vote for the worst boss of 2022

It’s time to vote on the worst boss of the year!

  • Today we’ll vote for the worst boss in each of four match-ups.
  • On Wednesday, the winners will go head-to-head with each other.
  • On Friday, we’ll vote on the finalists.
  • The winner will be crowned next Monday.
  • Voting in this round closes at 11:59 pm ET on Tuesday.

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

1. A Dreadful Duo
the CEO is obsessed with me and wants me to be his emotional support — 61.16% (8,403 votes)
my boss is angry that I couldn’t work while I was sick with Covid — 38.84% (5,337 votes)

2. A Perfidious Pair
employer recorded audio and video while I was in bed — 55.82% (7,467 votes)
governor yanked telework for state employees and my office is in chaos — 44.18% (5,909 votes)

3. A Terrible Twosome
• I work at Twitter — 63.65% (8,658 votes)
my company advertises every job all the time to make sure we know we can be replaced — 36.35% (4,944 votes)

4. A Shameful Squad
my boss only wants to hire attractive young women — 64.65% (8,328 votes)
my company wants us to sign a loyalty oath — 36.35% (4,757 votes)

{ 246 comments… read them below }

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        As soon as I got to that one I went “Ohhh, boom! No one else has a chance!” Not that I forgot about it, but didn’t really consider it the same as people who write in from places we don’t have more context on.

        1. Just+Another+Techie*

          I don’t know. I think liver donor boss, or visiting-to-demand-work-during-chemo-infusion boss could beat even the muskmelon. . .

          1. Ashely*

            I always have the debate when voting the terribleness of one employee being impacted vs a whole company. So the chemo was horrible and hugely problematic for one employee but the Twitter is a problem for an entire company.

            1. Artemesia*

              they are all terrible and this is my decider too — policies or practices that damage lots of people versus individual horror show. But they are all terrible.

              1. Aggretsuko*

                Yeah, the MASS INJURY that has happened with Elon stands out.

                Like Zuck laid off 10k people and we don’t even CARE because every day is “what awful thing has Elon done now?”

            2. JSPA*

              One would hope, though, that none of the ex Twitter employees are under the impression that they are the problem, or that there’s anything normal about the situation, or that there’s something they could have done differently.

              And they know that everyone else knows.

              IMO, it’s much worse (career wise and psychologically) losing a couple of decades being individually gaslighted and undervalued; fed puffery in place of raises; and working so many hours that you can’t even look for a new job, while trying to figure out if you’re essential, or eye-candy, or being kept on out of sympathy. I’ll take “unfiltered asshole” over “manipulative ego destroyer” any day.

            3. Observer*

              That’s why it makes sense that it’s going up against the company that keeps all positions posted to keep people on their toes.

          2. ecnaseener*

            I can’t imagine we’re more than a few weeks away from Elon showing up to someone’s chemo appointment to ask for an organ donation :P

        2. AJoftheInternet*

          I don’t disagree with the general outrage but I also irrationally feel like that one is less of a contender because of the scale. Like… Twitter is a catastrophe on a global level, but all the rest of these are really catastrophes that are at least mostly unique to here. So for the Ask A Manager worst boss award, I feel like Musk is disqualified.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            So for the Ask A Manager worst boss award, I feel like Musk is disqualified.

            I propose a compromise; we name the award after Elon Musk.

      1. Zelda*

        The boss who made me seriously terrified for the immediate physical safety of the Letter Writer is right there behind him. Thank Heaven she got out! I’ll feel even better if she can give us another update in two years saying she’s still okay.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Would be very funny if Alison had to announce “And the worst boss of the year is…Elon Musk! But that’s been covered extensively elsewhere, so let’s also give it up for the second-worst boss of the year…Glenn Youngkin!”

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Elon is literally the worst. And in terms of the number of people he’s affected by being a horrible boss (and awful person), there’s no competition.

      But let’s not discount the effects of one-on-one, personalized horribleness. Like recording audio and video of someone in bed. Or a stalkery CEO who seems to be grooming his assistant. Or the boss who wants to hire only attractive young women. I think these are also strong contenders, IMO.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        The stalker CEO was the worst on a personal level to the OP. She seems in a good place but I think a lot of us legit feared for her physical safety.

        Elon “Space Karen” Musk is the worst for humanity over all, especially since he seems to now be going full blown QAnon with no one who can stop him.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My worry with him is just he has so much reach at the moment he can have much more of a consequence on so many more people – and not just the ones who are his employees.

          1. CL*

            Exactly. Beyond his reach with Twitter, the attention he gets spreads his message. My grandboss actually admires him and in some ways emulates his management style.

        2. km85*

          LOL “Space Karen!” I had to tell my co-worker Karen about that one. Actually, my co-worker says she tells her teenage daughters to “go be a Karen” when someone’s trying to put them down or push them around. Like she’s rebranding it to be when a woman stands up for what’s right. I love it!

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        All the others are run of the mill bad bosses. We’ve seen that kind of behaviour many times before. But Elon is the mustache twirling villain who has tied his victims to the train track and is rubbing his hands in glee as the train loaded down with his rockets races down the track. He is the very definition of a trainwreck.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Anybody else suddenly seeing Snidely Whiplash and wondering is Dudley Dooright and Horse will get there in time?

