jennifer

          I am either an old millennial or a young Gen X depending on who you ask, either way I’m sick of millennial bashing. Good on your older coworker!

        2. CM

          Gen-Xer here. I don’t get all the Millennial-bashing — obviously everything you can say about an entire generation is going to be a generalization, but the ones I hear about Milennials are all either good or admirable. They care about social justice over profit; they like avocadoes; they may be buried in debt but they’re trying as hard as they can; they’re more likely to live with relatives and delay traditional milestones like living alone, marriage, kids, and homeownership because of aforesaid debt (sad, but admirable). And everyone forever has always complained that the younger generation is entitled and whiny, so I don’t see that as Millennial-specific bashing.

  13. PB

    You know it’s a bad year when the manager who turns a blind eye on an employee slicing a chair with a knife garners 10% of the vote.

  14. Detective Amy Santiago

    So this isn’t worst boss related, but in terms of Worst Employee, I am DESPERATE for an update to “Jane Has Lost Her Mind”.

    (link to follow)

      1. Murphy

        I know! I was thinking about that letter the other day. (Though I don’t know what made me think of it! Nothing that “exciting” is happening around here.)

  15. Kes

    I just went back and reread the original post and update for the winner, and I realized Alison literally referenced the past winners in her answer (to say that therapy boss was at that kind of level of awfulness). I guess that was an indicator, which has been entirely validated now.

  16. DaniCalifornia

    I had such a hard time choosing between
    -the person who was insane/narcissistic and ruining the relationship between dad and coworker
    -the person who could have let someone die from a head injury
    -the person who was letting someone risk the chance of assault from a crazy coworker
    -the person who risked someone’s child welfare/family life

    1. AnonyMouse

      Another take on this: You know it’s a bad year when camera/email spying boss (who in any other year would probably be the winner) is seemingly “normal” compared to the other candidates. That’s so sad to think about.

  17. Murphy

    I think at this time of the year, we should all take a moment and be thankful for our own bosses. They might not be perfect, but they probably won’t deny you an ambulance if you sustain a head injury.

    1. Jadelyn

      You know, that’s a good point. My new boss can be a bit scatterbrained and is Not Great at follow-through, but would never pull vicious “pranks” or force me to go back to work after a head injury; my previous boss (this just changed like a month ago so I’m counting them both still) was micromanage-y and thinks she knows more about systems than she actually does, which resulted in her trying to order me to make our system do things it literally can’t do, but if someone was slicing chairs and putting thumbtacks down on people’s seats, she’d raise hell to see the perpetrator ousted IMMEDIATELY.

      Silver linings, I suppose.

  18. Where’s my coffee?

    The pushpin story still seems “off” to me. That company makes no sense. (Large enough to have a national HQ and a compliance team, but small enough for an inexperienced HR rep to be calling the shots over a c-level?) It seems like they’re not really giving OP a straight story.

  19. AnonyMouse

    I wonder if any of these bosses ever stumble upon this site, recognize their featured in these posts, and learn that they have the “honor” of being crowned worst boss of the year…

  20. Matilda Jefferies

    Alison, I hate to be so pedantic, but would it be possible to re-sort the runners up so they’re in order? I was quite surprised to see Late Fees Boss at the top of the list, since I didn’t think she was anywhere near as bad as CPS Boss and Refused To Call An Ambulance Boss!

    In case anyone else is as easily confused as I am, the list in order looks like this:

     the boss who called an employee and pretended to be from Child Protective Services – 27%
     the boss who refused to call an ambulance for an injured employee – 20%
     the employer who fined people $2 a minute for being late – 10%
     the employer who wouldn’t do anything about an employee who left push pins for people to sit on and sliced a chair with a knife – 10%
     the boss who reads all your emails and put cameras in your office – 2%

    1. Matilda Jefferies

      Wow, that was either very fast, or a remarkable coincidence. Either way, thank you so much!

  21. KoolMan

    What about the OP who wouldn’t give her employee a day off becauser her birthday fell on February 29th ?

    1. Yvette

      That one irks me so bad! And when the manager wrote back defending the decision while stating they would give the employee a good reference if they left. Head -> wall

    2. Someone Else

      If you read the comments on the post that had the voting, you’ll see extensive discussion of why that one is ineligible.

  22. Utoh!

    It would be GREAT if some type of certificate could be mailed to the “winning” boss…nicely framed for hanging on the wall of their office, of course!

  23. hugseverycat

    I almost wish we had an honorable mention for the leap day birthday boss, if only because it was so terrifically petty, and he doubled down on the petty in an update.

  24. birthday grinch

    I’m sorry my vote still lies with the boss who refused to give the employee with a leap year birthday the gift card and day off because she “only has a birthday once every four years,” called HER unprofessional and immature for being sad about it, and then had the confidence to COME BACK with an update to let us all know what a great boss they are and how their treatment of the employee was 100% legal so it was also 100% right. I can’t believe he didn’t make the cutoff.

  25. Vicky Austin

    I think this year’s “winner” (or loser, actually) may be the worst boss ever, as it’s the only time I can remember Alison telling the LW to outright quit their job.

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