vote for the worst boss of 2023: the finals

It’s the final round of the Worst Boss of 2023 voting. We’ve narrowed the pool from eight nominees to two (see results from the first round and second round). The two finalists go head-to-head below.

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

A Monstrous Match:

{ 138 comments… read them below }

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      The DNA boss because all he had to do was have a quiet word with the LW. Instead he chose to elevate it to such a bizarre degree that his whole judgement as a professional was called into question.
      The weight loss one was really bad though. It’s surprisingly common. People still think that weight loss is a good thing but you never know the reasons behind it. Don’t assume.

      1. Goldenrod*

        For me, the DNA boss “wins” by a hair, because having the boss try to fire you would be soooo stressful, and it would be hard to explain to outsiders.

        At least the crazy coworker can’t get anyone fired. Plus, it is so OBVIOUSLY terrible on the face of it. And I just expect HR to be evil, to be honest.

        Still….tough call!

        1. Emily*

          Yeah, I think that’s a good way of phrasing it, and a good explanation for why I voted for the CEO half-brother, despite both being absolutely awful. Trying to have your completely innocent employee fired just because a DNA test shows she’s your half-sister should automatically get you cast as a Disney villain.

          1. Liane*

            How many Disney villains have consulted legal counsel about suing CEBro for damaging their brand or reputation?

      2. sulky-anne*

        I went with the CEbro because it feels more in keeping with the spirit of the contest. When the CEO is at the root of the shenanigans, that’s not a good sign for the company as a whole. I can’t imagine this is the only time he went off the rails.

        In the other case, Angela and Bob the HR fascist were both truly awful but management and the head of HR handled the whole thing pretty well.

        1. Miette*

          Yeah, the outcome for the LW in the weight loss one and the utter comeuppance for Bob the HR Doofus was so satisfying that it pushed me to vote for CEBro.

      3. Dhaskoi*

        DNA boss was pretty clearly projecting his own issues around entitlement and greed – it really seemed like an ‘evil cannot comprehend good’ situation.

    2. Artemesia*

      I always go for systemic evil over one off situations; thus a terrible HR — but these are both awful. I went with weight loss harassment as a systemic fail.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Yes, I think the layers of awful in the HR case are worse than one person going off the rails in a very weird situation.

    3. Goldenrod*

      Came here to say this! Dang, they are BOTH so vile. Could we have a DOUBLE WINNER this year?

      They both so richly deserve this dishonor.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      yeah, the HR folks not doing anything…they’re not technically the OP’s boss….so in my mind that doesn’t count. It doesn’t directly affect the OP’s paycheck or livelihood. The CEOBro definitely does.

  1. Artemesia*

    I gotta go with the systemic i.e. HR allowing someone to be harassed over their weight loss rather than the specific one off — horrible though it is.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      Oh, see, I voted the other way based on updates. For the weight loss letter, the problem was eventually resolved and the people who were causing it were fired. In the DNA letter, they kept escalating and trying to fire the LW and the company let the CEBro get away with it.

      1. Love to WFH*

        In the Weight Loss story, the troll and the enablers in lower level positions in HR are the perpetrators. In the DNA story, the CEO+HR are the baddies, so it just felt a bit more “bad boss” to me than the other one.

        The conclusion of the Weight Loss story is SO GLORIOUS!

        1. Beany*

          I didn’t even realize it had such a satisfying ending until hitting this comment thread. That was great.

        2. Miette*

          Yes, and that LW gave us the instant classic: “banana ensemble” in one of her updates. Truly a future legend of the site.

      2. Silver Robin*

        Same thought here: the HR bosses did the right thing once they figured out what was happening and OP’s direct manager did not seem malicious or incompetent by my reading. CEBro was awful and nobody stopped him

          1. PNW cat lady*

            That’s how I chose- both horrific. Weight loss HR was baffling, was HR involved in the MLM too??? Though not a factor to my vote- her last update was very satisfying. CEOBro used power to again a baffling degree, but his misuse of power was much worse because of his role in the company. He seems to have come by it naturally as his conception was also orchestrated by underhanded means. I am sympathetic to what his parents were facing in a preIVF era, but as told, it was manipulative too. So glad boss and VP stood up for what was right for LW.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              Please don’t suggest that the way someone is conceived somehow has any bearing on their character.