        2. marvin*

          I think this description is far too charitable. My read is that he doesn’t have any kind of plan and is probably not even enjoying all of the suffering he’s responsible for. He’s just a sad, desperately immature emotional husk who has no internal resources beyond throwing the obscene amounts of wealth and power he was illegitimately given toward whatever hate group makes him feel a little bit of personal validation at any given moment.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Sadly I don’t think there is as much humanity as still was hidden in Ebenezer in Musk. Would probably be a waste of the ghosts time.

        3. LilPinkSock*

          Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live does a bit where they show a picture of Mitch McConnell and say “Mitch McConnell, seen here [looking gleeful after something really awful, usually involves children or small animals]”. That’s what I think of when I hear Musk’s name now.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              No, but “Elon is not 101% spawn of the devil with no redeeming value of any kind, because he sells a useful service” is. And honestly, I see so many comments here which seem to be more geared toward the opinion that Musk is 101% demonspawn with no redeeming value than that he’s simply a bad boss, or even an exceptionally bad boss, that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out the occasional moderating factor.

              I’m not defending Musk as a boss, or even much as a human being, but it does worry me how many people seem to lose all sense of proportion about him. Sure, he’s a jerk, and right now he’s a jerk who’s destroying Twitter; but really, there are worse human beings out there. I think a lot of people are getting much more bent out of shape about him simply because they had personally enjoyed Twitter and don’t want to lose it than due to a reasoned judgment of his ethical failings.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        I would suggest Putin is probably worse than Elon, but no one has been brave enough to write about working under Putin (that we know of).

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Can’t offer Putin, but there was an article in an Irish newspaper about the “fun” of working as ambassador for Yeltsin, when he…failed to get off a plane to meet with the Irish leader and the Russian ambassador had to make his excuses. It’s up online and if anybody is interested, it’s titled “Yeltsin and the ‘comedy of errors’ at Shannon.”

          I’m now imagining the letter the ambassador might write to Alison.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I would suggest Putin is probably worse than Elon

          Are there any unaltered photos of Musk and Putin in the same room?

      4. Ferret*

        I mean the surveillance one we have literally nothing to suggest it was deliberate instead of some kind of glitch or that anyone even looked at or kept the recordings? Without an update I really don’t feel like it fits here, the headline feels like it is pretty sensational for the information we have

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, I don’t understand why that one is on the list when as far as I know we don’t have any idea of whether the boss even knew it was happening I don’t think there was ever any kind of update on how the situation was handled?

        2. Lenora Rose*

          Personally, I think both the items in that bracket are less bad than both the items in the first bracket. I’m kind of sad to see the arrangement of the brackets means the boss who sent abusive emails to his sick worker — after she’d gone above and beyond to the point of seven months of travelling every second week AND been lied to about a pay raise — is going to be wiped out (Rightfully) by the creepy boss that made us worry about the worker’s safety even though he’s only a fraction less horrible and worse than several others.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Ooops! Just looked again. Somehow I thought the video/audio surveillance one was up against the loyalty oath, not the Governor. The governor has the “advantage” of being able to make the lives of a HUGE number of people miserable at once for his incompetence, (even if internal pushback has been helping so far based on the update.)

            My top 4 for bad are the creeper boss who made us worried for the letter writer’s safety, the boss who abused his worker for getting sick, the Governor, and Elon Musk. But don’t get me wrong; the others are all bad and I keep being grateful for my current supervisor when I read those letters.

            1. Anon for this*

              It would be interesting to see governor and Elon go head to head in a separate, “identifiable bad bosses” category, and let the anonymous ones have their own category.

          2. JSPA*

            Yeah, brackets are too easy to manipulate. But it’s probably harder to code and administer ranked-choice voting.

        3. ecnaseener*

          That was my thought as well. If it turns out it was deliberate (and it was actually a boss who did it), certainly way up there. But it could’ve been a mistake, or some creep in IT going rogue, so there may or may not be a bad boss to vote on.

          1. Becca*

            My only thing with that one is that OP didn’t seem to know they were being recorded at all and I wonder whether they were informed hidden in some contract and missed it (not great) or never informed at all (double not great).
            But it’s still at the bottom of the list for me.

        4. Observer*

          I mean the surveillance one we have literally nothing to suggest it was deliberate instead of some kind of glitch

          Because it’s extremely unlikely to be a glitch. There was a lot of discussion when it was posted – this stuff does not “just happen”. It doesn’t matter if someone watched / listened. This SHOULD NOT have happened.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I felt bad, because the company that posts openings for (and possibly interviews? who knows? the letter does say that people are applying and calling) replacements for everyone’s jobs, all the time, also sounds horrible, but… Elon. I had no choice.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes! That was a very easy voting decision based on how bad and crazy management is at Twitter with Elon Musk in charge.

    4. Square Root of Minus one*

      Exactly. If you ignore the name that’s not the most horriifying letter, but by sheer numbers I bet he’s gonna win by a landslide.

      1. Shhhh*

        So I’m someone who voted for the other boss. My reasoning is, in part, that the Twitter situation is extremely public and everyone is going to know why people who left Twitter in late 2022 did so for years to come. I feel terrible for the people who work(ed) there, of course. I think Musk is a terrible human being. I deleted my Twitter account over this.

