the worst boss of 2020 is…

We have a winner! The final votes are in, and the worst boss of the year is the company that planned to absorb any government stimulus checks that employees receive for themselves — with 52% of the vote in the final match-up.

There was a lot of debate of the nominees year! Here are some comments from people explaining why they chose this “winner”:

• “I chose the money-stealing company, because TAKING AWAY PEOPLE’S STIMULUS CHECKS during, arguably, the worst year in many people’s lives is beyond the pale.”

• “It completely defeats the intent behind the government directly cutting citizens actual checks (vs. other forms of aid, such as the business loan program that was also part of that package).”

• “Those checks were supposed to help people facing sudden financial struggles. My partner got laid off and couldn’t get unemployment for complicated but uncommon reasons. The stimulus check helped us pay rent while they looked for another job. If my company had decided that they were going to cut my hours and pay at the same time, we’d have been homeless.”

• “Economic impact has a lot more long-term damage. Tape over your mouth is embarrassing and humiliating but you can rationalize it says more about them than you, no one will be worse off in 30 years because of it, but if they mess with your money, that can have long-lasting impacts.”

The 11 runners-up, who managed to be pretty terrible themselves:

the boss who has violent tantrums and punches holes in walls

the boss who mooches off someone living paycheck to paycheck

the boss who photographed an employee’s accidentally exposed body

the boss who tapes people’s mouths shut during meetings

the abusive former boss is still berating someone months after they left

the company that makes you forfeit all your vacation days if you’ve worked from home

the managers who created a fake workload to test how much pressure an employee could take

the boss who let his team taunt a new hire because of her nut allergy

the boss who made someone do a video call — with eye contact — while she was driving

the company that won’t pay if you don’t install spy software on your personal computer

the boss who tells weird lies about everybody

{ 127 comments… read them below }

    1. Brisbe*

      Borrowing from the Ig Nobel Awards: “If you didn’t win a prize this year, and especially if you did, better luck next year.”

  1. SunnySideUp*

    Makes sense that, in this Year of Horribleness, the Worst Boss is tied to COVID misbehavior.

    GOODBYE 2020.

    1. Greg*

      I voted for them anyway, but that’s a really good point. In a year like this, you really have to bump them up for exploiting the worst crisis any of us have ever faced.

  2. Rainbow Brite*

    These should be required “what not to do” reading for all managers. (You’d think most of it wouldn’t need to be said but, well, here these bosses are.)

      1. Idril Celebrindal*

        Kind of like the people who read Machiavelli’s The Prince and unironically take it as their inspiration?

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Unfortunately, they probably lack the necessary humility to be interested in reading this blog.

  3. old curmudgeon*

    These were inarguably the worst of the worst this year. Which, sadly, is a tough choice.

    I’m still curious if the stimulus-stealing company ever got named. I don’t often patronize national chains, but I’d really like to know which one to tell everyone I know to avoid.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I would love to hear an update from the LW on this one. Did the company actually do this, and if so, what was the result? I really hope there was some sort of backlash and the company came to their senses.

        1. gbca*

          This update is what made me realize that the worst thing this company did was communicate poorly. Hours were going to be cut regardless, they just framed it really badly. They’re not winning any awards for company of the year, but I think pretty much all the other nominees were worse.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            Exactly. Poor communication < than just about everything else here, and especially < than the immediate runner up who photographed a wardrobe gaffe and distributed it.

            1. gbca*

              Yeah I think there was a lot of misunderstanding about what actually happened. Even the first quote Alison published said the company “stole” the stimulus checks. That’s actually what I thought was happening when I first read it, that the company was reducing people’s pay rate to absorb it (which would be horrible). But cutting hours is different and again, was going to happen anyway.

              1. Pink Basil*

                Large national chain not withstanding, the restaurant industry is in free fall. 17% of restaurants in the US have closed over the past nine months. All types of restaurants are in dire straits, not just small businesses. My daughter works for a restaurant and is getting no hours right now, but she’s hoping that means they’ll survive so that she can go back in the spring.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                It wasn’t just poor communication — it was horrible decision-making about whose hours were going to be cut and by how much. Choosing to cut hours specifically in measure selected to match the stimulus money people take in, so that de facto that money is going to you and all they’re getting is time off they can’t do anything with is still morally tantamount to cheating both the government and the individuals. Cutting hours either across the board or based on which jobs are least necessary at the moment is a fact of business life. They’re not the same thing.

