vote for the worst boss of 2023

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.

Cast your vote in each of the four match-ups below. Links to the nominees are below each poll.

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

1. A Terrible Trio — The Nominees:

2. The Treacherous Triplets — The Nominees:

3. A Threatening Threesome — The Nominees:

4. A Tawdry Triad — The Nominees:

{ 141 comments… read them below }

  1. redflagday701*

    “HR won’t do anything” was indisputably one of the best letters (and updateses) of the year, but I can’t vote for it, because the OP’s boss was actually quite supportive once he understood what was going on.

      1. soontoberetired*

        that group was tough to pick out who was worse. All these things make me realize as much as my company is ***** right now, it isn’t the worse.

      2. trust me I'm a PhD*

        Also voted for the email one, which is on top of being rude as heck an enormous privacy violation/illegal

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      Yeah, this is where I’m at. It probably walks the bracket of “worst company action” this year, but the boss was pretty chill throughout the whole thing, and personal email/therapist boss make that a Group Of Death anyways.

    2. SimpleAutie*

      that is also why I didn’t vote for it-for all the bananas, the boss was the least bananas in that situation

    3. Phony Genius*

      You raise an interesting point. In several of these letters, it was HR, not the boss, who behaved egregiously. The worst boss and the worst HR are not the same thing. Also, items about bad company policies are likely from several levels above the boss (but I guess they’re within the chain of command). Because of this, I’m not sure how I want to vote on two of them.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        Personally, if a boss is fighting the good fight against sh*tty company policies I don’t vote for that one, but if the boss is complicit in those policies (eg. the pay cut for mistakes one where the grandboss stepped in to ensure the LW got a pay cut, too), then I will.

        YPersonalVotingPhilosophyMV, but that’s my thought process.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          This is where I land as well. I voted for the email hacking in that group, because LW’s boss was very much not the problem in the weight loss one.

          1. Momma Bear*

            For me it was also that the boss had hacked into the account and seen potentially everything the person sent, or ordered, or had an account with. Not only did they forward information to themselves about the person’s new company, they could have potentially compromised third party log-ins. We can hope that the only damage was the sending of that personal info to their own account (pretty egregious and direct!) but it could be more.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Many worthy contenders, but I think the clear winner for me is PMDD-abuse-enabling HR, which I missed the first time around.

    4. ILoveCoffee*

      good point – I did vote for it but with the idea that HR was the bad “boss” because even though HR did eventually do the right thing it wasn’t until a lawyer was involved

    5. Constance Lloyd*

      This gave me pause for a minute, then I decided to frame “boss” as “entity of authority” here.

      1. redflagday701*

        Eminently reasonable. I just felt like poor George, who went to bat for OP, deserved a clarification.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – George was great, and did all he could in a bad set-up to protect his immediate staff.

          But there is a problem when HR decides to punish the person being attacked for not being willing to be attacked some more by an absolute nutter of an employee.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            There’s a part of me that really wants to know what went through the HR guy’s head to get from “one of our employees is harassing another in a way that definitely violates the ADA” to “they should sit down together in mediation”. It’s the same part of me that can’t look away from train derailments, though, so I know it would just give me nightmares.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “Your body is triggering for me” is such a master class in DARVO. As if women’s bodies weren’t already held to impossible standards, now they are responsible for everyone else’s mental health issues.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I agree. I was thinking
        Worst Company action/policy.
        Worst Boss
        Worst Coworker
        Shouldn’t be any problem for you to have that up for next year, right Alison?
        Worst Commenter

    6. LCH*

      agree. all the weight-loss letters were amazing and Bob can suck it. but since the majority of people in charge wanted to do the right thing, i had to vote elsewhere for worse boss.

    7. ecnaseener*

      Bob the VP of HR was *a* boss though not LW’s boss. But I agree, that was more worst company than worst boss.

    8. Olive*

      I voted for it because it felt like one of the most personal offenses. There may have been some worse bosses/HRs, but for many of them, it was in a way that their terribleness radiated to everyone around them, including the LW. The anger about the weight loss felt so targeted and so specific and so designed to make just one person miserable.

    9. Three Flowers*

      Yeah, these are tricky, because some of them are Worst HR of 2023, not necessarily Worst Boss. (And then there’s the PMDD one, which is both!)

    10. The answer is (probably) 42*

      Yeah, I was surprised to see that it was the most voted-for option in its bracket, since it’s not really a boss kinda situation. Definitely qualifies as a “worst experience with an employer overall” though!

      Man, some of these choices were *tough*

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah – that was a complete banana split sundae.