        But a relatively anonymous terrible boss/company is, to me, worse because it not only impacts the people working under them while they’re there, but can impact their job prospects for years to come. When someone who has left Twitter recently submits their resume for a new job, most people reviewing their materials are going to see that they left Twitter while a large percentage of its workforce was being fired/laid off or leaving voluntarily and immediately know what happened. When someone leaves the other company and starts applying for new jobs, the people reviewing their materials may not.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          Same. Musk has almost certainly destroyed more corporate value in 2022 alone than the rest of these “bad bosses” have in their entire lives, and I’m sure the (mostly former) Twitter employees are disappointed at what’s become of their hard work, but that’s not really the definition of “bad” that we’re using here.

          Nobody likes getting fired, but at least it was over and done with quickly. Also, as firings go, this is a best-case scenario. They should have good references from the people they actually worked with, and there’s no need to explain what happened, as it’s public knowledge. (Many are also in high-demand technical fields, which makes finding a new job even easier.)

          Contrast that to the typical worst-boss victim, who is likely to have a hard time convincing a skeptical interviewer that it really was a boss problem. You can imagine what any of these bosses would say when called for a reference; it wouldn’t be an apology, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, the ex-employee has to be super diplomatic, lest she be branded unprofessional or worse.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        This is like the year when whatever website that does the “Song of the Summer” competition had to pick a second choice because it was so obvious who the first choice was and always would be for the rest of the summer. (It was pre-pandemic, I can’t remember what song it was/year any more.)

    5. Gina+Linetti*

      I full-body cringed when his cronie/bootlicker claimed the employees should trust him because he designed rockets.

      No. He used blood money to play better, more intelligent people to build rockets. He’s not good at most things, including management.

      1. Firebird*

        Elon would probably see nomination as an affirmation and it would puff up his ego and make him feel so misunderstood by lesser beings.

    6. Ex-prof*

      Looks like numbers-wise, the boss who only wants to hire attractive young women isn’t too far behind him, with StalkerBoss running a close third.

      Which surprises me. I’d’ve expected StalkerBoss to run second. It’s not often a letter writer has us all fearing for her life.

      1. ecnaseener*

        In raw number of votes, StalkerBoss currently has about 100 more votes than hot-women-as-bait boss. But only because poll #1 has 500 more total votes than poll #4, so who knows what’s driving that.

    7. Allura Vysoren*

      I feel like Elon Musk should be an honorable mention and we should vote the bracket without him.

    1. Lilo*

      I’ll vote for Glenn Youngkin the whole way. Guy’s a snake who has done a lot to hurt VA state workers (teachers especially).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Ha! I couldn’t even bring myself to do it this time.

          I am so glad Virginia only allows governors to do one term at a time. By the time he’d be eligible to run again, I’m sure he’ll be on to campaigning for some sort of national office.

    2. Lilo*

      I’ll vote for Glenn Youngkin as worst the whole way. Guy’s a snake who has done a lot to hurt VA state workers (teachers especially).

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        My state recently voted to keep our food governor & not elect the Youngkin-esque idiot running against him. I voted for Youngkin in solidarity.

        There but for the grace of well-informed voters go I…

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I work in IT and have lived through multiple mergers/acquisitions, on both sides, at my last 3 jobs/the last 22 years. I’ve never seen anything like what he’s doing. Makes the worst leadership missteps I’ve witnessed at my past and present workplaces look like contenders for “Best Companies to Work For.”

      2. Ferret*

        I don’t think predictability is a good measure of awfulness though. I mean it was predictable that Ye would go full-on anti-semitic garbage as soon as he was let back on twitter but that doesn’t make it better

        1. Starbuck*

          If anything it makes it worse, that a person whose reputation for managerial incompetence is so widely known but despite that he is still able to fail upwards, so high… so, so high.

          1. JSPA*

            He didn’t fail up at Twitter; he bought the company. That is, he’s not there because he convinced anyone (except maybe himself) that he’d do a good job.

            1. Observer*

              That’s actually not entirely the case.

              He’s there because the company was a mess. And the biggest proofs are that 1. Jack Dorsey – the founder and till recently the CEO (he got pushed out then brought back in) actually encouraged Musk to do this. And 2. When Musk wanted to back out, the company actually sued him to make hum go through with the purchase!

              Dorsey actually apologized for encouraging Musk to make the purchase. Which I’m sure means sooo much to everyone who is looking for a new job right now.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The only way I thought he might not be at the top of the absolute worst boss ever list is because most of the employees he fired or ran off are probably already working better jobs for the same or better pay. But then he fired the whole custodial staff, saying they would be “replaced by robots”.

    2. Robbie*

      I wonder if we could give him a “supervillain level horrible” boss award since it seems he thinks Lex Luthor is actually the good guy. Would the the other contenders a chance at the “prize”.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Exactly!! I had serious debates with myself over every one of them. They’re all just SO bad.

      The worst thing is, this happens every year!!!

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I actually found bracket #2 the lightweight group. I would have taken any of the candidates in any of the other three brackets over either one of them. Sure, they’re pretty bad — so is anyone who’s going to be in this contest — but it seemed to be on a somewhat different scale from the rest.

        Does anyone know how Alison sets the brackets? Now I’m curious.

  1. HailRobonia*

    In this season of love and caring my heart goes out to everyone working for terrible bosses. I also give thanks that I have an excellent manager who insulates me from most of the craziness of our Executive Narcissist I mean Executive Director.

  2. Aggretsuko*

    If Elon doesn’t win, there is no justice in the world.
    Well, there isn’t any anyway, but he is (cue Jean-Ralphio) The WORST… and did you hear he got booed at a Dave Chappelle show?

