vote for the worst boss of 2020: round 2

It’s round 2 of the Worst Boss of 2020 voting. Yesterday you narrowed the pool from 12 nominees to four. The four winners from yesterday (see results here) are paired off in two match-ups below, as we move closer to declaring a winner.

Voting is now closed. The results in this round were:

1. A Dreadful Duo
the boss who photographed an employee’s accidentally exposed body 57.46% (4,134 votes)
the boss who tapes people’s mouths shut during meetings 42.54% (3,061 votes)
Total Votes: 7,195

2. A Perfidious Pair
• the company that planned to absorb any government stimulus checks that employees receive for themselves 54.14% (3,944 votes)
• the boss who made someone do a video call — with eye contact — while she was driving 45.86% (3,341 votes)
Total Votes 7,285

{ 115 comments… read them below }

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      It definitely helped me choose! Still had a hard time picking, but it’s easier to whittle down 2-3 choices than a dozen.

      1. Works in IT*

        I don’t know…. to me, both options in bracket 2 are worse than either option in bracket 2. Video call while driving boss feels like they would be the top contender in any other year.

  1. Sparky*

    I wish we could make all the bad bosses physically fight each other for the title.

    This is the next best thing! Thanks to Alison for running this site, and thanks to all the good managers and bosses!

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        This incredible idea has the makings of a show that will makeup for most of 2020.

      1. Artemesia*

        I am going with wage theft — ultimately systemic evil is more damaging to us all. But it is a hard call.

    1. Aquawoman*

      While it was crappy, I don’t think it was wage theft, right? The company was having them reduce their hours, not reducing their pay or taking their pay for hours worked.

    2. yala*

      I feel like in this case the nonconsensual photography is even worse than the tape thing, because the photo can stick around.

        1. A lawyer*

          Yes this is what swayed my vote, the lady driving could have killed herself and multiple other people on the road.

        2. Artemesia*

          But what idiot would then do this? This one seems easy to push back on or pull over. ‘I can’t drive without my eyes on the road, so do you want me to just talk or do you want me to pull over and be late to the site?’

          1. KWu*

            I had the same dilemma but I decided it wasn’t about how easy or hard it was for the employee to push back, but the awfulness of the request/expectation from the bad boss in the first place. Stealing is bad, disregarding high likelihood of killing people is worse.

          2. ThePear8*

            It’s easy to think the sensible thing is to just pull over or push back, but some people don’t react sensibly when they’re caught off-guard being put in a very unreasonable situation. I’m sure from the comments on the original post, the letter writer now has plenty of ideas on how to push back should it happen again, and let’s not retroactively call them an “idiot” for freezing up in the moment, but just hope they’ve learned from the experience and look out for their safety more in the future.

            1. Koalafied*

              Yes, and she said in the letter that she DID try to push back initially – she just didn’t keep pushing back when her boss dismissed her argument that it was not safe.

      1. GS*

        Yeah, in that bracket I figured at least with the tape there was the option of walking out, while the photographed employee had no way out at all.

    3. Paris Geller*

      That one is horrible. . . but I would still put it as #4 if I had to rank it. I think for me it’s because it was a company-wide thing, which is HORRIBLE, but doesn’t feel as personal because it affects everyone. The others feel personally malicious.

  2. a username*

    Both of this come down to is it more appalling to target single employees or the organization at large… I lean toward the latter being worse but it’s tough

    1. (A different) Susan*

      Oooo, I didn’t think of it this way. I was thinking of it as degree of individual harm (e.g. borderline sexual assault/ could be TOTALLY triggering to a woman who had been assaulted… or any other woman in the office whose boundaries had ever been violated) or potential actually to KILL people on the road. But… individual vs. business-wide harm. Yeah, that’s another completely legitimate way to view the harm!

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Also whether something is part of regular bad behavior or “just” a really, really horrible error in judgement. All are awful.

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah, that’s the approach I’ve been taking too. What could be a brief if severe error in judgment versus a chronic case of terrible human being.

      2. a username*

        Yes, this factored in for me too! For example, the photo is egregious but as far as we know a one time example, whereas we we know the other boss whipped out the tape every week(!)

        1. Artemesia*

          I’d have laughed off the tape and can’t understand why everyone in that room didn’t just refuse and laugh at the ‘joke’. But that photo is there to put on the internet and lurk in your life forever.

    1. Al*

      My criteria are below:
      1) Evil > idiotic
      2) Sustained > one-off
      3) Harder to fight back > easier to fight back.

      That said, I was pretty much eeny-meeny-miny-mo yesterday as well.

    2. Happy Pineapple*

      I judged them in terms of whether or not the employee(s) are able to take a stand against the behavior. The team taping their own mouths have the potential to no longer go along with it and push back as a group, and the employee who was driving could have pulled over. But stealthy nonconsensual photos and company-wide fraud feel much harder to stop and therefore more demoralizing.