      Still, I voted for the email one – the implications of someone accessing your personal email (quite possibly illegally) seemed to me to be far more serious. Plus, it was the actual manager who (likely) did it, whereas it was HR and the co-worker who were bananapants in the weight loss situation.

    2. BellyButton*

      I had to reread all of it, because while I remembered it very well, I had to confirm it was just as bad as I remembered!

  2. Miss Cranky Pants*

    Let the floggings begin! Always a sadly entertaining time of year. Reading about the clusterphucks in corporate and small businesses is both educational and depressing. :)

    1. ferrina*

      Government made a rare appearance this year! And with a named boss too. That’s a (dis)honor that only few have achieved, and I’m not surprised Youngkin managed it.

      1. TootSweet*

        Can I get an amen? :) Seriously, though, what Youngkin is doing is such a bad look for any organization. The fact that this is happening in government, IMHO, makes it a hundred times worse.

      2. Vikki*

        Fundamentalist Governor came very close to being my pick for the worst of that trio (only narrowly beaten out by Email Layoffs).

  3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Most of these were kinda clear cut to me, until the last group. Not sure which is worse, guilting people for taking time off (which the lies are ongoing) or the best practice is to fire over email – although at least that person is out there.

    But goodness gracious great balls of fire, that DNA one was just unhinged.

    1. dot*

      My personal bias in regards to Group 3 interests me, as someone in the state that letter #1 is about. All the pulling WFH stuff and religion pushing seems like the worst one to me for that one but it’s a lot more personal!

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        That one is a close second. I did not even consider the BF’s boss, because well, its the BF’s boss not the OP’s boss, so at least the OP is not harmed. The second one directly affected people’s lives and ability to pay bills.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Speaking purely for myself, I can find a new job more easily than I can recover from living in a theocracy. Getting fired is bad for me; governmental agencies pushing religion is bad for EVERYONE (or at least everyone who doesn’t share the precise beliefs of those in power).

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I went with religion in the public sector, because that has truly wide-ranging and chilling implications.

        1. Anon for this*

          I also went with the religion in the public sector one. Bad bosses are bad, but at the end of the day, they’re one bad boss in one company. Bad bosses in the public sector have the potential power to project their crazy onto other businesses.

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, that one was tough. I voted for the middle one, because that boss was bad in more ways than just the guilt trip, but it was a tough call between that one and the layoffs. I figured the layoff things was more of a sh*tty company thing than boss, specifically.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Exactly, instead of keeping the situation between the two of them, it involved so many other people who really didn’t need to know about it.

    4. ConstantlyComic*

      I went with the layoffs via email solely because of the update which noted that there was a lot more bananapants stuff going on in that company

  4. Lady Blerd*

    Every bad boss season, I always hesitate between voting for who I’m certain will win a category vs the Bad boss I think is the worst of the bunch. I missed some of these the first time around and was disappointed some of them didn’t have updates. That PMDD boss though!

    1. dot*

      That seems exactly opposite of how it should work? Isn’t the whole point to vote for who you think is worst, not trying to guess who everyone else thinks is the worst?

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I voted for the PMDD boss because no matter *what* is wrong with you you cannot use it as an excuse for abuse.

      1. Seashell*

        I voted for that one too. Yelling is bad, but throwing things at people is awful and potentially criminal.

      2. ccsquared*

        That one is two bad bosses for the price of one: Katherine is obviously horrible, but so is the boss who could fire her and won’t.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah it came down to a literal coin flip for me between PMDD and Paycuts as punishment. They were both cases to me of “Company is trying to see if they can Out-Grinch the Grinch.”

      Hoping that the folks in the Pay Cut office were able to get out and find jobs where the boss understands that Data from StarTrek isn’t reality yet.

      1. Tau*

        I was also really undecided on that one. I ended up voting for pay cuts because the sheer unadulterated evil of deliberately overworking a team and then cutting their pay for making mistakes was just too much, but egads, was it hard to vote against the boss who was full-on no holds barred abusive and hiding behind ADA.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          Same. Finally I went with multiple people’s pay (and their mental health b/c they’re overworked) versus multiple people’s mental health. But I am happy with either being named worst.

      2. XF1013*

        Same indecision here. I ultimately voted PMDD because she fired people instead of merely reducing their pay, but I certainly wouldn’t want to work for either.

  5. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    I’m so thrilled to see that Alison has introduced a “wait, what?!” category, for situations that are just utterly hatstand.

  6. Cacofonix*

    I’m taking worst boss to be your actual boss and those up the chain of command. So even though HR can obviously make your work life hell until people with real power intervene, does that mean the company represents your boss, even though your boss, the person, is doing their best to have your back?