    1. Darsynia*

      Chappelle has a habit of dissing his audience, and apparently he told them only the people who bought the ‘cheap seats’ were booing, because they were fired from Twitter. Charming.

      One bit of maybe disinfo going around about this is that I guess Chappelle has a no phones policy at his shows, because he doesn’t want people filming his material. It’s an honor system but they do pass around a locked bag for people to put their phones in, reportedly. The reason I mention this is that some folks didn’t do this and videoed the booing, and some of those videos have subsequently been removed from Twitter (the first account to post was deleted entirely). This might look like Elon’s doing it on purpose (and maybe he is!) but it’s just as likely it’s a copyright strike because of DC’s venue policies.

      Last anecdote: reportedly the sound team started playing loud horns to try to drown out the boos? Some of the folks defending Musk on Twitter claimed that this is a normal thing to do at comedy shows to ‘amp up the crowd.’ I think they have stand-up mixed up with morning talk radio??

    2. My Cabbages!*

      My friend once referred to him as ” ‘The Boys’ (as in the TV show) version of Tony Stark” and I can’t think of a better way to describe him.

  3. GooberPea*

    Deciding between these awful pairings is very frustrating – I hate that each choice completely eliminates an excruciatingly bad boss! Next year, Alison, can we have a “consolation bracket”?

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Hahaha I noticed this too! The list is “My boss did X” and “my CEO is demanding Y” and then it’s just “I work at Twitter”, ’nuff said :)

    2. gmg22*

      This was what did it for me, lol! Seven examples of very specific, egregiously off-the-charts behavior and one “Soooooo, I work here. Yeah, I know you’ve read the news, people.”

  4. Czhorat*

    I believe this is the first time when we know one of the “worst boss” candidates by name.

    It’s also the first where he’s been that publicly and proudly a horrible boss.

    1. EpLawyer*

      We know 2 of them. With the “My governor yanked telework” the update showed it was Youngkin of VA.

      Honestly the final is going to be those 2. Everyone else was mildly annoying and not great. But those two were just chaos goblins having fun at the expense of everything else.

      It should be — the chaos goblins. Then a separate round for your average run of the mill bad boss.

      1. Czhorat*

        Oh yes, true.

        And the other ones were arguably bad in more personal ways.

        The boss who threw a tantrum about the employee missing time for literally getting Covid was terrible.

        And the one opposite Gov Youngkin is a really terrible invasion of privacy.

        Even the one opposite Elon would really deserve consideration in a normal year; the idea of ruling by fear of replacement AND jerking around potential candidates is terrible (and counterproductive; when I look for jobs I steer away from the firms who are ALWAYS advertising because I assume they either have crazy high turnover or aren’t serious about hiring)

        1. Aerin*

          Thinking about it more, it would be nice to have categories of worst boss. Pettiest boss, boss with worst boundaries, most criminal boss, most incompetent boss… (Of course that wouldn’t solve the problem this year, Elon would still win all of those *rimshot*)

          Would admittedly be more complicated for Alison, but there’s such a breadth of awfulness that deserves recognition.

          1. kr*

            People say this every year and I think Alison’s stance has been, this is just something we do for fun, it’s not something that would warrant that kind of work.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              True — and even there, I voted against him, simply because I was so horrified by a lot of the details in the story about the company which attacked their employee for getting sick while doing extra work for them. So there are definitely multiple people in this contest whom I think can stand up to Musk in a worst boss category — not all of them, but some.

              I think half of Musk’s “appeal” in this contest is just because we know more about him, since his badness is all over the papers.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed. I think these two are just in a whole different level of awfulness because these two have so much more scope to inflict damage other people, and not just their own employees. The other worst bosses are limited to inflicting their awfulness on just their employees.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Okay, but whether or not you consider that as relevant to this question is going to depend on your individual approach to the contest. A lot of us don’t.

          I mean, if I were judging Vladimir Putin in a “worst boss” category, I would try to find out what he was like *as a boss,* meaning specifically how he treated his employees. How bad I think he is for the rest of the world would have nothing to do with it.

        2. 1LFTW*

          Yes, exactly. Elon’s awfulness has instant global reach; Youngkin’s awfulness only(!) has instant state-wide reach… but then it very quickly has its own kind of national and then global knock-on effects.

          Both of them are being Bad Bosses for the publicity, and if there’s an upside, it’s that everyone can see it. The saner members of the public recognize it as an abuse of power, and can validate the experiences who have to cope with it. That’s a different vibe, I think, than a typical Bad Boss, who takes advantage of obscurity in order to abuse their power.

      3. ecnaseener*

        You’d think Youngkin would make the final, but he’s losing his race by 10%. I guess a lot of people are voting on the assumption that the video recording was in fact done 1) on purpose and 2) by LW’s boss.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I hope it’s a naked Barbie painted gold. Or even better, a naked Ken for the boss who wants to hire only attractive young women.

    2. linger*

      The biggest problem is that Musk will take it as an affirmation of his status.
      Even if the trophy were a gold-plated turd.
      Possibly even if it were an unplated and unpolished turd.

  5. Tabby Baltimore*

    For 3 out of 4 questions, I was in the minority of voters. FWIW, what guided my choice in each case was “How many employees is the boss’s action affecting?” I’d like to know what guided other voters’ choices.

