vote for the worst boss of 2020: the finals

It’s the finals of the Worst Boss of 2020 voting. This week you’ve narrowed the pool from 12 nominees to a final two, who go head-to-head today.

Voting is now over. See the winner here.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

    1. I’m screaming inside too!*

      It really was. I went with the stimulus-check-keeping company because the harm would affect so many more people. But OMG, the photo-taker was so bad, too!

      1. Tree*

        They were both really awful but taking people’s stimulus checks can cause them to go hungry or get evicted so I went with that.

        1. AllieCallie*

          Can someone please explain the stimulus check one to me? Because I guess I am not understanding why it was so terrible? It sounds like what they were doing was cutting employees’ hours by the amount of the stimulus check. So essentially the employees were getting the same amount of money they would have without the stimulus checks (and more free time since they were working fewer hours). I guess I was assuming the company was probably going to have to cut hours or lay people off anyway due to COVID, so they were just trying to do it in a way that minimized the impact on the employees. Maybe I am giving the company too much benefit of the doubt?

          1. Dasein9*

            Even with the most generous interpretation, the company’s metric involved what the employees get, not what the employees are worth to the company. This means they are measuring pay for employees as a matter of what they believe employees need. That’s a mentality inappropriate for an employer-employee relationship. At best, it’s paternalistic.

          2. Lurks @work*

            The point of the stimulus checks is to give employees that make less than $75,000 a year extra money to spend and “stimulate” the economy. If the company you work for cut your hours to the point that they absorb the extra $1200, the money isn’t extra and you can’t stimulate the economy with it.

            Imagine if your boss found out you inherited $50,000 from a dead relative, and then your boss said, “Well I’m going to cut your pay by $50,000 but I still expect you to work since you don’t need the money.” Or decided to lay you off for a year since you have $50,000 and apparently don’t need to work, in their estimation. Stimulus check absorption operates in a similar way.

            1. Alex501*

              I don’t think that’s the same.
              The company likely has to cut hours for all its employees. How do you decide how to do it? One way is to say “if you’re getting a stimulus payment, you can better absorb fewer hours that someone who isn’t.” It’s now how I would do it, but it is one way to allocate the changes.

            2. Hey Nonnie*

              Also assuming someone “doesn’t need the money” doesn’t take into account any income loss from that employee’s family/household member who might have gotten laid off due to COVID. $1200 is not exactly a lot of money to make up for possibly months or years of family income loss. For a US middle-class income that’s about one week of full-time pay.

              You can’t assume that your employees aren’t suffering financial hardships or “don’t need the money” when you know almost nothing about their overall financial situation. 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).

              1. Hey Nonnie*

                Also, to be blunt, the stimulus checks are not the company’s money. Shuffling the books to take that money is theft, at it root. No amount of “dressing it up” will change that fact.

                1. Lurks @work*

                  That’s what I meant. Explinations were the justification of the company might be trying to use absorb the checks. An employer using this method to absorb the stimulus checks is basically still stealing their enployee’s money. Regardless of employees financial situation.

                  Sorry if that was not clear.

          3. Person from the Resume*

            The individual employees experienced no difference in their income when per the stimulus package purpose they should have. The company instead gains the money itself by the reduced payroll costs.

          4. Fiddle Faddle*

            It’s theft. The money was meant to benefit the employees, not the employer (who may have been eligible for programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to create an incentive for companies to keep their staff employed).

            The other thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that reducing hours and compensation can also affect things that are calculated based on annual income. Retirement benefits spring to mind. So this isn’t a one-and-done, the effects persist into the future.

            Of course it’s also monumentally stupid: How to Create a Disaffected Workforce in One Easy Step.

      2. Artemesia*

        Classic match up between the evils of late capitalism and personal awfulness — I always go for systemic evil but they are both worthy contenders.

        1. Stay-at-homesteader*

          Ugh this is how I feel too. I really want a white-collar bullshit and a personal bullshit category for these!

    2. Paisley*

      I felt the same way, it was hard to figure out which was more vile. I ended up going with the one that affected more people (vile points rose exponentially for each person affected) and chose the one who planned to steal money intended for his employees. But really, I could have gone either way.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      We all agree. At the moment of my vote it was absolutely neck and neck … 2600 votes and only a 5 vote difference!

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I feel like its apples and oranges. I went with the one that was “so straight up illegal, they couldn’t feasibly have not know it was outrageously illegal.”

      But the other one was such… specific, personal, yuckiness. That person is probably a worse person, on average.

