HR Strange But True!
October 05, 2007

Last week we shared some tips from the "Boss Whisperer" about taming abusive bosses, and we also told you how, if your boss is beyond help, you can warn away prospective employees.

Today we plumb the depths of just how bad bosses can be. The votes are in, and the winners of the "My Bad Boss Contest" have been announced by Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor federation that has conducted the contest the past 2 years.

The People's Choice Grand Prize went to Peter Yonski for his story, "Cancer Can't Stop this Boss." Yonski describes himself as a married man in his early thirties and the father of three young children. He said that after developing a rare form of cancer, he had to stop working and applied for disability benefits. However, he found that his paychecks were short several days and that he had lost out on his vacation days and disability benefits.

"My boss threw away the paperwork I sent in and then lied about ever receiving it, knowing that filing a complaint for the time I should have received would take months if not years to resolve," Yonski wrote. "It's hard enough just trying to stay alive, let alone trying to pull knives out of not only my back, but the backs of my wife and children, too."

A contestant identified as "Steaming Mad" won the Most Outrageous Story Grand Prize. A help desk worker, Steaming Mad said the contingency plan in the event of a fire was to have one help desk employee leave the office for an alternate location every 5 minutes until the last remaining employee shut off the lights and computers and locked the office. The departures were to be in descending order of seniority, and Steaming Mad was the least senior.

"And with nine people, I could not leave for 45 minutes even though smoke was filling the room. In my last 5 minutes prior to leaving, coughing and tearing and still answering the help desk phone, a security officer entered the office and yelled at me to leave the area. I explained why I was still there but he told me to leave immediately."

Nothing, to Steaming Mad's knowledge, was ever done to change the policy or tell the supervisor an employee's life was more important than keeping customers happy.

The stories go on and on, including:

  • A waitress who said her boss knowingly hired her stalker to bus tables on her shift
  • A boss who wanted an employee to finish a task so much that he didn't tell the employee that the employee's pregnant wife had called to say she was bleeding and had asked to be taken to the hospital
  • A boss who kept a 9-months-pregnant employee working while she was having contractions--so he could go to lunch
  • A boss who took his employees out to lunch--of free samples at a discount food warehouse store

We know that most bosses aren't bad. We also know that National Boss Day is just around the corner (October 16), so we'd like to invite you to submit your own boss story. We'd like to hear the good, the bad, or the ... unusual. Just send an email to, and please indicate how you would like to be identified (if at all).

Source: Working America

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