                I knew the update, and voted for this company anyway. I still think they were the worse of the two finalists. Photographing one individual sucks but isn’t a systemic fault; it’s just one person behaving like an asshole. By comparison to an entire company doing crap like this, it’s trivial. I might have voted for one or two of the other options who didn’t make their way to the final two if they were available to me by that point, but they weren’t.

                1. Pink Basil*

                  The restaurant and hospitality industry has lost 7.5 million jobs since February so lots of restaurant workers would probably be happy to have the stimulus money, part of their paycheck, and the hope that they’d still have a solvent company to work for a month later.

                2. fhqwhgads*

                  One might say “isn’t a systemic fault; it’s just one person behaving like an asshole” is a better qualifier for “worst boss”, given the systemic issue doesn’t really boil down to one particular boss but rather all of management at that particular employer.

                3. Alex*

                  I can only assume that you don’t work in an industry that has been heavily impacted by Covid or that you are extremely privileged financially and don’t have to worry about money. While it is not great for the employees to effectively miss out on the government stimulus package, but otherwise have the same level of income as normal, I would much prefer to miss out on the package if missing out on it meant that my coworker could afford to eat. By linking the reduction in hours to the amount of stimulus recieved by employees the company were trying to protect the income of all of their employees rather than have a situation in which some were better off than normal and others were much worse off to the extent that they couldn’t afford their essential bills which would have been the likely effect of an across the board pay cut.

      1. SweetestCin*

        I even went as far as to see if anything popped up in the articles that Polly Mosendz wrote for Bloomberg rang any bells, but didn’t see anything.

        This letter needs an update badly.

  4. Yvette*

    Were there any updates for any of them? If there ever are updates for the nominees I think they should be held back until after the election so as not to influence the voting.

  5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I did like the suggested distinction between worst *boss* and worst *company*, personally.

    1. Laura H.*

      Agreed. That’s a whole ‘Nother level of yikes!

      I don’t want to have another category necessarily but there were a lot of companies in the mix this year, and I do think it could have been parsed that way. But not my site, not my call to make.

      Thanks Alison for managing to parse it down to 12- THAT had to have been disheartening.

    2. Mr. Shark*

      Right. That’s why I went with the tape over mouth. Even though the financial implications of the other is completely awful, the tape over mouth comes down to one boss being horrible, versus a company making a bad decision (which I’m sure probably came from some boss, but it’s less personal since it’s the company mandate).

  6. Scott L*

    To those whose entries didn’t win, please take solace in the thought that every time we voted we were making an extremely difficult choice. You all have horrible bosses and we still feel for each and every one of you.

  7. bluephone*

    I don’t know, I still think that the “video call while driving” letter was less a “terrible boss” letter and more a “the problem is me [the LW]” letter. The boss never actually said “do this call while driving.” The OP was parked when the meeting started *and then started driving* while on the call. Like, come on now.

    1. Cassidy*

      The LW wrote, “My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove. Okay. When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video). My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn’t care. This is what led to me driving for an over an hour in an extremely uncomfortable situation.”

      Not sure how that translates into “‘the problem is me [the LW]’ letter. The boss never actually said ‘do this call while driving.’”

      Because the boss said exactly that.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        +1. We’d all like to think that, put in the same scenario, we would puff out our chests and insist on doing the right thing, somehow saying all the right words that would open our boss’s eyes to the danger, at which point they would immediately relent and apologize… but this was very clearly not OP’s fault in any way – they found themselves in a completely impossible situation.

        1. ASDFGHJ*

          I mean, the LW put countless people’s lives in danger by doing that. Of course boss shouldn’t have told them to, but LW is the one ultimately responsible for the safe operation of a 2,000-pound projectile. If they had killed someone, “my boss told me to” wouldn’t grant them an ounce of sympathy in a vehicular manslaughter trial or civil suit, even if they’d have lost their job otherwise.