  1. A Poster Has No Name*

    Man, this was such a tough one. In the end I went literal–this is a Worst Boss not Worst Company contest, so I had to go with the accidental exposure.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Exactly my thoughts. You’ve got individual action vs. “everyone in a position to push back here either didn’t or failed to even try to do so”. Worst Boss vs. Worst Company

      I still want to know who that company was so I can manage to avoid them wholescale.

      1. Kes*

        This is where I landed. The stimulus one is bad in a way that doesn’t surprise me, but that a manager thought it was a good idea to take and share a picture of an employee’s accidentally exposed body is just shocking, it’s so obviously wrong.

        1. Ama*

          Yeah it also seemed like the employees might have been able to thwart the stimulus check thing by just …not disclosing that they received one? Whereas the poor woman in the other story had no chance to stop what happened to her. But it was really, really really close, and I actually kind of think we should have a Worst Pandemic Boss and Worst Non-Pandemic Boss.

    2. 867-5309*

      That’s a good point… I went with the larger corporate greed one but really, they are both horrible.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I didn’t think of it that way, that’s a good point. But a Bad Boss had to sanction the idea at Crappy Company, so there’s that, too.

    4. Should Have Read The Comments First*

      That’s a really good point I’d wished I’d considered before voting. They could both be winners for “Worst Boss” and “Worst Company.”

    5. Mimosa Jones*

      This is sort of how I felt too. The company at the time hasn’t absorbed the stimulus payments and might have chosen not to do it. Plus it was a one-time thing. That stolen image could haunt the subject forever and they’d never be able to get it back once and for all.

    6. Mill Miker*

      I went back-and-forth for that reason. I’ve been voting against the stimulus check for pretty much exactly that reason, but then today it came down to which was the bigger abuse of power, which is my usual go-to for voting on these.

      The bad actor in the accidental exposure didn’t need to be “the boss” to pull their stunt, but only a boss could manage the stimulus check nonsense.

    7. DC*

      Same. Worst company would hands down go to the stimulus one, but doesn’t quite fit the bill for “worst boss.”

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is how I ended up picking, too. I think the stimulus check company sucks pretty badly, but the Worst Individual Boss goes to the other contender. The fact that they took the photograph was inexcusable, but sharing it should have been a fired-on-the-spot offense.

  2. 867-5309*

    They are both gross. The ethical scale of the first is why I picked them but it wasn’t an easy selection.

  3. AppleStan*

    Every single nomination this year was so so so very bad. I went with the photograph because of the full aftermath of the boss’ actions, although the company acted horribly wanting to take everyone’s stimulus checks. I also agree with “A Poster Has No Name” – this is worst boss, not worst company.

    1. Jean Pargetter Hardcastle*

      I want to know this, too! I love imagining a news outlet picking this up if they win. “Restaurant ABC Wins Dubious Award: Worst Boss of 2020.”

      1. Les Cargot*

        What about Polly Mosendz, the reporter at Bloomberg who was offering to “out” companies that could allow remote work but didn’t?

  4. Anon for this*

    I’m a bit confused about the stimulus checks one. I’m imagining a situation where a national chain restaurant thinks they are going to have to lay off say half their staff due to COVID drop in business, but then the stimulus happens, and they decide they can keep everyone on payroll by only cutting hours for people who have already also received checks, such that no one loses their job and everyone’s take-home remains the same. So in my head, given the rock-hard place situation many restaurants found themselves in this spring, this sounds not so bad? But maybe I’m giving them too much benefit of the doubt?

    1. Jaybeetee*

      The missing piece here is businesses were themselves given stimulus and financial aid early in the pandemic. Absorbing the stimulus cheques meant for individuals to help get by is basically double-dipping.

      Also, given the “large, national” status, if they were barely keeping the lights on that early in the pandemic, that’s a big problem.

      1. Econ*

        Technically, very few businesses actually received any financial air or stimulus because of the pandemic…unless the employer is a small business that was approved for a loan (not free money, and was dependent on not cutting hours) or an airline, I’m not sure where the double-dipping comes from.

    2. Ali G*

      The thing is stimulus checks we designed to go to individuals and aren’t really the companies business. If I get a huge tax refund every year, is that my employer’s business? No. Should they be calculating that into my take home pay? No. For all they know I may not qualify for a stimulus because my husband makes 6 figures. It’s essentially none of their business and shouldn’t ever be a calculation in their decisions around pay and layoffs.

    3. Jellyfish*

      If they laid off people, then those former employees could get unemployment insurance payments. Keeping them on but docking pay ensures the business benefits, but the employees do not.

      Also, 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.

      It’s not a boss trying to look out for their employees in a difficult time, but a corporate entity openly maximizing profit at the personal expense of their own employees during a pandemic.