              1. PNW cat lady*

                I meant it more to the parenting of the CEBro. But I agree, aside from LW indicating his dad was duped to father a child, I was speculating on how he was raised and that wasn’t in LW’s story. CEBro did massively misuse his power, roping his college Bro’s turned HR minions into doing his dirty work, he certainly showed by his actions he felt himself to be untouchable.

      1. PNW cat lady*

        But they were CEOBro’s college buddies. I see them as his Crabbe and Goyle, the not so bright minions of Malfoy in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

  2. ILoveCoffee*

    oh goodness what a match up!
    I voted for the DNA because that was the CEO + HR so double terribleness at that place.
    with the weight loss it was just the lower level HR (though I am looking side eyed at the whole of HR even though they took care of it because it never should have gotten that far)

    1. Testing*

      I sent the DNA link to my spouse, who thought CEBro was an actual title and asked what it stood for. I love it!

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Although the weight loss one has to go down as one of the most epic AAM posts of all time, especially the last update!

    2. Double A*

      I voted for the weight loss because while HR was the lead, bosses were clueless and hands off to enable the situation.

      1. Not Jane*

        I’m voting for the Weight Loss because, whilst everyone has made very valid, logical points about the systemic issues in CEBro, I’m not going to go with logic here, Weight Loss LW has suffered physically as well as emotionally/mentally, and as someone who suffered with illness this year I feel like that would have been so much to deal with on top of everything.

    3. never mind who I am*

      Both were horrible, and it was hard to choose. I went with the DNA on a technicality–Audrey wasn’t OP’s boss, nor was HR. Also, DNA’s story had actual attempts by (presumably) CEO to sabotage OP’s work. If you’re going to do a collection of almost-palpably indifferent HR departments, I’d be inclined to vote for the Tale of Audrey. (And I’d add one of my own.)

  3. new old friend*

    The coworker and HR in the weight loss story are horrible, obviously, but from all the updates, it seems like the *bosses* involved were actually pretty okay, once they got in the loop on everything. CEO half-brother, meanwhile….

    1. MissMeghan*

      That’s how I went too. Worst boss was the half-brother. Worst situation/organizational fail… they were both so awful hard to say

    1. ElinorD*

      Yeah I think about the banana pants ensemble a lot. I hope LW is doing ok because her updates gave me great joy.

      The other story is just as horrifying.

      A truly epically horrible year of bad behavior!

  4. That wasn't me. . .*

    I voted for the CEBro boss because the woman(“Audrey”) who was horrible about the OP’s weight loss wasn’t a boss story. It was HR that were jerks (and Audrey, of course). From what OP writes, her outgoing boss, incoming boss and even Audrey’s boss were on OP’s in this. it was HR that decided to give Audrey her say, initialted the bonus-killing mediation and pressured OP to confide her medical details to this horrible woman. Another year, maybe we can have have separate polls to select the worst boss story AND the worst HR story of the year, because there are some doozies!

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      YES! We need the worst HR stories of each year! It’s pretty sad there are so many really horrible ones. We could have an entire category of them on the right. “HR Horror”

      1. Clearier*

        I’d like to second this motion. I didn’t vote for either of these in earlier rounds because neither of these stories had direct managers behaving badly.

      2. NotAnHRFan*

        This! I had my own terrible experience with HR this year and more and more I’m seeing that HR gone bad can do much more damage than a bad boss.

      3. Honor Harrington*

        I want a Worst Boss of the Decade where we get to vote on the winners of Worst Boss of the Year for each year.

    2. Phony Genius*

      What complicates this is that the CEBro’s boss, Katie, had that OP’s back. So for both stories, the OP’s direct boss was not the problem. Does the fact that the CEBro is somewhere up the direct chain of command become the tiebreaker here?

    3. Needs More Tea*

      That was my thought as well. I’m in for a separate poll for worst HR, maybe even worst coworker!

  5. Wowza*

    Wowza, these are both so bad and made even worse by atrocious HR teams. I voted for the health one because poor OP didn’t seem to have anyone in their corner while at least “Katie” seemed to help keep her employee from being totally gaslit.

  6. Ann O'Nemity*

    Tough call! I ended up voting for CEBro as worst “boss.” The villains in the other letter were HR. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind an additional annual award for worst HR.

  7. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I voted for the HR thing because it was the HR Director that was pushing all this craziness. However, I loved this part of the CEO update:

    “…we didn’t ask for the complete Jerry Springer package, we just wanted to know what part of Ireland Grandma was from.”