      That said…they all make my skin crawl and the bosses need to be thrown into a hole.

      1. Smarter Now*

        I like your logic – They were all terrible, but I think you’re right about the best way to narrow it down!

  3. Bob*

    Stupendously horrible
    BTW i had to vote twice for it to take my vote and bring me to the results page.
    For those that don’t realize this they may not know their vote might not be counted.

    1. Chinook*

      Why am I having flashbacks to early November? Then again, I am a Supernatural fan and will always have flashbacks to November 2020.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I haven’t been on this site in a few weeks bc my internet time has been taken up screaming about SPN .

    2. Tessa Ryan*

      This happened to me as well! The first time I clicked the submit button nothing happened, it just erased the option I chose to vote for. Once I clicked a second time I saw the results.

  4. Clever Alias*

    This was tough. Usually I come down to one or two and my gut is clearly leaning in one direction vs. the other.

    This year… the “I can’t even” is so strong that I have to resort to saying I can’t even.

  5. Kes*

    I get that people feel strongly about pay and companies abusing stimulus, but multiple people could have died from the other LW driving while looking at her phone for the zoom call; I’m a little amazed the other is winning.

    Definitely a lot of difficult choices in these brackets so far though.

    1. JustKnope*

      I think a lot of people felt that the letter writer in the video call letter could have said no and just not done it. Still utterly horrifying, but the LW had room to just not do the terrible thing.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          Yeah, but did the boss actually insist that the LW Zoom while driving? As far as I can tell, all she did is require the LW to be present on camera; it was up to the LW to figure out how to do that safely.

          The boss isn’t great, obviously — if she knew the LW was driving, she should have explicitly told her to pull over so she could fully participate in the meeting — but I don’t think there’s enough info here to know what the boss’ culpability was.

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

            I had to re-read this one as I felt sure the boss had ‘mandated’ it and I found this in the original letter:

            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.

            She said faces and eye contact were required. I explained I was driving without equipment, but she didn’t care.

            Without making any judgement about which is the “worst boss” I got the impression from this letter that there may be some kind of history or situation with this boss in which the OP of the letter had had difficult encounters with this boss before and felt that they couldn’t say no.

      1. Lizzy May*

        This is where I landed. LW could have pulled over. The boss is still very awful, don’t get me wrong but in a very difficult choice, I went for the one where the LW had less control over the situation.

        1. Natalie*

          LW could have *not started driving* in the first place. They were parked when they started the call.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah. Now maybe more of this is the boss’s responsibility that we saw in the original letter (e.g. maybe the OP had to drive to get back to work and the boss wasn’t reasonable about letting her get back late) but to me this is not a boss issue.

    2. Someone Else*

      Because – the manager did not actually force or require the employee to drive while maintaining eye contact.
      The employee started the call, then *chose* to get in the car and drive an hour during a facetime required meeting.

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      Ha, I feel totally the opposite. The driving Zoom call is winning as I comment, and I’m amazed because the LW in the driving case wasn’t actually forced to do anything — she could have pulled over and done her call in a safe manner.

      1. Someone Else*

        She didn’t even have to pull over. She was already in her car in a parking lot when she chose to start driving.

      2. Jem One*

        I agree, to the point that I’m surprised this one made the worst bosses contest at all! The boss was crappy for asking them to take the call, but the only person who put anyone at risk was the employee!

      3. Colette*

        Yeah, to me the bulk of the issue was the employee (based on the information we received) – the only part that belonged to the boss was that she didn’t tell the OP to park instead of driving. (And the ridiculous requirement for eye contact, but that’s only an issue because the OP was driving.)

      4. Arvolin*

        There was more in the comments. The LW would have loved a good place to pull over, like a gas station. LW realizes she should not have done the video call, but was overstressed and made a bad call due to her boss’s insistence. LW was also on the autism spectrum, and that can cause certain issues (which I’m familiar with, being on the spectrum myself).

        In any case, the boss did know that the LW was driving and paying close attention to her phone, and continued to demand it, doing her best to cause an accident that could be fatal.

        1. Alianora*

          She didn’t have to start driving in the first place. She was on the call and THEN she started driving.

          I’m sorry, but choosing to drive under those circumstances is not excusable and if you’re not able to say no to something as dangerous as that, you shouldn’t have a driver’s license.

        2. yala*

          “LW was also on the autism spectrum”

          I feel like this explains some of it. Like, sometimes you have too many conflicting “commands” (must be on call. but also must be at work.) and your brain kind of…locks up, so you just do what seems easiest, and if there’s an authority figure TELLING you to do things, then you just kind of…do that, because you’re kind of frozen otherwise.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            I’m ND (tho not autistic) and had a lot of empathy for that LW. Especially earlier in my career, I definitely made some boneheaded decisions and said/did some boneheaded things, especially in curve-ball unexpected situations where I wasn’t sure how to react. Luckily I’ve never been in *this sort* of situation, but I can definitely see how it can happen.

