"It still upsets me to this day." 6 women on how a bad boss affected their work life.

You never forgot a bad boss

You'll always remember that comment they made, the way your stomach tightened when they walked in the room and the immense sigh of relief when you were finally free of them.

Research professor Brené Brown recently spoke about the ramifications of a workplace culture that is "fearful not courageous," in her new podcast, 'Dare to Lead,' available on Spotify.

Brown explains there are multiple scenarios that lead to adverse consequences, including when managers don't spend "a reasonable amount of time acknowledging and addressing fears and feelings that show during change and upheaval."

She adds that negative cultures result when "people are afraid of being put down or ridiculed for trying something and failing, or even putting forward a radical new idea."

Other issues include "too much shame and blame," and workers who are "afraid of being wrong, looking wrong and saying something wrong."

Below, we asked six women to tell us about their experience of having a bad boss, and how it impacted them personally and professionally.

Watch: Psychopath expert, David Gillespie, on how to tell if your boss is one. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia


My old manager was horrible. She is super manipulative and makes you think she cares about you and then stabs you in the back and treats you poorly. She used to complain about other staff, managers and officers at the same level as me, and tell me about her sex life, while on our call centre floor. She made my life at my job a living nightmare. My Key Performance Indicators were never met to her standard (but I was meeting them all according to the company KPI’s), she would also never coach me which is meant to happen once a month. She would fall asleep at her desk, or play loud music and FaceTime friends (which is against company policy). She also yelled at me on my birthday for not going out with her to the city for drinks, because people wanted me to go and it was rude that I was being so selfish and not going. 


But the thing that really bothered me was her complete lack of care and safety regarding a medical condition of mine. She went as far as purposely spraying something I was allergic to so I would have an anaphylactic reaction. This all started because I wouldn’t kiss her at the staff Christmas party. She demanded respect from everyone and expected us to kiss the ground she walked on.

I did complain to her boss about this. I went to Work Safe and HR and handed in my resignation earlier this year. I was in therapy to deal with the trauma of everything she put me through. So I'm now 27 years old, no job and extremely worried that all bosses will be like this.

"I'm now 27 years old, no job and extremely worried that all bosses will be like this." 


I had never really experienced anxiety before, but working under this woman changed that for me. She was frantic, and undermined my confidence with every task, before taking credit for my work in meetings. She did this because she knew by that point I was a crumbly mess and wouldn't stand up for myself. She was also very unreasonable, calling me late at night and early mornings and would bitch about me to other colleagues if I didn't pick up saying, "she doesn't even have kids, so she has no reason to NOT pick up."

I found myself shaking with stress when my phone would light up, it was hideous. Probably should be noted that this was a 'progressive female led company' that prided itself on supporting women. Shocker.



My bad boss couldn't keep a secret once he'd had a few drinks. Anything personal that happened to staff, that he would have been told confidentially when they needed time off,  he'd end up telling anecdotally at a party or work drinks. 

He was my boss for about four years. We were a very close-knit team - a work family. Thus, he was invited to my wedding along with other colleagues. 

A few years before I got married, I had plastic surgery. It was a massive decision for me and I needed a lengthy period of time off work. 

During my first dance at my wedding, my very drunk boss came stumbling up to my parents as they were dancing and started telling them, very loudly, how proud he was of me, and how proud they should be of me as I'm very good in my role at work. Then he proceeded to tell them how emotional I was and how I was crying when I asked for time off to have my boob job! Right there on the dance floor, to my parents.

Thank goodness not many people could hear him. My parents obviously knew about my surgery but they were mortified that he felt the need to talk about something so personal, at my wedding. And interrupting the first dance in the process.

Nine years later, I still haven't forgiven him. 


I work in fashion which is notorious for mean girl behaviour. After three intense interviews and a design project, I landed my dream job. In my department at this company we were a small team of three. I was the junior, there was a senior girl, let’s call her "Jane", and the head of our department, "Susie". I had weird vibes from both of them instantly.

Jane had this weird attitude and did not want to help me. I would ask a question and she would tell me to figure it out myself. Jane seemed to be the Regina George of the girl gang so I was never invited to after work drinks or lunches. I once turned up to work with no makeup on and she announced to the room, “Wow, she looks so different with no makeup on”.

Susie was a micro-manager - to the point where she would sit behind me and instruct me word-for-word on how to write an email to someone. Every little thing I did had to be checked by her, which very quickly destroyed my self-confidence and I suddenly had all this self doubt. I was too scared to take initiative in case I was wrong. I was made to feel like I needed permission to breathe. She once emailed me from my desk - despite literally sitting behind me - to tell me I can’t eat toast and read my morning emails at the same time because it’s distracting for me. Apparently I can’t chew and read. 


I always came to work early, always worked late. I was the only one who came in early after the Christmas party to get a design ready for sign off that afternoon. Susie had an engagement party at her house and invited everyone (approximately 13 other women) expect me. I was so embarrassed by this and felt like a total loser. 

This was the first time in my life that I’d ever experienced two women instantly disliking me from the moment they met me. I only lasted six months and although this was some time ago now, it still upsets me to this day. At least once a week I imagine what I would say to these women if I were to ever see them again. They would not know, nor care, how deeply they hurt me. What I’ve mentioned here is the tip of the iceberg, there was so much passive aggressive bullying going on that I sometimes felt like maybe it was all in my head. It took a long time for me to be confident again. After I left there I landed a full-time role at the perfect place for me. Everyone was inclusive and I’ve made some lifelong friends within the company.

"Every little thing I did had to be checked by her, which very quickly destroyed my self-confidence." Image: Getty.  


I had a boss - a much older, influential, wealthy man - who “took me under his wing”. I was a single mum at the time. All was fine until he took me to meet with a new agency we would be working with... in a building he owned (which he made a big show of pointing out.) After the meeting he took me to lunch and propositioned me in a way that was very subtle but very clear. I carefully turned down the generous “offer” and went about my work. From that point on he made my life absolute hell. Everything he did and said was done without a witness, so it was his very influential word against mine. I ended up so sick with stress that I was hospitalised and promptly quit my job. No job is worth that.



In my last job, I worked in a really small team as a contractor - $250 per week for about 15 hours. My job was to do social media work for an influencer. When I started, we worked together very closely, and soon after she hired a personal assistant for me to liaise with, who would take my issues back to her if necessary. When I was working directly with the influencer my tasks were really clear and I got plenty of feedback, but during the transition to her personal assistant I began to receive phone calls at all hours of the night asking me to respond to comments. One monday night, she called me at 10pm to ask me to meet with her and when I told her I was out on a date, she told me I should be more dedicated to my job.

It was a side gig for me on top of my main job and university, and despite explaining this to the team I was being set tasks to complete within the hour. 

Eventually another team member quit because of the hostile communication and the assistant called me to warn me I would be next to lose my job if I didn't pick up my work, and take on all of my co-workers tasks (who was on a decent salary) for no more pay. I felt really guilty because I cared a lot about my boss' mission and I tried to make it work, but I eventually quit. 

I felt really guilty for not being able to commit the same time to the company as those who were doing it as their full-time job. She put me down saying that I didn't have a passion for the company and it was a big hit to my self-confidence. They also made me feel as though losing the job would look terrible for my future career prospects in the industry, and I wasn't sure what more I could do. Being so new to the workforce, it was a tricky position and I was constantly juggling whether I was being mistreated or just not good enough.

Have you had a similar experience with a bad boss? Tell us in a comment below.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 

Feature image: Getty. 

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