career

"Just her presence was stressful." 12 women on the worst boss they've ever worked for.

We’re all familiar with the bad boss trope.

They turn up late, leave early, put unrealistic expectations on their staff and create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.

However, what can be funny on film and TV – like The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly, or Bob Kelso from Scrubs – quickly loses its humour in real life.

We asked 12 women for their worst story about a bad boss or manager – and goodness – you can’t make these stories up.

Psychopath-expert, David Gillespie, on how to tell if your boss is a psychopath. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

Emilie

“At my first job our CEO/founder was very Trump-like. And one day he gathered all the women in the office (who were all young women fresh out of uni) and showed us a whiteboard on which he’d listed bullet points on how we should all wear makeup, heels and skirts so we would look ‘more professional’ and it ‘would only make us look even more beautiful’. He had actually written ‘even more beautiful’ on the whiteboard. And that was literally the only topic of the meeting.”

Anna

“I had a boss who was so distracting that she started at 10am to give everyone two hours in the office to get things done before she came in. Those two hours were heaven, but as soon as she came in the vibe and mood of everyone would change. I used to come into the office at 6am to have longer in the office without her.

She also loved having meetings, and she’d get really stressed about things, and want to talk through and know every little detail. She was a massive micro-manager, and just her presence was stressful.”

Tiffany

“The summer camp I worked at had some pretty awful management. We got paid a total of $2000 for three months of working nearly 24/7. They had a meeting every week where they would yell at us for not working hard enough, meanwhile people were so exhausted from overwork that one person went to hospital for heart palpitations due to caffeine overdose.”

Polly

“When I was at uni, I worked at a deli. My boss fired me because I had to leave a shift 10 minutes early to get to a lecture. The next day, he called me and asked me if I could come into work because it was a bit busy. I was like, mate, you fired me?!?.”

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Needless to say, Polly did not go back.

Hannah

“I worked at a cereal cafe in London (yes, we served bowls of cereal) and I gave my boss like a month’s notice that I couldn’t work one day cause I had a Lady Gaga concert. It was very important. He still rostered me on. I got so angry when I told him I really, really couldn’t do the shift, so I quit/he fired me… and then the next day Lady Gaga cancelled the concert.”

Lizzy

“I had just moved overseas, and at my first job I had a boss who regularly made people cry. It completely destroyed my self confidence to the point I didn’t think I could do my job at all. She was always belittling me in front of all the other girls. Despite this, she never seemed to do any work, just procrastinate on her laptop all day, and then when a deadline loomed, she would stand over your shoulder and tell you you weren’t working fast enough, without actually ever pitching in to help.

The worst day would have been when I went in on a Saturday to help with a deadline, despite being awfully sick. She took everyone else off the project except me, and once everyone had gone home proceeded to pace over my shoulder complaining about how they were taking too long and costing her too much and that I should be quicker. I almost got up and walked out but just stared at the wall and kept working. Half an hour later she announced she thought she was coming down with something and had decided to go home. She made some overture about how if I wasn’t well I should go, but we were due to present first thing Monday, and I knew I would have had to finish the project anyway, so I stayed.

I still get so stressed about my speed at work and hear her in the back of my head, but my current boss is literally incredible, so it was worth the pain.”

My Horrible boss
"I almost got up and walked out but just stared at the wall and kept working." Image: Getty.
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Natalie

"I was working at a small start-up with five colleagues. Our boss definitely had a serious cocaine habit, and used to come in guns blazing at 10am. He would constantly sniff and excuse himself to go to the bathrooms. He also gave me unwanted attention: he'd supposedly hired me for my skills, and openly favourited me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. We were out for a drink after work and he put his hand on the small of my back and started rubbing it.

I removed his hand to make it clear I was not interested. After that, he started ignoring me and snubbing my ideas. I ended up quitting, he was disgustingly unprofessional."

Lauren

"At my old job based in the city, my boss told us we were in lock down during the Sydney Siege and had to remain in the office even though we were all scared. Then she went home."

Isobel

"I worked in a clothing boutique in Mosman and the lady who owned the store was so bizarre. She'd ask me where I got everything from shoes, to every single item of clothing, to what shampoo and body wash I used, and started copying everything. Then when she got pregnant, she named her child the same as my nephew, both first and second name."

Amelia

"One time during rehearsals, my director told a girl that she looked sloppy, didn’t know the dances and that maybe if she stopped having so much sex she’d have time to learn the dances. She said this into a microphone in front of 300 people. At the time the dancer was rooming with her boyfriend, and said director also asked her to get separate hotels in the future because she ‘clearly couldn’t focus’."

Charlie

"I worked at a pub and my boss was just bloody sleazy. If a girl didn't flirt with him, he would pick on them. We would constantly argue. Once I got stung by a bee in the work bathrooms (yes, I know so strange) and he didn't believe me despite my written doctor's letter, and continued to joke about how I was lying for months after."

Sam

"Back when I worked at a supermarket my boss got caught abusing his staff discount to operate an underground baby formula syndicate. He was a half decent manager, but as the grocery manager he had access to all the backroom stock as soon as it came off the truck. He would divert it before it made its way to the shelves, purchase it with a staff discount and then take it home where him and another worker were selling them out of their garage to family in China who would distribute the product over there.

It was quite the system. He saved thousands using his staff discount alone, and then would have jacked up the prices for China."

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

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