    1. Darsynia*

      That was the same with me! The loyalty oath vs. the hiring practices was tough but in the end I decided that the people presented with the oath can reject it and get a different job, but it’s doubtful that the ‘attractive young women’ applying for the other job know that’s the guiding force for hiring, and wouldn’t be able to reject the job until they did know.

    2. Casual Librarian*

      I did almost a complete opposite of you–objectively what was worse for the individual writing in (as if I was that person) So essentially, what would I be the least able to tolerate as an employee.

      1. Czhorat*

        I think I’m more with you, and give extra points for things that are sexist and/or illegal.

        That pushes “attractive young women” into the worst column and has “recoded in bed” a touch ahead of Governor Youngkin (as much as that pains me).

        Musk is a class by himself in that he tore apart not only an entire company but an online community as well. That he treats it like a game and doesn’t seem to care that people’s livelihoods are collateral damage is what puts him in the top position for me.

        1. Zelda*

          My take on the “recorded in bed” vs Youngkin was twofold: 1) Youngkin was affecting far more people, and it wasn’t just a jerk move that was inconvenient, it was removing real anti-Covid measures, so increasing the risks to people’s lives. 2) the “recorded in bed” MAY have been just a technical error; I don’t think we ever had any information that made it a deliberate act by a bad boss.

      2. Square Root of Minus one*

        Same. When the pairings are opposing “deeper impact to one or few” vs “less deep impact to many” I tend to vote for the former.
        Better a few stitches on a hundred people than one lost limb.

    3. Bluebell*

      Yes, that’s how I decide as well. So if someone is excruciatingly awful to one person vs Someone else is slightly less awful to 50 people, I choose the second person. But this year’s contestants are really impressive.

    4. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I vote based on which one makes me the most angry… As a gauge of what I find most morally reprehensible.

    5. Iris Eyes*

      I went for creepiness and potential eroding of mental/physical health but also how systemic is the issue, just a boss with a few reports or a whole company worth?

    6. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’m (re-)learning how to trust my gut instncts, so I went with which one I recoiled at most viscerally.

    7. Kes*

      To me, worst boss is more about how awful they’re being to the people who are affected, and things that are awful in ways you wouldn’t expect are worse than bosses who are awful in more common ways (eg, putting too much work and not hiring enough people). So for example, the obsessive CEO ranked pretty high for me even though one person was affected, because the whole story is just so creepy and awful and continued to affect the assistant even after they left – honestly as difficult as the Twitter situation is, I’d take that over the creepy CEO (and at least the Twitter people get 3 months severance and I think a number of companies are scooping up the former Twitter employees).
      Also, I think sometimes going through difficult things that everyone at the company is going through is actually easier to deal with than situations where you’re the only one, to support each other/push back as a group/work with others to figure out how to deal with the situation

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      Twice I picked the creep who is a bad manager over the really, really, really bad management.

    9. WomEngineer*

      That’s kind of how I felt on the first poll… Both of them are terrible. The emotionally abusive one goes beyond being a bad manager. I feel strongly about boundaries when you’re on any kind of PTO, and it’s not unheard of to encounter this problem (though again, this particular one is extreme).

      I voted for the more relatable one even though the other one will probably win. At that point, idk who I’d choose between them or Elon.

    10. Nethwen*

      I voted based on expected behavior. Younkin and Musk, it’s expected that they will treat people badly. The others, you go to work thinking that your boss will at least attempt to follow the unspoken cultural civility code and then they don’t, so the breach of trust is greater.

    11. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I was looking at the overall impact of the bosses bad actions. It can be atrocious in the small scale but not have an impact outside of the department, but if the other was something that if it got out would destroy the company…….

    12. Flossie Bobbsey*

      Interesting. I am debating how to vote and (for once) came to the comments BEFORE voting for exactly this type of food for thought. I’m still on the first pair and am currently weighing [awful to a specific person who he realized he could victimize] vs. [awful boss + awful “other boss” (the “wow” text) + awful HR = institutional awfulness].

    13. periwinkle*

      It’s a tough call! Sometimes the broad impact is impossible to ignore because it’s so utterly bad. One Chaos Goblin can take down a company- but it’s impersonal. Bad leadership is impersonal and screws up people regardless of who they are.

      However, I tend to lean toward the personal side. A horrible manager will inflict immediate and targeted damage to a specific person for whatever reason.

      When you adopt a pet from the shelter it has no discernible effect on the problem of unwanted pets and overflowing shelters. But it means absolutely everything to that one animal you adopted. A horrible boss affecting one person or team is the Dr. Hyde version of that.

    14. Aggretsuko*

      In the 2020’s, I end up voting for the boss who makes it awful for larger amounts of people. Probably had different standards of voting before that, but the 2020’s bad boss usually is a covid denier and treating mass numbers of people like trash.

    15. anony*

      potential for death or sexual-related trauma, then narcissist wielding power to destroy on a grand scale (that probably indirectly dominoes into some of that other stuff).

    16. My Dear Wormwood*

      A couple of them, my choice was guided by how Just So Done with sexism and violence against women I am at the moment.

  6. Be Gneiss*

    Am I the only one who really thinks Elon should be in a bracket all by himself? It’s like having Ken Jennings show up at your local weekly bar trivia.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        And yet Elon is only winning by 2/3 of the vote for that one. I actually voted for the other one, partly because I’m so tired of hearing about Twitter (I’ve always been tired of hearing about Twitter; since the day it became a thing I’ve not cared one bit about it even when I used to go on it every day). I feel sorry for the employees, sure, and yes he’s a terrible boss but Elon is getting all the glory here and I wanted to give some “love” (hate) to the company telling their employees they can be replaced at any time.