    1. No name just shook*

      and let this be a reminder to everyone, double check your selections before ordering your DNA tests for Christmas gifts. The Jerry Springer package may SEEM cheaper but it ends up costing more in the long run.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “The Jerry Springer package may SEEM cheaper but it ends up costing more in the long run.”


  8. Awkwardness*

    I chose HR/weight loss even though the direct manager and higher levels of HR were good ones.
    As crazy as the other letter is, it is triggered through very specific circumstances. But this HR was careless, negligent and plain-out wrong in such a systematic way that it is hard to imagine others were not affected too. And those might not have pushed back a their case might not have been as obviously wrong as OPs. Horror to me as an employee.

    1. Ally*

      That’s it, for the Sibling Situation at least you can kind of understand that it’s mixing of family and work drama, and very unusual.
      The weight loss one has no excuse and is just bonkers.

    2. Dek*

      This is my reasoning exactly. They’re both awful, but one of them feels like the kind of awful that affects everyone in the company.

    3. Hypothetical HR*

      Yeah and with the last update, we got extra evidence that the HR boss that was fired, tried to pull stuff at the next company too, but quickly left after not finding support for their tactics there. Unfortunately firing a bad someone doesn’t always fix the badness, but often just moves it around.

  9. Llellayena*

    CEBro got my vote because that was actively and deliberately vindictive. There was a campaign waged there. The HR weight loss one was horrible but more in line with incompetence and once they went high enough up, the problem people were let go and the situation was improving. She ended up leaving for reasons that were not entirely related to the problem.

    1. thequill*

      I agree, it was a really tough choice but when I got to the part in my re-read about the work being deleted, that sealed the deal for me. CEBro didn’t just freak out and leverage his power to try and get LW fired, he also spent a lot of time and energy trying to sabotage their work and reputation, and ultimately was at least partially successful at that… at least in the HR weight loss one the LW got a satisfying conclusion. Both horrible stories and I really feel for the letter writers having to go through all of that while having to deal with big personal life things simultaneously.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing. I had the same thought.

      CEBro also displayed execrably bad ethics, as did his HR buddies – a real mix of Disney and Game of Thrones evil. And it was deliberate. They maliciously tried to destroy the OP’s job and affect her career and income.

      With the weight loss one, Audrey was unhinged and somewhat malicious (but probably didn’t realize she was), and lower level HR was incompetent, but higher level management and HR did the right things, were supportive, and they rectified the situation.

  10. HB*

    I had voted for HR in the earlier poll since even though HR isn’t technically a boss, it’s a human representation for the company making it a boss equivalent. But CEBro still wins because hot damn.

    1. HB*

      Just re-read the updates to the HR situation and I had forgotten how it got *so much worse* before it got better. If not for the fact that the problem was the mid-level HR and not HR as a whole, I think I probably would have given them the win.

      And then that last update… Chef’s kiss.

  11. Laura H.*

    BOTH. OOOF!!

    Ok shouty voice off now that I got that out of my system.

    I feel equally bad for both LWs. Hope they’re both doing better.

  12. phira*

    I feel like CEBro is worse as a boss if only because of the guy’s role in the company, whereas the Aubrey situation was almost entirely bad HR and a bad coworker. But oh goodness, what a competition. My friends and I still use the term “full banana ensemble” with regularity.

  13. Mimi*

    It is hard to decide but ultimately the bad HR poster had a happy ending while the CEOBro poster’s situation was worse than before so I put my vote on the last one :(

    1. Ink*

      I really hope we get a second update on that one eventually. It’s so messed up, all the way down. The family stuff was tough enough, but add in the work stuff and navigating that end becomes so much more difficult. Hopefully OP is doing well and getting closer to the day when they can look back and laugh, distant as that might be.

  14. SansSerif*

    The weight loss story is truly epic. But it’s more about a bad HR dept. The other story is more about a bad boss (grandboss?)

  15. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    I went with DNA Bro but it was close. I almost did the weight loss one because that went so many levels up it was crazy. Like HR was indulging Aubrey.

    But DNABro, the person actually got fired — although eventually was offered her job back.

    Just b-a-n-a-n-a pants all around.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Same! But because both are deserving losers … uh, winners, I will be satisfied however it turns out. Finishing second is an epic achievement in itself.

  16. Ms. Murchison*

    I wonder if we need a new separate category — Worst HR Violations — to go along with Worst Boss each year. AAM certainly gets a fair number of them too.

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      On the other hand… After re-reading both of those stories, the HR departments in both of them would be strong contenders.

