Back To Career News

Are These the 7 Worst Bosses of All Time?

worst bosses
JD Hancock/Flickr

In surveys, bad managers are frequently one of the top reasons people quit their jobs. In fact, there’s an old saying, “People don’t quit their jobs. They quit their managers.” If you’ve ever had a bad boss, you probably understand why. It’s nearly impossible to make progress on your professional goals when your leader is tripping you up, every step of the way.

Of course, some bad managers are worse than others. A serious micromanager can derail your confidence and productivity more than a slightly green department head who means well. And then there are these folks, who might be the worst bosses of all time. If you have a story to top these, it’s probably time to set your salary range, dust off your resume and start looking for a new gig.

1. The one who hated joy.

Most bosses would love to manage someone who’s in a good mood all the time. Not Steve Barr’s old boss. At Quora, Barr explains:

I was once fired from a job as a graphic artist because I “smiled too much.” That’s right, folks … my boss told me that he couldn’t trust anyone who was always happy. And he hated laughter. I really just didn’t know what to say to that. So, I just smiled at him and left.

2. The one who tried to kill his employees.

Employers are legally required to provide a safe work environment for their employees. But you couldn’t prove it by Redditor obeyyourbrain. His bad boss story could have had a tragic ending:

[He] insisted I was imagining things when I told him there was a gas leak, and told me to just keep working when I later told him I was getting lightheaded. When it turned out the next day that there WAS a gas leak (I reported it, since he wouldn’t), and I confronted him about it, he told me that I should’ve just walked out on my job if I knew there was a problem.

3. The micromanager.

Just about everyone has a story about a micromanager. But few can match the intensity level of Candace Dempsey’s old boss:

I used to keep a chart of my boss’s interruptions, as a sanity check. One morning she:

* Emailed four times

* Phoned twice

* Texted twice

* Came into my office twice

* Asked me to come into her office (which, God help me, was right next door).

Gone were the days when I could work part of the week from home, even though company X prided itself on helping workers all over the world do just that. No longer could I organize my work in a logical way and work uninterrupted toward my goals. It was demoralizing.

Eventually, Dempsey says her boss left. But not before giving her plenty of reason to wish she’d left the company herself.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

4. The one who couldn’t delegate.

Delegating is a hard skill to learn, but there’s no such thing as an effective leader who can’t do it — as Redditor witnesstofitness learned:

He couldn’t delegate, but he also couldn’t handle stress. I could never walk into the office without literally sensing his intense anxiety about everything he had on his plate (because he refused to let other people do their jobs!). He would joke about how he never saw his apartment with his eyes open, because the only time he ever went there was to sleep. I think he seriously slept in the office at times.

I know a lot of people who are like “let the boss be a boss” and all that, but seriously, f*** that. Learn to say, “I need you to do XYZ this week. I am doing ABC right now but contact me if you need further information.” As a person, my boss was great, but as a boss, he was terrible at his job. He left a lot of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs because he wouldn’t let them do what they had been assigned to do. Share the load, man.

5. The thief.

Wage theft is a big deal, and it’s more common than you might think. Hourly workers are particularly vulnerable, especially if they have a boss as terrible as WarriorLone’s former manager. At Reddit, he writes:

New young manager refused to let us have breaks on 9-hour shifts. We had to sign in and out and he would cross off the hours and change them to 1-2 hours less, then photocopy them so it looked like we had done fewer hours. Because we had signed it, we got paid less.

He changed the entire system one day and blamed it on us when it went wrong.

I confronted him with another employee and the next day we got fired.

Because we were temps from an agency, we couldn’t do anything. I reported him with audio evidence of him saying, “I’m a manager. I can do what I want. If you want breaks go to another job. Who gives a s***? And if I want I change your hours, I will. You don’t work hard enough as it is.”

But we never heard anything back about it after reporting him.

6. The contrarian.

Constructive criticism is valuable; nixing anything anyone else suggests obviously is not. CPOx at Reddit explains:

I had a manager who was always a contrarian. He always had to find something wrong and provide his own input on the submissions of the members that reported to him. I feel like it was his way of feeling authoritative.

One time I submitted an engineering technical report and he crossed out a sentence and commented “instead of ABC, could you say XYZ?” I didn’t necessarily agree, but it was an easy fix and it would make him happy. I made the edit and, no joke, he crossed out the exact same line and commented “instead of XYZ, could you say ABC?” That was the moment when I had had enough of his management style.

7. The one who faked his employee’s death.

The worst bosses can impact your life long after you leave the company … as if from beyond the grave. At Quora, Amorette Dye tells the story of a former boss who managed to interfere with her life in a particularly creepy way:

When I was working on an associate’s in music, I took a part-time job at a piano store. I was young and naive and was willing to work under iffy conditions … below minimum wage, for a start … to have a piano store all to myself during the evenings and do my homework on a Steinway. I lasted about two years before it all came crashing down due to some management issues I won’t go into here (that’s an entirely different horrible boss story).

When all was said and done, this was what really stung me: I got married a couple of years after I left that job, and I wanted to hire one of the store’s piano teachers to play at the reception. I found his number online and gave him a call. When I finally got through to him, he mentioned that my calling had really creeped him out.


“Well, it was from beyond the grave, you know.”

No, I didn’t know. Finally, he told me that the store’s owner, my former boss, told all of the employees that my cancer had returned and I left my job to go die. He essentially told all my coworkers I was dead. And I guess they had no reason not to believe him.

Why on earth would someone do that?

Posts have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a bad boss story to beat all of these? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or talk to us on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.