            Not just me either, but other younger/inexperienced colleagues I’ve had could definitely get into the mode of “Boss said X, gotta do X”, when perhaps, Boss was unaware of some context that would make X inappropriate or dangerous (or Boss was unscrupulous or plain didn’t care.)

            I don’t really put that one in league with the “worst bosses” bc contextually it didn’t sound like boss insisted on her driving. But I sure did feel for the LW.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I voted for the stimulus one, but it was really, really hard to choose. Ultimately, I figured that although the manager was completely unreasonable, the driving employee had other options. But the employees in the stimulus situation are more at the mercy of their scheming employer.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I’m amazed that “the boss who made someone do a video call — with eye contact — while she was driving” won yesterday.

      The boss wasn’t holding a gun to the employee’s head to make them drive. The employee decided to do so. The employee had several options including taking the call with eye contact and not driving (pulling over) or if she had to drive ignore the boss’s order to be on video and make eye contact. Heck, maybe the boss assumed pulling over was assumed in the request/order to turn on video and make eye contact.

      I have some understanding that the LW made the wrong decision in an extremely stressful situation, but she decided to do what she did.

    6. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I actually don’t get why people are so upset about the stimulus story. That’s way less bad than a lot of the stories I heard about PPP abuse:
      * Employer laid off employee, then “offered” to hire them back in the middle of the night but with a deadline at like 7 am, just so they can say that the former employee declined the offer of employment when they filed their PPP paperwork.
      * Employer paid everyone double during the PPP period and then insisted they pay it back by working for free months afterwards.
      * Employer hired spouse/mistress/whatever to do nothing for a six figure paycheck, just to have one more employee on the books.

      Compared to that, cutting hours (that they probably didn’t have to give the employee anyways, unless there was a contract) seems like small potatoes to me.

      1. Genova*

        Yeah I didn’t get the hype about the stimulus one either. Obviously I don’t know about the company’s financial position, but to me it sounded like they were going to need to cut hours regardless so at least with the stimulus money the employee still have the same monthly pay. And they gave them time off work. Not nearly as bad as still making them work the same amount of hours.

        1. Pink Basil*

          Not to mention the couple of people over the past few months who have been laid off and told to start collecting unemployment but keep working for free. That’s a lot worse than the stimulus one because it’s actual fraud.

    7. Sylvan*

      The LW began driving after joining the video meeting and then continued… They had some other options that they didn’t take. Some of which would have probably made their boss very unhappy, like refusing to join the meeting, but that’s better than potentially being in an accident.

    8. Percysowner*

      For me what tips it is that the employee could have said no, or pulled off the road, or said “you’re breaking up, I don’t have the reception for video”. The fact that that employee has more options in this case is why I voted for the wage theft.

  6. Someone Else*

    The boss did not make the employee drive while maintaining eye contact, nor is “there was no place to pull over” even a relevant defense. The driver *started* the manager-imposed-face-time-required call, and *then* got in the car, and then *chose* to drive for an hour.

    1. Dream Jobbed*

      Agreed. I have no way of deciding between the boss who photographed and the boss that taped. Arggg!

  7. Jam Today*

    These are all so horrific that again find myself asking “is one of these going to end in death? if yes, pick that one.”

  8. Quill*

    Anyone else kind of want a rundown of how all the previous year winners couldn’t have done their dastardly deeds this year because of social distancing and telework?

  9. Not Your Average Jo(lene)*

    We could always do a March madness bracket challenge since there seems to be so many bad bosses/situations!

  10. Mx*

    The photographied employee is sexual harassment and the driving while looking is life threatening, so the choice wasn’t that hard for me

    1. Arvolin*

      And the tape boss had normalized what she was doing, so the office as a whole thought it reasonable, so I went with that one. Hard calls, and the best we can do here is explain our reasoning.

      1. Pink Basil*

        Yes — good point! That was the worst thing about tape boss — everyone was kinda ‘well, that’s the way she runs meetings,’ so she’s not only bad in the moment but resetting people’s expectations of normal office behavior.

        1. I take tea*

          I voted for the tape one too, because of it being a repeated thing, not a one-off (at least I sincerely hope the photograph was a one-off!)

  11. Being human*

    Omg Alison, this one was so hard! I had to choose the ones that caused (or could have) serious harm for the individuals involved.

  12. Krakatoa*

    Honestly, photographing someone’s exposure is such an egregious event to me that it trumps everything else by far. There were a lot of truly awful nominees this year though.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Sure the photo should not have been taken but realistically, how much of the employee’s breast was exposed? If a blouse slips, you might see the top of a boob and maybe some bra. I get that the print outs and the meeting were humiliating but I save my ire for bosses that exploit workers, provide unsafe workplaces or systemically demoralise workers through discrimination, sexism, violence and shonky practices.