  17. Three Flowers*

    The problem here is that both the immediate *bosses* were great! These are “Worst HR of 2023” posts, and…y’all, there is no way to choose. I can’t even. They’re both just HR of Epic Evil, set it all on fire situations.

  18. J!*

    I think this end matchup is perfection. Petition to make next year a championship style bracket with Bad Boss on one side and Bad H.R. on the other and the final matchup is Boss Vs. HR in a battle of capitalism’s worst.

  19. Veruca*

    I wonder if CEBro ever comes across this and sees how many people thought he was irrationally vindictive to the point of insanity.

  20. Sally Sparrow*

    The weight loss HR one is terrible but at least there was an overhead boss who actually set that straight. CEBro was allowed to be awful with no oversight and made no amends to the OP. So that one gets my vote!

  21. Csethiro Ceredin*

    Ooof, what a choice! I went with the half brother because it was a definite BOSS problem rather than a colleague/HR problem, but both are deserving of the title.

  22. nora*

    I’m voting for the weight loss story because it has personal significance to me but I had to think about it for a while. Ooof.

  23. No name just shook*

    Touch choice, but remember, just being nominated is an honor (I mean horror) and everyone is a winner (and by winner I mean loser.)

  24. WellRed*

    I’m surprised that both finalists are ones of here they greatly impacted one person, rather than say, a team or company. Tough choice.

  25. Your genderqueer dad*

    My favorite story of the year vs. my least favorite boss of the year. How am I supposed to pick one?

  26. Cat*

    Frankly both of these seem too dramatic to be true but the weightloss one seems especially like a just-so story. I kind of expected it to end with everybody clapping or with the classic “and the lawyer’s name? Albert Einstein.” I totally get that even fake letters can lead to actual useful advice but I’m disappointed that this contest ended up with the same type of internet outrage stories that people write to get popular on Am I The Asshole. Still love the site and everything but I would have liked to see a slightly more realistically bad boss take the trophy home.

    1. Risa*

      Interesting take… because I didn’t feel like the weightloss one seemed fake. I actually had a very similar surgery (though mine was not as big, and not as much of an emergency). I actually voted for the weightloss one because the immediate impact of the issue on the OP who was recovering from a very debilitating surgery seemed much more heartless and harmful to the OP’s physical wellbeing. (Not that almost getting fired by your DNA-half brother doesn’t suck, but there are other jobs out there and it doesn’t have the same potential for causing physical harm to the OP.)

    2. Engineer*

      Fiction has to make sense. Reality doesn’t. But, you know, kudos to you for never having to deal with an HR more than happy to deny ADA accommodations because they know you can’t afford to fight back. Great flex.

      1. Cat*

        I think perhaps I was not clear enough in my original comment but it was actually the escalation and resolution of the issue that was suspicious to me, not that HR would butcher medical accommodations. To me the updates fit the archetype of the “evil Karen gets her comeuppance” internet fantasy story to a T. Stuff like the crazy coworker showing up to her house, things instantly being resolved with a lawyer, getting to put the crappy HR guy in his place after moving on to a much better new job all COULD happen, but it’s also textbook fake internet story material.

        I’ll believe HR phoning it in any day, but the updates past that seemed more like wish-fulfillment than a realistic ending to the situation. Maybe I’m just a pessimist but I just don’t think that things would work out that dramatically but also cleanly for someone in the OP’s situation in real life.

        1. Reeder*

          There are multiple stories on this site of bad bosses/coworkers showing up at people’s doors without invitation. Are they all lying? Why is that so far-fetched? In my current office, the addresses of all employees are easily accessible to the majority of staff; anyone could look me up and drop by my house.

          Also Allison has always asked that we be inclined to believe the writers.

    3. PNW cat lady*

      From my following of this site, I don’t get the impression Alison allows fake circumstances to be posted on her site- to the best of her ability. But also there is a real prejudice against plus size folks, and people can be weird about it if their size decreases dramatically. Like it somehow affects them, which is what crazy coworker stated, LW’s weight loss was triggering for her. I have to believe that the low level HR maybe also either were involved with the MLM or had fat prejudice leanings to make LW out to be the problem. It’s like they are unable to reframe LW to being thin because in their frame she is fat payroll lady and shouldn’t be thin.