          Plus, rereading the letter, LW just says “I had to travel during the workday. Life happened, and I was not able to get back in time for a meeting.” They don’t say that it was work-related travel, nor do they explain why they couldn’t just take the Zoom call on their phone wherever they happened to be at the time. None of this makes the boss any less shitty, of course, but I vehemently disagree that it was clearly not the LW’s fault.

        2. Sylvan*

          I mean, I would? My dad’s dealing with a lifelong health problem from a childhood car accident. I try really hard to not do stupid things in cars.

          Also, as the OP wrote: “The back story is that I had to travel during the workday. Life happened, and I was not able to get back in time for a meeting. My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove. Okay. When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video).”

          They weren’t driving when the call started, but then they began driving and began using video. They could’ve really hurt themselves and other people.

        3. CheeryO*

          I disagree that it was an impossible situation. Option #1 was to take the call while still parked. Option #2 was to keep video on and just listen and keep her eyes on the road. No one is getting fired for refusing to maintain eye contact while driving. Option #3 was to find a safe place to pull over. Most highways have exits/rest stops/text more often than once per hour. The LW got flustered and made a reckless decision. I totally empathize with her, but I think it’s dangerous to say that she didn’t share some of the blame.

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            I agree — the boss may have “insisted” but the OP still had control of their phone and their vehicle. I also empathize with the fluster, and the boss was stupid, but ultimately the OP chose to continue doing something incredibly dangerous.

            1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

              “ultimately the OP chose to continue doing something incredibly dangerous.”

              ‘Choosing’ to do something, when you didn’t have any other option… it isn’t really a choice.

              1. Thankful for AAM*

                The boss did not say, drive and be part of the meeting or be fired. The LW choose to join the meeting and drive. They could have pulled over to attend the meeting. I do get that they felt pressure to drive and attend, but at some point common sense should have kicked in and they should have pulled over.

                1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                  Well, there’s always the “pressured to do X” / “fired because I didn’t do X” dynamic…

                  I know I’ve been in a position where things were, lets say, contra to health and safety. To the degree at one point where a boss said to me “are you saying you are feeling in danger and you can’t carry this out safely?” and I backed down (as expected, and necessary to get the job done) because it was the only option.

                  Yeah, the boss didn’t say “do this or be fired” but it seems clear to me that there’s history or context here where OP feels they have to do this or meet up with ‘alternate consequences’ whatever they are.

              2. Roci*

                OP always has other options. “Just following orders” isn’t an excuse. OP was pressured to do something dangerous and chose to comply. Both are culpable.

          2. Stormfeather*

            I’d agree that she definitely shared part of the blame and should not have done what she did by any means, but I’m not sure that makes the actual boss any less bad for putting the demand out there that someone a) take part in a meeting while driving and b) specifically maintain eye contact and such while doing so.

        4. Someone Else*

          I would absolutely not under any circumstances do what LW did.

          I would take the call while driving and put it on the dash and not look at it, or I would stay parked and stare at the phone.

          If boss says (he didn’t), “you *must* drive *and* stare *at the same time*, I would say, “I can either drive or stare at the phone, which would you prefer?” And then do that.

          I also wouldn’t travel away from work in the middle of the day (for “life happens” reasons) without a) forgetting I had an important call to return for b) telling someone c) making alternative arrangements to either not travel or get on the call or find a replacement or literally *anything*.

          Boss may not be an angel, but boss is not responsible for LW’s crappy decisions.

        5. EventPlannerGal*

          I’m sorry but this is not a “completely impossible” situation. The LW could have killed people. It horrifies me that so many people are so cavalier about road safety and I honestly hope that I am never sharing a stretch of road with some of the people defending her if this is how they think about driving while distracted.

      2. hbc*

        “My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove.” I don’t recall if the OP specified, but there are a couple of ways to interpret that, or ways there could have been a miscommunication between OP and Boss. If the “while I drove” refers to *when* Boss gave the order, it’s possible that Boss assumed that OP would pull over or otherwise be safe. If instead, Boss said, “Zoom and make eye-contact while you drive,” there’s no question Boss belongs in the competition.