  13. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Worst boss of the 21st Century thus far…

    I vote for Liver Boss (the one who fired employees who didn’t get tested for liver donation compatibility, even if they were medically unable to get tested). Was there ever an update on that?

    1. WellRed*

      There never was and that surprises me. Unless the LW was forced to donate part of their liver and didn’t make it through.

  14. Jaybeetee*

    I find apart from sheer WTFery, I tend to choose the most blatant instances of “bosses viewing their employees as property/silly children/The Enemy.” Unfortunately I missed yesterday’s vote, bc there were other ones I found more egregious than the ones that made it to this round.

    Anyway, I chose the boss who photographed (and showed people!) her employee’s accidental exposure, and the stimulus abuse company comes out narrowly ahead of the zoom-driving incident, just bc as others have said, part of the zoom-driving issue was the employee getting flustered – the boss wasn’t actually insisting on her driving during the meeting. For the photography one, both are horrifying and abusive – but whereas the taping is something “confined”, that photo could dog that poor employee for the rest of her life, depending on how careless/malicious the boss is.

  15. Retired worker bee*

    I decided to vote for the boss who did something that would be traumatic, as opposed to humiliating, to the employee. In the first bracket, I voted for the boss who photographed the exposed body, believing that to be more traumatic than taping employees’ mouths closed, because he taped a number of employees’ mouths closed. If he had picked on just one employee, that would have been traumatic.

    In the second bracket, I voted for the boss who made the employee do a video call while driving, because being forced to risk your life is more traumatic than having your stimulus checks taken away.

    1. TiffIf*

      In the second bracket, I voted for the boss who made the employee do a video call while driving, because being forced to risk your life is more traumatic than having your stimulus checks taken away.
      Yup, same, this one endangers the employee, and anyone on the road with them, and is most likely illegal (phone use while driving laws vary by state but could clearly fall under distracted driving in most places if nothing else).

  16. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    Anyone else feel that the stimulus stealing company should be in a different category? The other three are single idiots doing stupid things, while the national restaurant conceivably has many executives and middle management coming together to royally screw their lowest employees. They seem to be completely different levels of awful, and I think we should remove the restaurant chain from the vote entirely and crown them worst EMPLOYER of the year (and dox/name-and-shame them).

    1. Stay-at-homesteader*

      Oh I like the idea of having these split into macro and micro categories. Basically individual a**holery vs white collar crime and callousness.

    2. Mill Miker*

      I feel the same way. I keep not voting for that one because there’s no particular “Boss” in it.

    1. Puggles*

      I thought I had read on the Internet that there were some companies doing this and they printed their names.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        I googled it and found some results with names for other companies doing this, but all the articles linked AAM without any indication of this particular company. Quick internet research didn’t show me anyone outing this company, but I also did it in between grading end of year projects with a teething eight-month-old on my lap, so I may well have missed something.

  17. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    This is so hard! It almost feels like those weird personality tests interviewers sometimes give you where you have to pick between two options that aren’t actually opposites. All these bosses suck!

  18. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    I think perhaps we need a Terrible Manager award and a Terrible Company award.

    For these awards I’ve voted for the stories where a specific person did something awful, rather than what seems to be a collective effort to be Worst Employer of the Year.

  19. Cathie from Canada*

    I did vote — and in both cases my choice was second in this grouping — but I’m fine with either choice winning because they’re all awful.
    You know, in a weird way, these stories make me feel OK — as I look back over my own work experiences, there were times when I was a lousy boss, and times when a boss was lousy to me. But at least I don’t think I was ever THIS bad, nor did I ever have anything this bad done to me!

  20. Firecat*

    Tough choices but ultimately for the pair I had to go with the one who did the most harm. This employer was not only hurting every polyee under them, but they were also hurting this employees families.

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

    I’m curious how these letters get selected as candidates for worst boss! I wonder if Alison flags relevant letters throughout the year as “worst boss candidate” as we go?

  22. WoodswomanWrites*

    For yesterday’s brackets, it was easier to pick a winner from each pair. But today I am completely deadlocked at the degree of awfulness for all four.

  23. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    Well, shoot, I missed the second round. But my top pick (taunting the person with the nut allergy) didn’t make it through the first round, so I guess I don’t mind too much. Deciding which of those two finalists to vote is going to be hard, though! Hmmm……

  24. Software Engineer*

    I wish the voting was left open a little longer, like a full 24 hours! I’m in Europe and usually check AAM not long after the first batch of posts goes up at midnight utc (it’s the early morning here) but I think these polls are from later in the day so I keep missing them

  25. babblemouth*

    Hi Alison – could you extend a little bit the voting time for these? I’ve missed the window for voting twice now and would love to participate!

Comments are closed.