    4. WellRed*

      Like someone said above, if you got an inheritance of $50k, would it then be OK for your boss to say, Oh, you have an extra $50K, let me take that out of your pay.

    5. Nice Try, FBI*

      I’m having no trouble choosing between the two because I find that so over-the-top egregious. The photograph one is also horrible, but the stimulus check one affected more than one person and is just so freaking scummy. I needed a shower after that one originally ran!

  5. Richard Hershberger*

    Tough call, but I went with the photographer. Loathsome as the other was, this was a company trying to maximize profits. This is what companies do. If we are going to go with companies crossing legal or ethical lines, we could find far, far worse without even trying. The photography, however, was pointless and petty and personal.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      This is where I land as well. And because it just kept escalating…not only did the manager not alert her, but she took a photograph. Not only did she take a photo, but she printed it – multiple copies. Not only did she print it, but she brought the copies to the office to show other people. And then, the people she showed – instead of shutting her the eff down, they called in the person who was exposed, to “discuss” it! What on earth is wrong with these people??

      As you say, the company keeping the stimulus checks – well, it sucks, but that’s capitalism in action. On the other hand, the photography incident was a sustained and deliberate assault on an individual.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      This ended up being more or less how I decided. Being the worst boss of the year means there weren’t any who were as bad. As crappy as this company’s actions were, there are probably hundreds more who did or tried the same thing. The photographer’s action is—I sincerely hope—uniquely awful, so that gets the “win” IMO.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I kind of landed the same way. Greed doesn’t get a pass, but at least there was a personal benefit motivation behind it. The photo was done solely to hurt someone else, with no benefit to the boss except the joy of hurting someone. I also think sexual harassment has its own layer of wrongness. It isn’t the worst thing to ever exist, but it adds an extra layer.

  6. Audrey Puffins*

    I went with the photographer boss, because it was a series of terrible choices that just kept rolling over and at no point did her actions make any kind of sense. At least defrauding the government/employees was one single choice that you could almost understand, if not necessarily agree with.

    1. Katie from Scotland*

      I read it totally the other way! The boss who took the photo had incredibly bad judgement on how to handle this one issue of accidental exposure but almost certainly thought she was handling this the way she was supposed to, which seems to have been reinforced by the company. Surely the boss absorbing stimulus money from their employees knows that they are actively screwing people over for their own benefit and breaking the law?

  7. Swirly Twirly Gumdrops*

    Does anyone else wonder if the worst boss reads about themself and realizes it’s about them and knows that hundreds or thousands of random strangers think they are a horrible boss?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I wonder this all the time but think that probably these worst bosses are not self-aware enough to possibly think that they could be the person being written about. Unfortunately.

    2. Dasein9*

      Remember the one who would only give birthday perks to the employee born on leap day every 4 years?
      She wrote back and doubled down hard.

    3. AKchic*

      I could only hope that these bad bosses would see themselves, reflect and change; but I know that bad people don’t see themselves as bad. They justify their actions, villainize their victims, scapegoat and double down in order to convince themselves that everything they’ve done was the right thing or the best they could have done in whatever situation. Depending on the person, they will play the victim and/or act as if they are some poor misunderstood pawn.

      Public shame might embarrass a few of them enough to retaliate against the writers, but that’s why things are done anonymously. It makes it hard for a bad boss to say “I know this letter is about ME” without incriminating themselves fully while the other person can say “but I didn’t write it” and have a third party ask why the bad boss assume it was about them in the first place.

    4. Sacred Ground*

      I think if they were regular readers of this blog, they’d likely not be on this list in the first place.

    5. WellRed*

      I like to fantasize the Alison will get invited on Jimmy Fallon or something to discuss the worst boss of the year (and throw in a few others for good measure). It then gets picked up and word spreads.

  8. Paris Geller*

    This is where I came down too. So many horrible choices this year, though. I’m not surprised this is our final voting round but really, any of the ones in previous rounds could win and I would totally agree that they are all the worst.

  9. OperaArt*

    I chose the photo one for a couple of reasons. The stimulus checks story was for a company rather than a boss, the company was trying to make money albeit in a very sleazy way, and there were ways to fight back and agencies to whom it could be reported. The photo story was a direct, personal attack by a boss towards an employee, almost inexplicable in its awfulness.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Oh, that’s right – I forgot that this wasn’t just a random coworker, it was the person’s boss. Well done, Boss, you’ve just added an extra level of gross to this whole situation.

  10. Lurks @work*

    I am disappointed, but not surprised, that there were so many nominees choices this year.