        In other words, I can see why some people are getting different impressions about the letter–English has a lot of structural ambiguity.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          If the “while I drove” refers to *when* Boss gave the order,
          In that case she would have said “while I was driving”. It seems clear that Boss was referring to ‘future’ (relative to the statement) driving.

      3. Batgirl*

        “My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required”
        I’d have gone with:
        “OK, of course – turning on… ooh, that looks like it could drain my battery, so let me just plug…. (turns phone off)”.
        This would just roll off my tongue but I’ve had lots of terrible bosses. In my experience you do whatever you have to to be safe/remain an ethical human and deal with the explanations later. They arent too bright, it’s usually fine.

      4. Arctic*

        DId you read what you quoted?

        “When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video). ”

        Meaning she was talking to her manager BEFORE getting into the car. Knew she had to attend this meeting. And still chose to START driving. Even if she were doing it not on video that is wildly irresponsible.

    2. Mill Miker*

      The way I see it, if the LW had written in with “My boss is upset at me for refusing to maintain eye contact on a video call while driving” and the letter was the same except that the LW refused to turn the camera on when the boss called it “unacceptable”, we’d probably all still be aghast, and the boss would very likely still be on the list.

      The LW’s actions have no bearing on how inappropriate it was for the boss to insist or even ask.

      1. Arctic*

        The LW chose to put many lives at risk when she started driving knowing she was in a meeting. That is a mitigating factor here.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That’s pretty much my view. That letter could very easily have been ‘I hit someone while driving because my boss told me to watch a video screen. The police say it was my fault but isn’t it my manager?’

          And that, I suspect, would have had much different comments.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      The boss did explicitly ask OP to Zoom-and-drive, and then doubled down on it even when OP said she didn’t have appropriate equipment.

  8. Kali*

    Clicked onto the manager taking a photo of a staff member’s accidental exposure one, and saw a debate on whether or not it is sexual harassment which I wanted to contribute to, but I think replies are locked because the post is from September.

    In the UK (Equality Act 2010, c15, part 26), harassment is defined based on how it makes the victim feel and if a judge agrees that it was reasonable for them to feel that way (my summary). Specifically;

    (1)A person (A) harasses another (B) if—
    (a)A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and
    (b)the conduct has the purpose or effect of—
    (i)violating B’s dignity, or
    (ii)creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

    It becomes sexual harassment if the protected characteristic is gender, sex, or sexual orientation, iirc.

    I know it’s unlikely the story did take place in the UK, but this does show that the incident would be considered harassment in some places. I know laws vary by state, so in the absence of knowing exactly which state the incident took place in, this is the strongest point I can make.

    Also, I wanted to share this because I know there are some common misconceptions about sexual harassment – e.g., ‘harassment’ must be multiple incidents not just one, the intentions of the perpetrator, e.g., sexual attraction to the victim, are a factor, etc – and knowing the precise definition has been alarmingly helpful to me over the years. Alarming because we shouldn’t have to go through life being able to cite the exact law being violated to get a manager or HR to take harassment seriously, and yet I have sometimes found it necessary.

    1. Arctic*

      That’s pretty similar to the US. The standard doesn’t necessarily use the words “violate dignity.” But it’s essentially the same.

    2. Mr. Jingles*

      In Germany this would violate the privacy laws secured b the DSGVO and the absolute right to the own pictures outside of public places. A workplace doesn’t count as public place, every photography or any filming must be announced and even if they are, they are only used if the company can prove them to be absolutely necessary for keeping up business. Photographing any naked body prt without consent is harassment by law. Using a picture without specific permission for the use, even if the permission to take the picture was already given, is against the law.
      Sometimes I find Germany‘s regulations and laws silly and stifling. In this case though I’m grateful we have them.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Oh, I might have been the one to set off that debate then never returned to the comment thread. Not going back now!

      But it’s taking a photo of an exposed body part and showing it to others. How could it NOT be sexual harassment? Just because the boss wasn’t necessarily aroused by it?

      I can agree that there are different degrees of sexual harassment, but this still obviously on the list.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes. Even if the boss is not aroused by it, they are showing it round to others and someone somewhere will get off on it because boob.

