vote for the worst boss of 2023: round 2

It’s round 2 of the Worst Boss of 2023 voting. In the first round we narrowed the pool from eight nominees to four (see results here). The four winners from round one 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 Distressing Dyad — The Nominees:

2. Repulsive Rivals — The Nominees:

{ 97 comments… read them below }

    1. Medium Sized Manager*

      The only reason that I didn’t vote for CEBro is that I can at least understand the human reaction behind “I need to get this disturbance in my life away immediately.” It’s not right, but there’s reason behind the poor action. There’s only cruelty in financially penalizing overworked team members.

      1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

        It’s not right, but there’s reason behind the poor action.

        That’s as may be, but sabotaging someone else’s career is the nuclear option in this case, and certainly shouldn’t have been the option of choice out of the gate. CEBro had several different paths to choose from and, by all appearances, went full-on Chaotic Evil from the jump – trying to ruin his half-sibling’s life without even granting the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting.

        In my book, that stands out in comparison to the sadly all-too-common practices of slashing wages and/or wage theft. Execrable as the latter two may be, it’s woven into the fabric of capitalism. The odd example apart, the fact that it happens is not particularly egregious in itself. (Though I do live for the day when we as a species are finally able to do something about it!)

        1. Medium Sized Manager*

          Oh, absolutely. He made the wrong choice, and the LW deserved none of the blowback. I don’t think I would react that way if I had a sudden half-sibling pop up out of the blue, but I also don’t think my reaction would be any semblance of rational.

      2. Observer*

        The only reason that I didn’t vote for CEBro is that I can at least understand the human reaction behind “I need to get this disturbance in my life away immediately.”

        I’m at a point that when behavior is *really* egregious, I simply refuse to even listen to that.

        Some human compassion is a good thing. But there comes a point where the painful back story simply doesn’t matter anymore. And we’ve gone so far down the road of lifting responsibility from people for heinous behavior because “they are hurt” or the like that it’s become radioactively toxic.

        What happened here is not just “wrong”. This was not just a moment of panic. That would have been the initial “training”. What happened here was a calculated campaign to destroy another person, and pulling others in to that campaign. That’s a level of badness that simply does not allow for taking his reasons into account.

        1. Medium Sized Manager*

          Eh, when we are voting, painful backstories can come into play. We are ranking “which bad thing is worse than the other bad thing,” not saying that the poll winner is the only bad person involved.

          1. Observer*

            I get that. And I think that this bad thing is so bad that even in the comparison game, the backstory doesn’t matter any more.

        2. AnonHalfSib*

          As someone who has discovered numerous half-siblings via DNA websites, with many of them not expecting it at all…even the ones who took it the worst were able to manage a polite ‘this is a lot and I want it to stay completely private so please don’t do/say anything online or in-person to reveal the connection’. Or even just silence was fine!

        1. Thomas*

          A fair point, but a) LW is a pretty bad boss themselves, what with not advocating on behalf of their team until they were included to and writing that “in a perfect world” noone would have gotten pay cuts, b) grand boss there is making a foolish, misguided, harmful decision, but it’s a relatively common one, and making pay cuts based on “mistakes” when expenses need to be cut may seem better than layoffs or “sorry, the company isn’t doing well” pay cuts.

          CEOBro sent ethics training and then used his unethically hired HR goons to repeatedly and viciously attack an employee who had done absolutely nothing wrong. The deceit and subterfuge makes him way worse for me than a guy who does some ill-advised cost-cutting.

          1. Sebastian*

            I think LW was using ‘my team’ in the sense of ‘team that I’m a member of’ rather than ‘team that I manage’, so it’s not really their responsibility to advocate for the rest of the team.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          That was my reasoning for picking the other option. But it turns out CEObro is the popular answer. Yesterday, I picked all the losing options. I think I’ve been out of an office too long.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        I went with more people impacted versus one individual.

        BUT these bosses/companies are the worst just to be nominated, and this challenge is picking the worst of two evils from two evils.

        1. Goody*

          This, plus at least in my area, it’s illegal to cut a person’s pay to compensate for a mistake. Zapping an entire team is like next-level.

          Being a blood relation isn’t a protected class, so CEBro is just a stinky pile of horse droppings, not a law-breaker (at least not in this situation)

          1. Office Chinchilla*

            Actually, it looks like being a blood relation is legally protected in this situation:
            “Interestingly, there’s a law that could be in play here — the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information, including info about an employee’s genetic tests or the genetic test of a family member. GINA would make it illegal for the CEO to fire you based on what he’s learned.” (from Alison’s answer to the original letter)

            1. ferrina*

              GINA isn’t a well-known law, but it’s a really important one. Usually it comes into play with insurance or benefits (for example, if you have a genetic risk factor), but CEO seems to be pretty clearly discriminating on LW for their DNA (obligatory note that I’m not a lawyer).