    1. Cabbagepants*

      my criteria for badness is 1) how much harm have they done? 2) how far outside norms/business needs is their behavior? 3) how much blame lies with them personally vs an unhealthy organization? 4) how many other people are affected? Weird and awkward stuff is less bad than loss of employment. A governor is more culpable than one person in an organization with a boss who really should have intervened a long time ago.

    2. Antilles*

      I’m sure everybody interprets it differently, but personally, I generally treat the “worst boss” as the sum of all the authority above you, or at least the levels of authority we see in the letters.

      So if HR has a terrible policy, but there’s a good boss serving as a meat-shield of “we’re not doing that, if you catch heat, have them call me and I’ll handle it”, I wouldn’t vote for that as the worst boss. Or the opposite, if the boss is horrible but there’s an update that grand-boss/HR fired him into the sun immediately upon hearing of it, I won’t vote for that either. But if the whole organization (at least as much as we get from the letter) is rotten? That’s a huge problem.

  7. Name*

    For me, the DNA one was crazy if you’ve never dealt with genetic genealogy searches. If you have, you’re aware of how people respond and it wasn’t that surprising.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      It’s one thing to be surprised but this went to “ruin an innocent’s person life because my parents weren’t honest with me.” That’s talk to a therapist, not fire your half-sibling territory.

        1. ferrina*

          But a CEO targeting an employee several levels down for being accidentally related to them??? Please tell me that’s not a common occurance!

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I’m not terribly surprised by it– people can do batshit things in existential crisis. It still lands very VERY solidly in Worst Boss territory.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I really want an update for that letter too! I wonder what OP’s boss said before they were meeting the governor and how OP reacted and if OP even works for the government anymore. (Although I know government jobs are often pretty decent and people stay in them a long time so it seems likely that OP still works there.)

    2. TootSweet*

      If he does, someone should see if MeidasTouch will cover it. I’d bet the brothers would love this one!

  8. Fitz*

    Had to vote for CEBro in Group 1 for this line alone: “As a family we decided to support Dad and just drop it because we didn’t ask for the complete Jerry Springer package, we just wanted to know what part of Ireland Grandma was from.”

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      My family uncovered a minor Jerry Springer package via DNA testing, so I had to pass this one along to my brother.

  9. JHunz*

    I found voting groups 2 and 3 particularly hard this year. Group one was a runaway (and most people agree given the poll results so far)

    1. Anon for this*

      Tbh, I feel like CEBro is going to win. Targeting someone you don’t even know because you found out they were your half sibling… the idea of CEBro winning and seeing the inevitable repostings of the victory announcement feels very satisfying.

  10. Jordan*

    for me, if we can count the HR director in the ‘HR won’t do anything’ letter, then that wins. if that’s ineligible, then the half-brother takes the cake.

  11. cardoons are delicious*

    I tried to vote for the situations in which the person had the least control over the outcome or least autonomy in the circumstances. So, for example, while the weight loss stalker was truly a heinous situation, the OP had some options that they were able to explore, I voted for the email thief since that OP had no in-the-moment recourse and basically learned of the violation by accident.

  12. RT*

    Surprised that the company that cut worker’s pay after meeting goals (and then lying) didn’t make it on here!

    1. Kelly*

      I wouldn’t have put most of these things past my last two bosses/small business owners. They are their own special type of banana crackers.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        Right? I’ve worked for 2 different “we are family” small businesses, and while a lot of the things in the letters would definitely become part of company lore, very few of them would have been unbelievable.

  13. Rondeaux*

    After reading the update to the layoffs one, the manager who laid them off over email should instead win best boss for getting people out of there as soon as possible.

  14. ZSD*

    I had to use the links to the polls, and then it was difficult to tell whether my vote was counted. After I submitted each one, the screen just returned to the poll. It was only when I clicked through to the results that it said, “Thanks for voting.”

  15. Squeeee! It's worst boss time!*

    Apologies to the late Andy Williams, but as a longtime AAM reader, when I saw the headline, “Vote for the Worst Boss of 2023,” I immediately started humming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”
    Thanks for all you do Alison!

  16. A Cita*

    I knew for the first one, everyone would pick the first bullet because the DNA test thing is so dramatic and absurd. But I picked the unannounced visits to home because I thought about how that would be an ongoing stress…every day, never knowing if your boss is going to show up or not, always on edge and waiting, never being able to relax, feeling like your are being surveilled day after day after day. It would trigger so much ongoing anxiety, in my perspective. It would truly make that job a living hell for me.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      For me, I weighted the impact of costing someone their job higher than the annoyance of drop-in visits (especially considering that no visit had actually happened)

    2. BellyButton*

      The reason I didn’t pick that one is that the boss didn’t actually show up. If they had it would have been a tough choice.