        1. Kali*

          I want to jump in here to be very clear on the point that a situation doesn’t stop being harassment if people aren’t getting off on it. It’s a very common but unhelpful misconception, e.g., you’ll hear people defend themselves by claiming they’re “obviously not attracted” to the victim or try to prevent victims of harassment from pursuing justice by claiming “you’re just flattering yourself, she/he/they didn’t mean it that way” etc.

          In this case, everyone involved could be well-known to be ace or some other sexuality that prevents the op’s coworker being in the category of people they might find attractive, and the op’s coworker would still be able to pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit if she wanted to. That said, the *fear* that the managers or anyone else might be doing that would contribute to a hostile work environment, so it’s not irrelevant, it’s just not the deciding factor.

      2. Kali*

        I think the only confusion was over people not being sure what counted as ‘sexual’ or ‘harassment’, rather than any doubt that the behaviour was wrong. I think the definitions probably do vary in different places and I would have thought “harassment” meant multiple occassions not a one-off if I hadn’t looked it up years ago, so I can see people being unsure what counts if they haven’t had reason to look up the definition before.

        1. Lalaroo*

          Sexual harassment means “harassment based on sex.” It doesn’t have to be sexual in the “having sex” sense of the word. So harassment that just focuses on women being incompetent or whatever still counts as sexual harassment, even if it’s not related at all to pants-feelings or activities. I think this would probably count lol.

  9. Bob*

    The Consumerist used to have the Golden Poo for their award winners. I think something similar is called for here. Perhaps even delivered to the company?

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          We could deliver a printed copy of both the original letter and its answer, and the column in which the award is announced, along with the physical award?

      1. Bob*

        Your welcome
        My favourite was when SearsCares would show up, which i always read as Sears Scares.

        And your username reminds me of a Simpsons episode that had a truck, Flowers By Irene.

    1. AKchic*

      A coffee mug with “AAM Worst Boss 2020 Winner” (make sure the cup is labeled as limited edition somewhere)?

      A coffee mug would at least fit in with the office theme.

  10. Anon for this*

    I think I didn’t understand the situation. Can someone explain? The way I see it is: because empoyees are getting money from the government, their hours are being cut by the same amount – but they won’t be at work during those hours, so basically instead of “money” from the stimulus check, they’re getting “time off” – wasn’t that the goal of the stimulus checks, that people leave the house less?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      No, the goal of the checks was to put money in people’s wallets so they could then spend it on things like rent and food. Playing games with math doesn’t help the economy, it just makes your spreadsheet look better.

    2. Sylvan*

      Not exactly. Also, as someone explained in the last post and I’m going to probably badly paraphrase… Imagine that you inherit some money. Your job cuts your hours by the same amount of money you inherited. Not fair, is it?

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It seems more analogous to if your company was struggling and was about to lay someone off, and then you inherit some money, so they decide to lay you off because they think you will suffer less financially than other people would. I wouldn’t say it’s the right thing to do, but I also wouldn’t rank them as the worst boss on this list.

    3. Batgirl*

      You think that your government wants everyone time rich and cash poor? To actually give up the cash to their employers? By that logic they could just make everyone unemployed.

  11. The New Normal*

    I’m actually disappointed that this company won. Obviously they suck and shouldn’t stay in business, but the boss who distributed the wardrobe malfunction was so severely over the top and such a personal violation that I can’t see how it isn’t the “winner”.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s such a hard call, but one of these three:

          * The boss with the violent temper who punched holes in walls — that’s actual violence and I can’t imagine how shaken some of the people there must spend their days
          * The boss who taped people’s mouths shut — it’s such a violation of people and it speaks to how utterly dysfunctional and toxic she and the culture must be, both for it to happen on the reg and for people not to push back
          * The video call while driving — it’s true that the OP could have chosen not to drive, but the boss knew she was driving and insisted on her making eye contact anyway — she could have been killed or killed others, and I think the boss would have been morally complicit in that.

          1. Same here*

            Yeah, I voted for all three of these for the same reasons, and I was very surprised they didn’t make it farther in the bracket. But then I never go far in my March Madness bracket either.