  27. Emily*

    Both were so incredibly awful that I wish I could vote for both, but the CEO brother one…The level of mustache twisting villainy there…

  28. Posilutely*

    This is tricky as the CEBro boss did have personal shock to deal with (and he dealt with it very badly), whereas in the other situation there was not that excuse, but then it wasn’t one bad boss, just a generally terrible HR department. But the bad HR one did get resolved whereas the CEBro one… oh I just don’t know, everyone is awful and I could talk myself round in circles forever! I might have to abstain.

    1. Posilutely*

      No, not abstaining, am going CEBro and for the very good reason that I found out at 26 I had an older half sister and I did NOT behave like that, nor would I ever have done. So while I do have empathy with the shock element, that doesn’t absolve behaving that badly to someone.

  29. Hedgehug*

    I’m confused about the CEO one, because didn’t she say that it turned out, he wasn’t actually the CEO, so he wasn’t actually her boss?
    Her direct boss “Katie” was absolutely wonderful. And the real CEO and VP’s and owners were also great. So who is the “worst boss” in this??

    1. Engineer*

      I think it was that he was CEO, but wasn’t an owner in the company, and that distinction ultimately gave the company a way to more quickly oust him.

  30. MM*

    I voted the CEO half-brother b/c it’s not really the boss’ fault for the other one. The bosses made arguments and stuff – it’s the terrible HR team’s fault.

  31. I AM a Lawyer*

    I went with the HR refusing to address the harassment based on medical condition. It might be because I work in HR that I am triggered by that one, in particular.

    1. PNW cat lady*

      I don’t know which HR is worse, but maybe I can see how you are right because weight loss HR went rogue breaking actual laws. That is arguably worse HR for the company. CEBro HR is worse for the employees and the bottom line because they circumvented ethics (if not laws) and business sense to follow CEBro’s desire to go nuclear on new sibling. I can’t imagine the owners being happy they were destroying future revenue by deleting LW’s work.

  32. North American Couch Wizardry Committee*

    I’ve gotta say, it’s a refreshing change that in both “worst boss” scenarios, the OP’s management and senior leadership both stepped in to advocate for them.

  33. AnonEMoose*

    Tough decision this year, because both were just so awful. I ultimately ended up going with CEBro because he was ultimately the OP’s boss, so I felt like that was more within the spirit of the vote.

  34. Katara’s side braids*

    Would it make more sense for the competition to just be a Worst Workplace competition? Both of these LW’s had great bosses. CEBro at least was part of LW’s direct chain of command so was their “boss” in that sense, but the same isn’t true for the HR. I get that the higher levels of HR are *someone’s* boss, but it feels like a technicality at that point.

  35. Name*

    very tough choice, but I went with the weight loss.

    I can almost, kind of, see where DNA freak out CEO was coming from – huge shock, panic, do highly irrational thing – and, while it went on too long and got wildly out of hand, it never got to the point of having an actual lawyer involved!

    To me, it just seems like being harassed for an unexpected side effect of life saving surgery, and the way that all snowballed, is a level of inexcusable incompetence that makes a worse boss than someone acting weird after receiving life changing news.

    Admittedly, both of these could have been very easily resolved by one forthright discussion “don’t care we share genes, just wanted to know where granny was from, let’s agree to ignore this completely” and “I had emergency life saving surgery, the weight loss is an unexpected side effect, you’d look different too if you had an enormous tumour removed!” but, given that the DNA results were known by all parties, only the latter necessitates sharing private medical information – a thing no-one should feel they have to do. (though personally I’d’ve been happy to, complete with showing off any stitches/scars/wound dressings, just to see the look of her face!)

  36. Sea Witch*

    It’s a real toss-up. On the one hand, CEO boss is obviously unaware that first cousins, uncles and aunts, and grandparents can share the same range of DNA as half-siblings.

    On the other hand, the weight-crazy co-worker is going out of her way to harass the OP directly, in her face. So I voted for weight-crazy coworker

  37. DJ Abbott*

    I read the weight loss one first and was going to vote for that.
    Then I read the DNA boss one and had to vote for that. I had not seen the update before. If you put that on TV, no one would believe it.
    Really, that “proud Texan” needs to man up and learn to deal!

  38. obvious gin-based reasons*

    I had to go with the CEO – an unambiguously terrible boss, rather than a crappy co-worker who wasn’t appropriately reprimanded. Although the co-worker is wildly awful and I don’t mean to diminish what the LW went through.

  39. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    As much as I enjoyed reading the very satisfying conclusion of the weight loss saga, I had to vote for CEBro. He was a terrible boss and I’m still sad his HR flunkies didn’t get punished for their meddling.

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