    3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I was torn between those as well. I ended up voting for the DNA one, but it was very close!

  17. Squeeee! It's worst boss time!*

    Apologies to the late Andy Williams, but as a longtime AAM reader, when I saw the “Vote for the Worst Boss of 2023” headline, I immediately began humming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
    Thanks for all you do Alison!

  18. sunny days are better*

    I think that we might need some different categories.
    In some cases, the boss is awful.
    In other cases, it’s HR that is awful.
    Sometimes, it’s the whole company that’s awful.
    Not all of these involved an awful boss.

  19. CL*

    After rereading many of these and seeing characteristics of my boss in some, can you guess what my New Years resolution is?

  20. BellyButton*

    I just received the results from our employee engagement survey, and it is 95% positive and up from last year, part of me wants to send an email out with the link here! Let’s gain a little perspective. HAHAHA Kidding!

  21. Katara's side braids*

    The weight loss saga was the worst *situation* in that group, but the competition is for worst boss. LW’s boss was actually pretty supportive.

    1. BellyButton*

      That’s why I didn’t vote for that one. Maybe Alison needs to have worst boss, worst coworkers, worst HR, worst company.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yes! Although if bad co-workers aren’t taken care of by a boss or HR or the company, then it goes all the way up. If a bad boss isn’t taken care of by HR or the company… and so on. Ultimately, situations that are allowed to persist are a result of bad management further up.

    2. TJ Morrison*

      I think it still counts because it was a bad boss allowing this to happen. A bad boss is a bad boss regardless of who was affected or wrote in.

  22. Squid*

    I’d love to see a separate competition for worst HR of the year – I can’t ever really vote for the HR-centric stories (as horrifyingly deserving as some of them may be) since HR != manager.

      1. NerdyPrettyThings*

        Worst corporate policy should be “you can only have your Leap Day birthday off on leap years” every Leap Year at the very least.

    1. TJ Morrison*

      I think that’s just a technicality. If HR has more power to screw with your job than your manager, then who is really the boss?

  23. LifeBeforeCorona*

    The worst one was the secret family member because it all could have been avoided if he just left it alone. Maybe have a private word with the LW but instead everyone finds out about it and he ends up looking deranged.

  24. Seeking Second Childhood*

    This is the third year in a row where I cannot judge because they are all equally egregious.

    It’s rather sickening actually.

  25. Dawn*

    Bracket 3 are all bad but I’m genuinely not sure how the boss who threw a stapler at someone isn’t winning it.

    1. Meri*

      I think there’s something particularly soul-crushing about the pay cut for mistakes one that just pushes it ahead to me. The abusive boss is bad, and if it wins it’s a worthy victor, but that kind of a Catch-22 where there is no winning is its own special kind of Hell.

  26. No Yelling on the Bus*

    Alison – LOL at the footnote “Posted in ‘Jerks'” hahahahahaa the fact you even have that as a tag… woof.

  27. Anonymouse*

    I actually kind of wish I had written about one of my ex-bosses. She did so many awful things that I’m sure she would win the trophy.

  28. Blarg*

    So many of these are “boss AND” like the CEBro was the CEO AND the HR people. The therapist one is the therapist AND the boss. Just awful places to be, surrounded by people who have lost some sort of compass.

  29. Sarah M*

    I once worked for a “Katharine” (Group 3), coincidentally named Katy IRL The only difference was that she was abusive Every. Single. Day. For a moment, I wondered if they could be the same person, but “my” Katy would be in her 60s now. Yes, we worked in a fast-paced environment, but it was literally just product development for a clothing retailer, not curing cancer or air traffic control.

    Anyhoo, if you’re reading this Katy: it wasn’t me who got you fired for screaming the house down in front of the entire office because you didn’t bother to actually read the fax I showed you before it was sent, it was Betsy. She went to Big Boss Steve and told them what you did. But thanks for causing my hair to turn gray! Hope you’re on medication now!

  30. Elizabeth West*

    Yeah, Horrible Boss time!
    I’ll make cocoa with marshmallows this evening and peruse the nominees. It’s always hard to decide, haha.

  31. Moose*

    Some of these are tough picks because while the situation is bananas, the boss isn’t necessarily behaving badly–it’s HR or the company. Are we considering “worst boss” anything under the umbrella of management?

    1. Vikki*

      I misread that as “tough pricks” at first, which certainly seems an apt description for many of the management staff described in those letters!

Comments are closed.