        Do I wish Twitter would just implode? Not exactly, but if it did, I wouldn’t miss it one bit. Again, I feel bad for the employees and I’m sorry they’d be out of work, but I don’t think the world would be a worse place if Twitter disappeared the way it would if, say, UPS drivers all lost their jobs. Now THAT would be terrible.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I hate to note this, but “company telling their employees they can be replaced at any time” is also something Elon is doing, what with threatening to fire whoever didn’t quit if they aren’t beyond perfect every single week.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Exactly — that was an easy comparison for me because that company’s practice was roughly equivalent all of the drop-of-a-hat firings that Musk ordered and the “extremely hardcore” standards, and then you add in the rest of Musk’s crap.

      2. Kelly*

        Space Karen is in a special category of his own as a bad boss for many reasons. I had to vote for the other one for that reason.

        Assuming that the leaks continue coming out of Twitter in the next year for however long he’s in control, he’ll be in contention next year.

    1. LT*

      In the comments of the original post or the update, I think some people suggested naming this award after him, I liked that idea. But maybe something like the Muskies.

      1. 1LFTW*

        The only reason I don’t want to see this is that he is rewarded by any sort of attention, and I don’t want to give that to him.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      And we know more about Musk. Like we know about other things he did that weren’t mentioned whereas the others may have done horrible things that we don’t know about. Mind you, I’d say they’d be hard put to outdo him.

  7. Aspiring Cat Lady*

    A Perfidious Pair was the hardest matchup for me. Removing that telework policy was such a disaster and the scale of the impact was so large I felt it deserved to win… but recording someone is just so icky that I couldn’t not vote for it. But know they are both terrible in my heart.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I went with the telework for that one – arguably, the recording could have been entirely unintended.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was the decider for me as well. I have seen some bad technology fails (frequently because the programming was messed up by the person inputting said programming) – but Youngkin acted with “could care less malice” and for him it was a feature not a mistake.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      That was an easy one for me.

      The title “my employer recorded audio and video while I was in bed” makes it sound intentional when I don’t think it was. I’m not even convinced the company was purposefully recording audio and video of their employees continiously or at all. (The LW wrote in as it what she found proved it was happening and that her company (rather than an individual or a hacker) was doing it on purpose.) But the LW choose to take her laptop into the bedroom, and she left the top open. The title makes it sound like they planted cameras in her bedroom, but that is not what happened.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, the title makes it sound more insidious than I think it was. The problem was the recording in general; the employee was understandably upset but she was the one who took her open, running laptop into her bedroom.

    3. Ferret*

      I mean the surveillance one we have literally nothing to suggest it was deliberate instead of some kind of glitch or that anyone even looked at or kept the recordings? Without an update I really don’t feel like it fits here, the headline feels like it is pretty sensational for the information we have

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I didn’t find that entire bracket particularly compelling. The governor was an ass, but that looked like politics as usual to me — the kind of idiotic chaos that happens a hundred times every year. A politician makes a decision based on ideology or political expediency or both, without knowing enough of the nuts and bolts to have a clue what that decision will do in practice to the people who have to live with it. When the details get into the press, the embarrassed politician backs off and then tries to cover his embarrassment by growling about leaks. All of this sounds to me like a random Tuesday in politics, unfortunately.

        So I would probably put any of the other six candidates over either of the ones in that pairing. I wish they weren’t together.

  8. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    Seeing all of these terrible actions and decisions makes my heart sad. Sincerely :(

    I hope all of the LW escaped are in better situations. And I hope that everyone involved gets what they deserve.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    I voted for each based on impact of the managers’ decisions. All of them are awful when considered on a pass/fail basis, but some decisions have a bigger or worse impact than others.

  10. L.H. Puttgrass*

    What are everyone’s “favorite” posts that didn’t make the cut? Here are a few to get us started (links to follow in a reply):

    – my new boss ran his own background check on me
    – my manager posted a “wall of shame” of people who didn’t volunteer to work more
    – I quit my horrible job but they’re pressuring me to stay and I feel like a villain
    – my manager says my shyness is seen as rudeness
    – our boss is demanding a gift with an accounting of names and how much each person contributed

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      1. Kes*

        The last one especially, I agree – trying to extort your employees for an expensive gift while holding their performance reviews over their head is pretty awful.
        The wall of shame is bad but the update does mitigate a bit, from there seems a bit more they didn’t realize how awful it was rather than deliberate malice.
        The other ones are bad but I don’t know if they rise to quite the same level to me.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed Overtime Wall of shame from the update just sounds like a bad idea from an untrained manager that got past a filter (possibly because manager is also tired and overworked themselves).

        2. Deborah*

          What made the extortionist even WORSE is that (from the update) she didn’t even do the performance reviews. At least honor your bribes!

          1. 1LFTW*

            At least honor your bribes!

            Like my grandfather used to say, an “honest politician” is one who stays bought.

    2. SuprisinglyADHD*

      Always gotta love the public shaming! /s
      Overtime Wall of Shame and List of Gift Contributions are both pretty nasty!