      4. Festively Dressed Earl*

        It’s definitely cruel to try to sabotage someone’s work in order to get them canned. (In the update.) That could have ruined LW’s career because CEBro couldn’t deal; there’s no excuse for that.

      5. Dee*

        Love “CEBro” as a nickname

        I didn’t vote “for” him because to me that is such a one-off extreme situation- still believable but not widely applicable. Whereas the company cutting a team’s pay as punishment for mistakes seems like it could happen almost anywhere at any time!

        Well, anywhere bad managers or owners take advantage of workers individually and collectively so… yeah almost anywhere anytime

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      I was. I figure that the half brother boss will win, but still think that cutting pay reminds of old road kill skunk

      1. Observer*

        but still think that cutting pay reminds of old road kill skunk

        It does. It’s pretty special, in a not good way, to be able to top that. But I think that CEBro does top it.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, I had to go with that one because despite everything, cutting people’s pay for mistakes is a cruel, but logical, endpoint for business ghouls.

          Where as CEBro’s entire thought process is bannana pants.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I did but I flipped from what I did in the earlier round. While DNABro was full on bananpants wardrobe, the other one was just WRONG. You don’t cut people’s pay just for mistakes caused by overwork. Plus, one person affected by DNABro and the company did offer her her job back (which I understand why she said no) while firing DNABro, but the paycut affected a LOT of people and came from the top.

      1. Bee*

        This is where I come down too. The “rational business decision” seems worse to me than the (truly bonkers) emotion-driven one.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          Yes – my reasoning is “bad behaviour in someone who happens to be a boss” vs. “bad bossing policy that affects a pile of people”

    4. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      My metric on that one was # of employees negatively affected, so I went for cut pay. Then I reversed my own logic for voting for the useless HR on the next one.
      Both Round 1 and now: although I had to choose, they’re all “winners” in my mind.

      1. nopetopus*

        I also used number of employees affected as a guide, but what really pushed me to cutting pay for mistakes boss is that the problem they are being punished for is one of the org’s own making. That’s like 4 layers of bad-bossness.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Same! By that company’s logic, everyone in charge should have a pay cut for the mistake of overworking people while still expecting high standards.

      2. Observer*

        Then I reversed my own logic for voting for the useless HR on the next one.

        I think it’s a bit different – the impact of the lying boss was lower, even before the staff started talking to each other. And once that happened, she was no longer really able to push that narrative, even though she tried.

        1. Evan Þ*

          Yeah, that’s the same reason I voted for the useless HR there. The lying boss, you didn’t have to listen to.

    5. single woman in own for many many many years*

      I did too! I finally settled on a worst-boss-for-the-largest-number-of-people

    6. Distracted Procrastinator*

      yup. I went with “a whole bunch of people being awful to a group who doesn’t deserve it” over “one person acting quite badly about one other person (who doesn’t deserve it.)”

    7. Jaybeetee*

      I did indeed struggle, because both those bosses are absolutely terrible. I’m one of the people who votes partially on pure guano-factor, so I wound up voting for CEBro over the more pedestrian evil of cutting pay. But damn, I did feel conflicted about it.

    8. OMG, Bees!*

      CEBro at least had some comeuppance for his actions and didn’t come back from the suspension (tho those 2 HR goons needed to be fired also), so that lowered it a peg. Whereas the overworked team getting pay cuts for mistakes is so up there I would seek advice from an employment lawyer. So they are worse IMO

  1. ACM*

    I feel like the HR Won’t Do Anything About Weight Loss shouldn’t be here because when the HR director found out about complacent (and medical documentation-ignoring) underlings, problems went away.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Eh your boss can still be awful even if their boss isn’t. HR has the power of a boss here.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Also from the first update:
        “When George found out about this, he spoke to the HR generalists’ manager, who said that my “absence probably caused a lot of strain and extra work for Aubrey” when Aubrey’s not even credentialed to do what I do.”

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Sorry for the chain messages I’m refreshing myself. The director also made it worse:

          “I emailed their boss’s boss, the HR director, and asked for clarification. He said I hadn’t come in to the office so of course my attendance was a problem, I reiterated I had medical documentation stating that if WFH wasn’t available then they could refer to the FMLA documentation my medical team also sent. He replied that medical documentation, including both FMLA and ADA reasonable accommodations, “doesn’t hold much weight” with the company.”

