Horrible Bosses

Posted Aug 19 2011, 12:00 pm in

A few weeks ago, we saw Horrible Bosses with my husband’s family. I enjoyed the movie; dumb humor amuses me.

It got me thinking about my own horrible bosses. Earlier this week, I blogged about the wicked nuns I had in elementary school and mentioned bad bosses deserved their own post.


When I was about twenty-two, I worked in the office of a commercial bakery, the kind that bakes those store-bought coffee cakes. I was a secretary for three managers. One manager was a short little runt named Eddie. He was about sixty, wore a bad toupe and not only fancied himself to be a ladies’ man, he somehow was. Everyone loved Ed.

Except me.

I used to jot his phone messages on those little pink While You Were Out pads. They ALL went something like this:

Me: “Ed S.’ office.”

Caller: “Is he in?”

Me: “No, may I take a message.”

Caller: “Tell him Linda called.”

That was it. No message; just a first name. By mid-afternoon, I’d have a stack of pink messages with only a woman’s name on it. Ed would return to the office, leaf through them with a little smile on his face. He knew every name.

But me? I was immune to his er, charms. So he ratcheted up his efforts. He told me daily how sensual I looked. He’d perch on the side of my desk and watch me type. I managed to avoid him most days. I complained to the bosses and even to HR but everyone told me to lighten up – it’s just the way Ed is. Nothing personal.

Until one afternoon when he decided to try and throw pennies into a breast pocket on the top I wore. And then, go in after them. (Hell, no.) There was another day he snuck up behind me and taped me to my chair with masking tape. Ouch, that one sure felt personal.

I finally got him to back off. I was working late, helping out a new hire who sat next to me. He decided to stick around. Predictably, he came and perched on my desk, came right out and said, “Come on, Patty, just one night. I promise you won’t regret it.”

I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Ed, you’re older than my dad. That’s just gross.”

He turned a rather amusing shade of red and left. He got his own secretary soon after.

Who’s next? Oh, this one’s a winner! When I was thirty, I worked as a secretary for two managers in a company that made bar-code scanners. A year into this job, a third manager was added to my workload, a new hire. He was in way over his head. Within days of starting, a number of vendors threatened to walk if they didn’t get paid. I stepped in and figured out why they weren’t getting paid, which required hours of research, still more hours to automate a manual process (I later won an award for this process), and then assumed responsibility for that new process myself, so I could guarantee the problem would not recur. I enjoyed the work and began taking on more responsibility because, truthfully, straight secretarial work bored me and I had hopes of finding a more suitable role.

I made this guy look GOOD.

We worked well together for his first year. The following year, he turned ugly. I’d say ‘Good morning’ and he’d treat me with disrespect and condescension. Here’s an example: after the building was remodelled, he asked me where a particular conference room was. It took me about twenty minutes to find an updated map. I went to hand it to him and he snapped, “Patty! I’m talking here!”

Then there was the staff meeting where he interrupted me in mid-sentence, went to the white board and wrote “drawing” in two halves – “draw” and “ing” so he could teach me how to pronounce it without a New York accent.

In front of the entire staff.

He told me I was negative, pessimistic, and wished he’d never met me. He called me at home to tell me how I was so incompetent, I couldn’t manage a simple task like shipping out two scanners to the right recipients. The worst was the shrug of his shoulders when the other manager I worked for got angry with me for failing to respond to a voice mail. I had been out buying specialized light bulbs for a light table for the first boss and didn’t get the message until noon. “You should have managed your time better.”

I eventually learned that he intentionally made me hate him because someone had suggested I’d developed a crush on him and he wanted to discourage any such gossip. I’ve often wondered why he never discussed this gossip directly with me, since it was equally damaging.

And that’s when it hit me. I was a secretary. He was a VP. There was no equality. He was more important and that’s all there was to it. I resigned.

To this day, I often pray he breaks out in a rash, so yeah – mission accomplished! I pretty much hate him.

Then, there was a technical writing supervisor job I once held. After a corporate re-org, I reported to the most arrogant of VPs to ever walk this planet. He’d introduce himself to everyone like this:

“I used to work for the agency.”

(Unimpressed blink.)

“You know. The Agency.”

Blank stare.

“The C I A.”

Polite nod, but inside you’re thinking, BFD.

“I speak fluent Chinese.”

Because that’s handy for teaching software usage.

I found out later he sat in a windowless room in the bowels of the building reading mail.

I filled a spot vacated by a woman I’ll call K., who left the company. This guy was rumored to have had a fling with K. When I was hiring writers to fill open positions, I’d gone through a stack of resumes and trashed about a dozen because of grammar and spelling errors. I trashed a few more I felt were unqualified for the role. He demanded to see ALL the resumes. “Interview this one. He’s former military, like me.”

“Great, but he works in a film processing lab and has absolutely no writing experience.”

“Yeah, but he speaks Chinese, like me.”

He next told me to call K. at home and run ALL the candidates by her because he trusted her judgement. I told him I tried but she wasn’t picking up the phone.

I lied.

I eventually transferred out of the department.

I love my current role – aside from the Tech Curse that hovers over my head.

Have you ever secretly plotted revenge on a bad boss? Tell me about it! 



8 responses to “Horrible Bosses”

  1. Ali says:

    Wow. These are horrifying, yet hilarious stories.

    I worked with a woman who used to introduce herself, then ask if you wanted to see her dissertation. ‘No’ wasn’t really an option as a response either.

    Then there was the guy who reminded me of Napoleon and who mistook every female in a three mile radius as either her personal assistant, wife, or mother. A world of NO.

    Great post, Patty!

    • Patty Blount says:

      I know everyone loves a chance to talk about themselves – I sure do… but it needs to be a bit less one-sided. :)

  2. Jeannie Moon says:

    I’d heard these stories before, from you, and I still have trouble dealing with what you went through. Good for you for being strong enough to walk away from these situations.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Ironically, when I complained to HR about the VP, they sent me to Dale Carnegie training. They have no idea what a huge favor they did for me. That course was key to getting back some of the confidence I allowed him to erode.

  3. Oh wow, Patty, these are horrifying. The second one also serves as a valuable reminder of how how damaging ‘harmless’ gossip can be!

    • Patty Blount says:

      Sarah, it’s funny… I took steps of my own to stand back from certain situations. For example, I knew one of my coworkers had her eye on this VP. I stayed far away when she decided to flirt so as to be ‘connected’ with that behavior.

  4. Linda G. says:

    Oh, my gosh! You’ve had some perfectly horrible bosses! My experiences can’t even come close. Thank goodness you’ve at least gotten some amusing stories out of it.

  5. Patty Blount says:

    Linda, I think that which doesn’t kill us sure makes for great blog posts.