          2. Someone Else*


            The boss *never* told the LW to drive and video. The boss said LW must video. LW alone was responsible for her choice to drive-while-video. LW was *already sitting still in a parked car* when the call started – thus didn’t ever need to pull over.

            What LW did tell us is that she was somewhere not-at-work (but never elaborated) because “life happened” (but never elaborated). She wasn’t where she was supposed to be when the call started, and thus boss because understandably “stop making excuses and get on the damn call.” he did not also say “get on the damn call and drive the whole way with your face plastered to video.” LW chose that.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think that’s right. From the letter:

              My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove. Okay. When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video).

              My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn’t care.

              1. Lala*

                The LW also said:
                “The back story is that** I had to travel during the workday. Life happened, and I was not able to get back in time for a meeting.** My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove. Okay. **When I got in the car I switched the app to safe driving mode (which mutes my microphone and turns off video).**”

                Meaning she got in the car after her boss told her to get on the Zoom. Not before. And was away from where she works during the work day without letting anyone know.

                LW could have easily just stayed in the location they were at during the work meeting. They made a very unsafe choice. And they shouldn’t have been in a position to miss the meeting without letting anyone know, in the first place.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yep, I agree that the LW needed to make different choices and is responsible for not doing that. But the boss is complicit as well. (I also think it’s relevant that the LW noted in a comment on the original post that she’s autistic and struggles to resist direct instructions — not that that makes it okay for her to have done something so dangerous, but it does provide some context.)

                  I quoted the bit of the letter above just because it contradicts the other commenter’s statement that the the boss never told the LW to drive and video.

                2. Working Hypothesis*

                  Their boss apparently still prefers them, in so many words, to join the meeting while they drove. Not to join the meeting, without reference to what they might be doing at the time (which would leave it in their hands whether to be an idiot and start driving during the call), but to be on the meeting *while they drove*. They weren’t given the option of not driving.

                3. Annie Moose*

                  @Working Hypothesis – The writer says “My boss told me to join in via Zoom while I drove” but it’s grammatically vague–it could mean “My boss said that I should drive while I was joined via Zoom”, or it could mean “My boss told me to join via Zoom, and it was at the time when I was driving/was going to be driving, but the boss did not directly say to Zoom and drive”. So to say that they weren’t given the option of not driving… well, that’s not actually said in the letter.

                4. justcourt*

                  Yeah, I’m that as LW was driving and her manager told her she had to be on the call, not that the manager told her she had to drive and be on the call at the same time. I’m pretty sure the LW wasn’t even traveling for work (she doesn’t say she was traveling for work & attributed her travel to “life”), so without any other information, it’s actually unreasonable to assume the boss’s requirement was related to driving at all. And since the boss okayed LW leaving the office for (presumably) personal business and attending the meeting remotely, it seems reasonable to infer that the boss would also be okay with LW waiting until after the meeting to travel back to the office.

                  I suppose it’s possible the boss actually expected the LW to begin traveling back to the office as soon as her errands were done and to be on the call while driving. It just seems much more likely that the boss said LW’s eyes had to be on the screen with the expectation that LW would just understand she had to pull over to do that.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Y’all, it says it right in the letter: “My boss declared this completely unacceptable. She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn’t care.”

                6. justcourt*

                  Yeah, the boss doesn’t care about the driving. The eye contact is priority, and the driving can be stopped in order to focus on what’s important– making eye contact.

          3. Bob*

            All very good contenders, i voted for the video call while driving in some of the matchups. I think the winner is simply due to numbers, the numbers of people affected and the sheer greed at a time when so many are suffering financially.

            1. Fieldpoppy*

              I think the boss taping the mouths shut is objectively the most abusive person. It’s humiliating. I voted for that person.

          4. Jaybeetee*

            Yeah, I was most fired up about the outright abuses, like the tape boss, the keyboard-smash boss, and the spyware boss. I tend to rank those above stratospheric incompetence or corporate greed. But the people have spoken!

          5. B.*

            Yeah I voted for the first couple, and the third was a close contender. Having experienced violent and degrading things like that growing up, I have little tolerance for them… They easily do a lot of lasting mental harm as well.

          6. Charlotte Lucas*

            The violent temper boss was #1 for me, easily. When I voted in the first round it was coming in LAST and I was shocked. This boss sounds like a garbage human and a scary, abusive boss.