    This is one hell of a year for everybody. The “haves“ that are large profitable corporations probably aren’t used they have a hunker down and make sacrifices for the greater good. The lousy ones going to lash out.

    Props to Allison for creating a bracket system can help us all organize a choices.

    For this final round, I had to go with the company that absorbed the stimulus checks of the employees, since I did the greatest harm to the greatest amount of people

    I know there are good companies out there that take care of their employees want them to make money to. I’m grateful that I work for one, especially during these times.

  11. Urdnot Bakara*

    These are both so bad for different reasons, and I can see they’re neck and neck! I voted for the stimulus checks just because that could really bring hardship upon someone this year, but if the photograph situation happened to me I would feel so humiliated and violated. This really is a tough one!

  12. Jaybeetee*

    They’re both awful, but I’m just too jaded these days to corporate greed. The stimulus one gets an eyeroll from me, the photography one horrifies me.

  13. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I went for the boss inappropriately photographing their employees one because it actually happened whereas in the post about the company absorbing the stimulus checks the OP states that the company was *planning* to absorb the checks. I’ve no doubt that the company probably *did* absorb those checks, but unless there was an update from the OP on whether they went ahead with it or not I’m going to live in hope that someone stopped this from happening.

    1. President Porpoise*

      That’s where I land too. Whereas the photograph story had clear and lasting harm to the poor lady who was exposed.

    2. AppleStan*

      That OP had written back to say that the employees’ hours were cut down to part-time…which was the way that the company had intended to “recoup” the stimulus.

  14. 3DogNight*

    I landed with the photo. This was a boss doing deliberate harm, multiple times to an unsuspecting employee. You can’t get that humiliation back.
    The large corporation, I’m hoping for an update. Did they really cut hours? Or just talk about it? If they did, it’s pretty freaking horrendous. People need to eat.

  15. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I’m kind of surprised the Video Eye Contact While Driving one didn’t make it to finals. There were just so many terrible boss possibilities this year. I occasionally email a link to AAM to my boss and title it Thank You For Not Being This Person.

    1. Naomi*

      I know, right? That one could have actually killed someone! On the subject of “someone could have died from this,” I’m surprised we didn’t have more entries in the realm of “my company is insisting we violate COVID safety precautions for a trivial reason.”

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Bit the person driving could have just . . . stopped driving. I’m still thinking of the employee whose wealthy boss took her lunch all the time.

      1. Sylvan*

        They weren’t driving when the call began. They could’ve stayed parked, even.

        I’m still thinking of some others, too – it’s been such a crazy year!

    3. Temperance*

      Honestly that one didn’t bother me much because the person had options, like not driving during the call.

    4. Someone Else*

      Because, the LW was already sitting in a parked car when the call started. She could have stayed there to take the meeting. she *chose* to instead drive for an hour.

  16. Pikachu*

    I am beginning to think we need more categories. Worst Boss, Worst Company, Worst Meeting, Worst Coworker… so many possibilities.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I was thinking about categories also, but my list ended with “Boss should be facing criminal charges”……

  17. Laura H.*

    I’m being slightly pedantic but “worst boss”, not “worst company”

    I hope there’s not enough but there seemed to be a lot of bad company practices mixed in with the bosses.

    I think companies need their own category.

    Nitpicky, I know.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think we can assume a bad boss at the bad company made that decision. But yeah, team and individual awards would be awesome.

  18. Wine Not Whine*

    I’m having to go with the fact that money can possibly be recouped, but a violation of one’s person and privacy is forever.

    But, yeah, ALL the nominees were AWFUL.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Yes, the picture could be shared over and over with no control by the employee. The lost wages hurts but (hopefully) not forever.

  19. L.H. Puttgrass*

    Maybe Alison could give awards this year for both the worst boss and the worst employer. That way, both these entries could be “winners!”

  20. PoliSci*

    Look, stimulus check is bad,,,but dehumanizing people by taping their mouths shut, or shaming an employee whose top minorly slipped?? WAY WORSE Money is a big deal, but it’s not crossing the line of dehumanization.

  21. SimplyAlissa*

    This was such a hard choice. But I went with the photo taking, because the check absorption was less unexpected?
    It’s a “yeah this is so freaking shifty” level of bad. But also, it’s kind of like “eh, corporate greed, yet another story of another company screwing over their people, can’t say I’m shocked”

    ….like it’s not as surprising to me that something like that would happen vs the photo taking.

    1. TiredMama*

      I had a similar feeling. I can recognize and even understand greediness or even make up a story where the boss has a secret sick kid and needs money for treatment because the US healthcare system is a fast track to bankruptcy. But the photo? There’s no excuse and it is such a violation.