          It had to go to the CHRO before it was handled. That’s a chain of bad bosses.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      That’s fair and people discussed it a lot on the last polls, but it’s on the list and that’s not going to change. So we should just vote accordingly based on however we feel about it, IMO.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This was my reason for voting for the other one in the second category. What that LW experienced was awful and never should have happened, but their direct bosses were supportive and, when escalated, the head of HR did the right thing and implemented consequences for the underlying HR people and, ultimately, Aubrey. Honestly, one of the most satisfying updates I’ve read (after the spicy lunch stealer) because the HR people involved acted so egregiously that they deserved to be fired, especially running into Bob in the wild and making sure he didn’t tank others’ leave.

  2. Morgan*

    I just can’t vote for the weight loss one because LW’s boss was fantastic! The villains in the story are HR.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      LW’s boss isn’t the worst villain here, but he could have and should have escalated this! Part of being a leader is advocating for your team.

    2. Hypothetical HR*

      Just imagine a letter from the first HR person wrote in instead of the LW.

      I work as an entry level HR rep and I had a situation come up that I want to ask about. An employee came to us about another employee flaunting her weight loss surgery. This was causing her emotional distress. We scheduled a mediation between the two employees to work out their interpersonal issues. We suggested the flaunter share her medical history as that might help provide background and understanding, but she wasn’t cooperative and wouldn’t share anything. She tried escalating the issue with some BS paperwork and got work from home approved, but my boss has my back and says that ADA paperwork doesn’t hold much weight here. We’re trying to get her to come back into the office and remind her of that every time she contacts us. What more should we do?

      The person who didn’t write that imaginary letter, I’m voting for her boss.

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Same here. When you go back and reread the stories and updates, Emergency Surgery LW’s boss and grandboss went to bat for her, as well as Aubrey Bananapant’s boss, but HR thwarted all of them. I’m starting to think “HR Gone Rogue” needs its own category.

    4. Distractable Golem*

      Yes, agreed. So I have renamed the categories as “Best Story About…” rather than “which actual direct supervisor caused the most harm”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      More often than not but not always, on my end – which seems statistically realistic with a small batch of two answer questions.

    2. Astor*

      I had the same thought during round 1, but think that screen that displays the voting totals always orders them by the most votes. So sometimes that means that you vote this way:
      1. Situation A
      2. Situation B
      and then it displays this way:
      1. Situation B
      2. Situation A

  3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    On the second group, I voted for the lying boss. While the weight loss one was bad, it all got sorted in the end. Lying boss is … still lying.

    1. Paris Geller*

      That’s how I voted too, but I get so conflicted about it, because should I take in to account any updates we’ve got where things have been fixed?? It doesn’t change how awful the initial situation was. At the same time, though, it’s hard to contextualize that situation now without the updates since we know how it turned out. In the end, I remind myself they’re all winners (or losers, in this case.)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Right, but also: it’s not Worst Situation. It’s Worst Boss. If the situation were resolved by someone other than the boss in question, then the situation being resolved has zero bearing on whether that boss is still the worst because of what they did.

    2. Stipes*

      More importantly, the updates: the bad actors eventually were handled in the ‘weight loss’ case. The boss who lied to pit her employees against each other taking time off, still has her job, still is in charge of all those employees, and is still at it with the lying, having only curtailed that one specific lie!

      1. Stipes*

        (Sorry, I don’t know what the phrase “more importantly” is doing in that post, I’m basically emphasizing the same point you did.)

  4. Juicebox Hero*

    If anyone ever asks me why I’ve never done 23 and Me or similar, I’m going to point them to the CEBro saga.

    1. Observer*

      Better yet, point them to the fact that several million records from 23 and Me were stolen by hackers. And that includes the records of approximately 1.5 million who had never even given permission to have their data shared within the 23 and Me network.

    2. Double A*

      I just point out that no for profit companies ever been careful with data. if Facebook can’t handle my photos, how is a company gonna handle my genetic information?

      1. Observer*

        if Facebook can’t handle my photo

        It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they choose not to.

        Google hasn’t leaked photos. And when MS finally got its act together and started taking security seriously has managed, for the most part, to keep people’s data safe. In their case it was a simple business decision – there were lines of business that they were never going to be able to get into if they did not start being *very* careful with people’s data.

    3. mlem*

      23 and Me just rewrote their terms of service to make it harder to join class actions against them, for bonus problems.

    4. Ex-prof*

      That’s a good reason, although the recent worldwide popularity of, shall we say, very 1930s ideas is another good reason. All it takes is one little leak for that data to get into very wrong hands indeed.

      1. Witch of Oz*

        Michael Connelly’s Fair Warning features an interesting take on how this sort of info can be misused by nefarious types.