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        At least Overtime Wall of Shame got walked back almost immediately. I think that was just a boss with a stupid idea, rather than a terrible boss… a terrible boss would have either insisted on keeping it or retaliated against the employee who told them that it was a stupid idea.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      My favourite will always be the boss who wanted to know how much each person contributed towards a gift. After my divorce, I became the sole support of my daughter and money was tight. It was how I learned to stand up for myself. I was darned if I was going to deprive her to give money to gift someone who made 10 times my salary.

    4. Kes*

      Some more:
      I’m surprised this one wasn’t included:
      other bad ones:

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        I guess personal-contract boss got cut from the list because there was a swift update with upper management putting him on a leash, and the letter writer’s husband and half his colleagues leaving for better paid jobs.

  11. SuprisinglyADHD*

    My method of choice seems to be the minority:
    I voted for the problems that are most deeply entrenched (eg HR and all higher ups back it up), and with the widest impact within the company (affects all or most employees, like the loyalty oath).
    It seems like the general consensus is leaning toward the most personally affecting stories, rather than widespread awfulness.
    I do feel like Twitter is OP in this case, given the public nature of it’s downfall. Can we have a heavyweight division? Musk vs the governor?

    1. cg*

      My method had the opposite logic of yours. Like the perfidious pair — assuming the recording wasn’t an accident, that seems a much bigger violation since it is both illegal and asshole-y. Yanking tele-work is asshole-y and demotivating, but not illegal per say

    2. ecnaseener*

      I didn’t really factor in entrenched-ness since it’s a vote for the worst boss, not the worst company.

      That said — I don’t see how it really affects the vote in these specific match-ups other than #4. Stalker CEO vs boss mad about sick leave, both targeting one employee. Musk vs advertising every job, both completely entrenched. And in the middle, Youngkin (clusterfudge, not particularly well-entrenched) vs video recording (no way of knowing who was responsible or who allowed it, could be fully entrenched affecting the whole company or could be one person creeping on one person).

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      At least Youngkin can be voted out of his position in three years. If only we could do that with Musk.

      1. Becky*

        Youngkin will be out of his position in January 2026, but only because Virginia law doesn’t allow for consecutive terms for governors. Though he could run again in 2029 (Virginia’s gubernatorial elections are run the year after a presidential election).

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      And right now Musk has enablers and fans worldwide, while by and large Youngkin is limited to Virginia.

  12. Just+Like+Heaven*

    Wow, some of these are truly spectacular!

    In the end, I went with those who you could tie to a single bad boss rather than a company making bad decisions.

  13. The Person from the Resume*

    Dreadful Duo was my toughest vote
    – my boss is angry that I couldn’t work while I was sick with Covid
    – the CEO is obsessed with me and wants me to be his emotional support

    I voted for the obsessed CEO because it’s so creepy, but I fell awful for the LW you was used and unappreaciated and then yelled at for not working while sick with COVID. That’s pretty awful too before even considering she was such a hardworking employee before that happened.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I went with COVID. The obsessed boss is terrible, but the COVID boss seems intent on keeping a global pandemic going.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I voted the way you did but I reallllllly want an update for the COVID employee that tells us that employee got a new job and the company they worked for totally imploded after that.

    3. Humble Schholmarm*

      I had a hard time with this one too, especially since I just got back from Covid and my boss was lovely (and the substitute teacher shortage is pretty awful, so I wouldn’t quite blame her if she hadn’t been). That being said, I had to go with Creeper Boss. I feel like the fall out for covid op was “your boss and company suck and don’t appreciate you, please find other employment” and that’s distressing, but a lot less scary than some of the possible outcomes for Creeper Boss.

  14. Phony Genius*

    I wish we had two separate categories. One for individual people (like the boss who’s angry at the sick worker), and one for companies (like one that wants the loyalty oath). Though the Twitter one is in somewhat of a gray area. Elon Musk is clearly the boss, but the person who wrote has no direct contact with him. (At least, I don’t think so.)

  15. tessa*

    Worst for me is the boss who cursed the meta-dedicated employee for “screwing” over the company for not working while sick.

    How do monsters like that get to be boss, anyway?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I didn’t vote for that one because the creepy stalker boss was way worse IMO, but I really want an update from the COVID LW that tells us they got a new job. It sounds like the whole company was like that since HR also called the employee to tell them they were disappointed the employee wasn’t work. (Like, what????) So I hope the employee left for greener pastures and the company totally fell apart after that.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        That whole bracket was the worst for me. I wish they hadn’t been put against each other, but I had to go with the company which abused their employee for getting sick — but it was close.

      2. Seashell*

        The only explanation I can see for the Covid one is that some people test positive with no or minimal symptoms and can actually work from home. However, I think that would be the first thing a boss would ask upon hearing an employee has Covid.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    I just voted based on the behaviour that truly horrified me and made me genuinely concerned for those affected – CEO who wanted the LW as his “emotional support,” Elon Musk… Their actions were just so over the top that I had to vote for them.

  17. shedubba*

    They’re all so awful. Don’t get me wrong, I love that these people are getting called out for their bad behavior, but so many of these issues are things that are so egregious that lawyers should be (or already are) involved. Kinda makes me miss the days where “pee in a mug” guy could qualify for the bracket.

  18. Hate Elon Musk with the Heat of a Thousand Suns*

    I think the 2022 competition needs an asterisk. We need Elon and the otherwise Worse Boss. It’s not fair to ask the other terrible people to compete with Elon.

    1. Kesnit*

      I don’t know. Gov. Youngkin seems to be giving him a run for it, based on the comments people are making.