  12. Greg*

    I feel like there should be a name for this award based on one of Alison’s recurring jokes, like the Chocolate Teapot Awards or the Golden Llama Groomers (the Groomies?) Or maybe just steal from The Office and call it the Dundies.

      1. Greg*

        That did occur to me. Maybe the Unsweetened Chocolate Teapots?* Carob Teapots? Arsenic-Laced Chocolate Teapots? I like the latter because we could call them “The Arsies”.

        * A couple years ago my wife got some unsweetened chocolate at the store and made a point of telling me not to eat it. I looked at her and said, “Given what you know about me, do you really think I didn’t already learn that lesson the hard way when I was a child?”

  13. ITLawyerGuy*

    Did we ever find out the name of the company that won?? I don’t remember seeing it in the comments.

  14. JulieDay*

    Honestly I think I completely misunderstood what was happening in the winning worst boss – I had figured they meant the company was planning on misusing their paycheck protection program payments. What actually happened seems like just a communications snafu? At our company we did furlough some people at the beginning, and I know several people remarked that because our entry level factory workers would earn more on unemployment they felt less bad about furloughing people, and that didn’t seem a terribly uncouth thing to say?

    1. Alex*

      Agreed. While the messaging might not have been the best what the company did doesn’t seem that bad considering the impact the pandemic has had on the restaurant industry.

  15. Dorothy*

    Alison, has a boss ever written in and said “whoa, I am THAT boss but this is why I did what I did…”?

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I think we’ve seen at least one somewhere…and I think at least once the boss doubled down? It had something to do with resumes or interviews IIRC.

    1. Gree*

      Where is the sexism? The winner won by 52% with the creeper boss getting 48% of the final vote. That’s a pretty close vote!

  16. GreenDoor*

    I was really torn between the two finalists. Messing with people’s livlihood during a pandemic is pretty scummy. But taking a picture of someone’s private parts without their consent is pretty scummy too – he could easily post that online on porn sites or create some fake dating/hook-up profile and have people start hounding her. It could affect her professional reputation if potential clients, employers, colleagues see it without knowing she didn’t consent to it or cause her embarassment in her family or social groups. In the end, I voted fo the stimulus grabber only because that one affected way more people.

    1. Annie Moose*

      I felt the same way! They’re both awful, but in the end I went with the one that had the biggest impact on the largest group of people. As horrible as the photo incident is, at least it only directly impacted one employee… and isn’t that an awful thing to have to say. :/

      At least we can be satisfied that photo boss was named second-worst boss of the year and wasn’t let off the hook entirely! :P

    2. Alex*

      But they weren’t messing with people’s livelihoods for the sake of it. I really don’t think that a lot of people in professional jobs realise quite how badly the pandemic has impacted on many industrys. I would actually argue that the company were trying to protect people’s livelihoods as well as they could whilst making necessary savings given the extend to which their business had been decimated. By trying to limit the amount people’s hours were cut to the equivalent of what they were receiving through unexpected government payments the company were trying to protect people’s ability to pay their essential bills. It’s unfortunate that this companies employees were not able to take advantage of the government stimulus scheme in the form of discretionary purchases but at least by doing things this way they have tried to protect them from actual hardship.

      1. Liz T*

        Yeah, I keep rereading that letter expecting to see that the company cut pay but NOT hours–but that’s not the case!

  17. 2horseygirls*

    Because I am a dork, I would love to see how the brackets ended up, and how close it was between the two finalists. Anyone else?

  18. Spice for this*

    I look forward to this list every year and reading it helps me appreciate my boss (who is not the best yet has some good qualities).
    I am happy to say goodbye to 2020!

  19. Liz T*

    I still feel like I don’t “get” the framing on this one. They were cutting hours–doesn’t that imply that they actually didn’t have enough work to go around, and were only giving employees so many hours because they didn’t want to screw them over? So cutting the hours only once they knew it wouldn’t hurt the employees sounds disappointing but not exactly evil. How does that mean the checks “go back to the company?”

    I’m not generally a fan of The Boss or anything, I’m just kind of confused about this one.

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