    5. Deborah*

      Also all the new DNA genealogy forensic stuff. I mean, I’d like to think I’d be ok with my secret second cousin serial killer getting caught, but I kind of at least want to give consent for it.

  5. Database Developer Dude*

    I think the reason why CEBro’s story resonates so poorly with me is that CEBro didn’t wait for OP to try to trade on the relationship…..he ASSUMED OP was going to.

    I know if you decide to take action against me because you ASSUME I’m going to do something I haven’t actually done, we’re going to have an issue, and depending on the venue, I guarantee you won’t like the response. I will bring in lawyers in a heartbeat. I don’t play when it comes to my livelihood.

  6. MassMatt*

    It was jarring to re-read all the letters for the nominees this year, it has been bumper crop year for bad bosses. They present such a plethora not just of bad behavior, but different KINDS of bad behavior. Some of them are just so unbelievably petty, others are REALLY bad but to one specific person, others are bad to a lesser degree but their awful decisions seem to impact more people. Whoever wins, this will be a bad boss year for the ages.

  7. Flossie Bobbsey*

    I couldn’t vote for the two wild stories (CEBro and weight loss) because those don’t involve “bad bosses” in my view. HR was problematic until it got its comeuppance, but the actual bosses weren’t bad. The other two letters have much worse bosses, in my opinion, despite being less wild and exciting chains of events.

    1. Indolent Libertine*

      I did vote for the weight loss one, because that HR person who didn’t think they had to pay attention to medical documentation (!) had the power to deny every employee things they were rightfully requesting, and indeed probably had done so. And even if the LW wasn’t their direct report, they had, and exercised, power over LW and therefore qualify as a “boss” to my way of thinking.

  8. Lex Talionis*

    After the winner is chosen I REALLY hope the person who submitted prints out the story and leaves it on boss’s desk. Talk about Happy new Year!

  9. The Rafters*

    These are always so difficult, so I just usually default to the bosses that cause the most damage to the most # of people, even if IMO the *worst* boss is actually someone different.

  10. Fluffy Fish*

    It’s always interesting to me what I think vs what others do. In this case I am in the minority for both.

  11. Ex-prof*

    The Distressing Dyad was a really tough choice. On the one hand, the Pay-cutting Predator harmed more people. On the other hand, the Reluctant Relative was so bizarrely, next-level vindictive, and in such a modern 21st century way.

  12. periwinkle*

    Is it just me, or are the worst bosses this year not quite as bad as the worst bosses in previous years? I mean, they still suck, but not as epically as some earlier candidates & winners.

    I went against the majority in this round, it seems. As bad as CEBro and the bananapants weight loss situations were, each only affected the OP. The pay cutting and manipulative boss situations affected whole teams.

    1. econobiker*

      It is either a “slow year” in bad bosses on Ask A Manager blog or maybe, just perhaps maybe, with the plethora of social media communication that so many adopted during the pandemic (youtube, facebook, snapchat, tiktok, etc. and ratings sites glassdoor, indeed, etc) people are finally realizing that they can be publicly “outed” by employees as being bad managers and mean bosses and go actually go viral!

      For instance the MillerKnoll CEO’s rant: “The 90-second leaked recording captures Owen chiding staff at the end of a 75-minute internal company meeting for speculating too much about the annual bonus payouts.” pretty much made her look very bad. (

  13. Nea*

    Although the boss in weight loss was wonderful, I still had to vote for that one. The people being lied to by their boss have a quick and easy reality check – “He said you did x because I did y, is that true?” “Nope.”

    Whereas LW with the weight loss had to endure harassment in the office and at home!

  14. Thomas*

    I haven’t been a regular reader this year, and am SO GLAD I got sent over by a FB post (not specifically about WBoTY). Reading those stories with all their updates was a wild ride!

    My view of WBoTY is that it should generally be someone up the letter-writer’s chain of command. The health “advice” nightmare was nightmarish, but was brought about by mid-level HR employees who, it seems, were more clueless than malicious. The LW’s supervisors tried to help, albeit ineffectually. So I voted for the weird lying boss. It’s not as bad a situation for the LW, but it affects the whole department and is perpetrated by the actual boss.

    But I’m almost wondering how Alison decided to run this as a reader vote this year. If CEOBro doesn’t win this whole thing in a landslide, I will be very disappointed. Yes, he received shocking and upsetting personal news. But he had multiple opportunities to pull himself back from the brink and didn’t. Instead he continued to direct his response to his own parents’ lack of candor at someone not remotely responsible for what he was going through. And he was CEO of a 200-ee company! Who had clearly violated (what should have been?) a blanket conflict-of-interest policy in some HR and IT hires.

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