    2. never+mind+who+I+am*

      I think that including Musk and Youngkin is a bit unfair to the other horrible bosses. Those two have such high profiles that most people know who they are and what they’ve done. They also are in a position to [vulgar word] a lot more people. Ordinary evil doesn’t stand a chance competing with these two.

      1. Me ... Just Me*

        Unfortunately, Youngkin wasn’t the only politician who ordered workers back in the office. Missouri had the same thing happen with a week and a half notice given.

  19. Cranky Kate*

    The only one I really struggled with was #1, and then it occurred to me that while COVID Boss was a run-of-the-mill glass bowl (see Carolyn Hax), Groomer Boss actually had me concerned for LW’s safety, and then it became a pretty obvious choice.

    The rest were fairly straightforward for me, but I’m worried now that the final contest will be a showdown between Youngkin and Musk. Elon is objectively evil, but I live in Virginia and for me, Youngkin’s glassbowlery is *personal*. If it comes about, it will be one for the ages.

    1. Becky*

      I struggled with #1 too but ended up voting for COVID boss because having your workers come in sick during a global pandemic is a great way to kill vulnerable employees or family members.

  20. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I hope it’s a naked Barbie painted gold. Or even better, a naked Ken for the boss who wants to hire only attractive young women.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Nesting fail. I got caught by the weird bug that is making my username not appear automatically like it has in all my other comments during the last eight or so years.

    1. Kay*

      When your Worst Boss of the Year antics reach the far corners of the earth… How could Youngkin compete with only a mere state to burn to the ground?

  21. Purple Jello*

    So difficult to decide: all choices were horrible. I tried to vote based on which was more illegal or unethical, or would effect more people.

  22. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1, I so feel you – I reported being assaulted by a member while staffing an event at my org, and all of a sudden I’m being pulled off of projects and had my first negative performance review ever.

    All TOTALLY coincidental, I’m sure.

  23. Girasol*

    I’m delighted to see Todd, the fanatic about attractive young women, make the list. That behavior was so the norm when I started working. It’s great to see it make the finals in a contest of most outrageous behavior.

  24. DrSalty*

    It doesn’t seem very fair to include high profile cases like Elon Musk and Glen Youngkin. People are going to bring their own perspectives from the news etc from outside the letters here to voting, whereas for the other letters we have just LW’s word to go on regarding the situation.

      1. ecnaseener*

        All these other craptastic bosses deserve a fair shake at the title LOL! They worked hard to stalk, belittle, and demean their employees, and they’re being upstaged — tragic.

  25. MuseumChick*

    This might be terrible of me but every year and when I see the Worst Boss of the Year vote is live I yell (in my head) “IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!” And get really excited. So many terrible bosses but my money is on Elon Musk for winning this year. It’s almost like the 2016 Tony awards, so many WONDERFUL options but y’all up against Hamilton.

  26. Salted caramel*

    This is my first time voting and I felt super guilty for choosing one over the other. They’re all horrible, horrible bosses. Well, maybe number 3 doesn’t make me that guilty; I’m pretty sure Musk will be able to inflict more than enough shittery on his employees to tip the scales no matter what… by the end of this week, probably? And honestly, posting filled job positions online to oppress one’s employees is right up Musk’s street and the only reason he hasn’t done it yet is because he hasn’t thought of it.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      He’s too busy threatening them with firing if they’re not perfect enough coders or if they leak or if they do…I dunno, anything….

      It’s pretty equivalent, actually.

  27. DragonBones*

    In the second of #2 (governor yanked telework) it’s not clear who the boss we’re supposed to judge is. The governor? The division head the LW briefly mentioned? Someone else?

    All the others are about the behavior of an individual boss. That one involves many hire ups, and the decision that started the mess was made by someone (the governor) who apparently doesn’t work at the LW’s agency. Does he really count as a boss? The other decisions were made in response to the governor’s decision, by people with no good choices available to them. When there are so many individuals involved, how can we fairly rate that against the individual bosses in the other letters?

    1. Anonymous in Virginia*

      In Virginia, state agencies are part of the executive branch and overseen by the governor and his appointed cabinet. So it’s not a stretch to call him the boss.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Actually, that one’s up against the video recording one where we really have no idea who made the recording. Could’ve been LW’s boss, but there was no reason to specifically think so.

    3. Jessica Fletcher*

      I think it’s the governor, because the “boss” is functionally, “the decision maker who is being complained about.”

  28. Anonymous in Virginia*

    Oh glorious day, I got to vote for MY OWN BOSS this year! I’m so grateful to Alison for reporting on Youngkin’s terrible leadership – it’s been a really dispiriting time in my short tenure as a state employee.

  29. DJ*

    Person who was forced to work with COVID. Please please please look for and get another job! And let us know when you do.
    Shame you’re up against Twitter or you’d win worst workplace 2022

  30. Megsly*

    What happened to the worst bosses of 2021? I remember voting but now it doesn’t show up in the archives.

    1. MuseumChick*

      If I remember correctly, a letter got put into the voting that should not have. Alison has a policy of not including letters written by bosses in the Worst Boss contest, but one slipped in by accident last year. It was the one where a manager wrote in because a new hire had not been paid do to some errors on the company’s part for two pay cycles. The LW was upset that her new hire was rude/disrespectful when in reality, the had just made it clear that if they continued to not get paid on time, they couldn’t continue working for that company.

Comments are closed.