  22. voyager1*

    I went with the taking the stimulus money. That is just downright predatory. The picture was just bad judgement of one person against one person. The check thing impacts employees and their families. Needs of the many vs the needs of the one.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      I went with the check one as well. If a company is prepared to do this, you can bet that they are also nickel and diming their employees in other ways and sailing close to the wind ethically.

    2. Nice Try, FBI*

      That was my logic as well. I can see what others are saying, but 2020 was such a horrible year for so many of us, and stealing people’s stimulus money is worse, to me, than a random manager taking an inappropriate picture. It affected more people.
      I agree with others who said we should have a separate one for worst company, though.

  23. Nynaeve*

    I couldn’t decide, so I voted twice. Sorry if this triggers months of harrowing recount scandals, lawsuits, and failures to concede. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯ #2020

    1. Nynaeve*

      But for the sanctity of the democratic process, I will say I voted for the stimulus one first.

      And if I have to go to AAM jail for vote fraud, I accept that.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        I move that this anonymous admission of a single instance of voter fraud means the entire process is corrupt and the only fair remedy to determine the will of the electorate is to throw out all the other votes and declare a winner.

  24. Bookworm*

    As an aside to the human horrors herein, I’d like to compliment the commitment to alliteration in Alison’s poll titles. What a fun way to entice us to vote – thank you for the thoughtfulness throughout the three days!

  25. Dasein9*

    Fascinating. I’ve read a lot of the comments, not all, and am noticing a trend toward utilitarian reasoning supporting choice of the check finagler employer and deontological reasoning supporting choice of the photographer employer.

    1. ampersand*

      Yeah, 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.

      In normal times surreptitious photography might be worse. Not this year.

    2. Wednesday Confrontation*

      I’m not in academia, much less a philosophy department, but I think it would be a fascinating project for an undergraduate ethics class to discuss one or more frameworks for selecting “worst boss” and to source some of these comments in their arguments.

  26. Raspberry*

    Difficult choice, but in the end I voted for the one that singled out an employee for targeted persecution over the one that was a company-wide bad policy.

  27. Cheesesticks*

    While both are awful, any company that steals from their employees will always be the worst in my book.

  28. The Impossible Girl*

    Both are pretty bad, but the boss that photographed the employee and then SHARED said photograph got my vote, because in the end the employees who work for the company could still push back and say no, while the employee was humiliated and there’s nothing she can do about it.

  29. gbca*

    I’m surprised the stimulus check one made it to the finals, with all the awful competition. It was undoubtedly a crappy way for the company to frame it, but the reality is as a restaurant they were almost certainly going to cut people’s hours anyway. I’m in no way defending the company but I think so many of the others in the brackets were way worse!

  30. TiredMama*

    This is so hard but the photo one is still so horrifying to me…to take it and then show is just nastiness to be a nasty person. There is no real personal gain. Plus a photo is something that can live on forever. While the money one is also horrifying and predatory, I recognize the greed.

  31. zebra*

    I went with the photographer boss. While the scale of the stimulus check company is much greater, there are also more avenues for pushing back as a group and changing the policy, and if you wanted to leave that job you’d have a very clear and easy to explain reason for leaving. The photograph one is truly despicable but there aren’t really any avenues for remedy besides just leaving, and this would be a tricky thing to explain in future interviews.

  32. karma police*

    This is incredibly hard. I went with the photograph because that actually happened, while the stimulus check was only planned.

  33. Sylvan*

    A tough choice again. I went for the stimulus one because I felt that one needed to be made an example of. Another company could consider doing the same thing if the government provides another stimulus. They could find an article about it and have some sort of come-to-Jesus moment.

    There is, hopefully, nobody who is considering taking a photo like the other boss who is idly browsing the internet for advice on that subject.

  34. Happy*

    Did we ever get an update on the photo boss? I can’t believe that a woman boss would treat another woman that way. No words!

  35. Wednesday Confrontation*

    I can’t believe that this contest has been running for nearly a decade and it seems to get harder for people to vote every year!

  36. Cathie from Canada*

    Well, it was a close call, and I’m not sure if I am consistent with my earlier votes, but I went with the photographer. Mainly because its so much more of a betrayal. Also, the employees affected by the cheque-stealers at least have an option of group action to fight back before the decision is final, whereas the photographed woman has already been damaged and slandered.
    But, its a close call, and YMMV.

  37. Mercurial*

    It’s a shame these aren’t awards for the best bosses, but that’s purely because we could call them the Boscars.

    I can’t thin of anything remotely funny to call an award for these heinous scumbags…but it should be in the shape of a gilded turd.

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