What’s scarier than a terrible boss? Literally nothing

31 October 2017 Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the runup to this Halloween, we at Enhancv did a bit of soul searching. We sat down with therapists, we searched the deepest recesses of our minds to discover what truly brought us a sense of terror. We mean pure, unadulterated terror. What did we discover?

Bosses… okay not all bosses, but really bad ones. The ones that live on in your nightmares long after you’ve put in your two weeks. In that spirit, we asked around for some of the worst boss stories we could find from our own employees. These are the horrors we uncovered.

The boss who got me high at work… against my will

Enhancv What’s scarier than a terrible boss? Literally nothing

I once had a boss who liked to play practical jokes. One day I was using one of those single occupancy bathrooms when he decided to spray an entire can of compressed air (the stuff used for cleaning keyboards) under the door.

There were several problems with this: 1. I had nowhere to go to escape this rush of aerosol coming in from under the door, 2. inhaling fumes like that in concentrated amounts gets you high, and 3. because of number 2, they put a bittering agent in these aerosols to prevent people from using them to get high.

The result? I had the most horrific taste in my month and was feeling pretty light-headed and silly. Now I had to face customers while trying not to laugh or act strange. I stared at them from across the register trying desperately to keep a straight face and focus.

I could hardly believe that my boss had gotten me high at work against my will.

The “you’re not even wearing a shirt” boss

It was the gap between my Bachelor’s and my Master’s degree and I was looking for a casual job to fill in the couple of months left before I went abroad for my studies. I had this interview for a Receptionist job at a beauty studio, where I went prepared with my resume and a big smile on my face.

When I arrived, the owner welcomed me with the words: “So, you did an internship at a corporation before this, right? Is this how you used to dress there? You’re not even wearing a shirt.”

I looked at my smart casual clothes (not exactly sweatpants) and wondered what about them could have possibly looked offensive in her eyes. But the interview went on, not in an office or somewhere private, but right in the studio with customers walking by. I felt extremely uncomfortable and knew right away I had no desire to work for this woman. The question was, should I finish the interview of just get out of there.

I finished the interview and never contacted her again, but a part of me wishes I had just bolted right at the start.

The boss who conjured the feared “busy-work” demon

Enhancv What’s scarier than a terrible boss? Literally nothing

For a brief but terrible 2 months a new “manager” was sent to run a well-oiled customer support team I was happily a part of. He was demanding, uncompromising, and a control freak. He was universally disliked almost immediately.

Our workloads were very uneven, with some frantic days and other quiet ones. Well, this boss didn’t believe in “quiet days”. He started inventing new ways to “make us useful”. We were his part-time writers for his very unsuccessful marketing campaigns trying to solicit new users or reactivate old ones. Now, we were all busy all the time.

We began to sift through enormous spreadsheets of data by hand in what he called “targeting research.” This did not sit well with me – so I devised a plan. I would use my programming skills to automate this so it could be done in half the time. I took my findings – data that should have taken me 2 days to gather by hand and proudly presented it to my boss.

I was so young and naive back then.

First, he was in a state of disbelief “That’s not possible! You’re pulling my leg! Let me see how you did it!”. After several minutes of showing him the process I was confused – why wasn’t he happy? I made it so he could get any data on a whim and everyone of our team could now have some free time! Well after some cursing, the boss returned to his room. The next day we were given several new tasks. It was never about the results but “keeping us busy”.

After 2 months of misery and complaints from everyone on the team, the guy was fired. But I never lost my hatred for pointless busy-work.

The boss who hated holidays

Enhancv What’s scarier than a terrible boss? Literally nothing

Some time back we had this boss that was really on the hustle bandwagon. We had these huge company targets that everyone was pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to meet, but we had to work hard to achieve them nonetheless.

There was a long holiday weekend coming up and the boss didn’t say anything about it. So the 4 day weekend came and went. We all went off on our respective mini-vacations and enjoyed the time off.

But when we returned… there was a reckoning. Our boss spent 40 min shouting at everyone for not being in the office and working on the national holidays. How we were supposed to know that these particular national holidays weren’t to be observed was a mystery to us. But it was obviously our fault for acting as if we lived in any other company.

I think that was the moment I decided to quit – I can handle a straight & shouting boss, but not a passive-aggressive one.


The “my friend will sort this out” boss

I was once living in a foreign country and trying to get a long-term visa to stay there. I was a teacher at a small local private school and the owner (who was kind of like the principle) said he’d help me through the process. It was a huge relief to get offered some help.

He talked to his friend who was the rector at a local university and said I could sign up for a business degree there. I was interested in moving into business anyways so this sounded perfect. I met with the rector, signed up, and paid my first semester’s tuition.

Then, when I went to the office to get documents to apply for the visa, I was told point blank that my degree program wasn’t eligible for a visa. I was flabbergasted, how could the principal have gotten me this far along the process without confirming I could stay in the country by attending this program? He claimed it wasn’t his fault and when I asked for my money back at the university (the semester hadn’t even started), I was refused. It was a lot of time and money wasted. The teaching job was pretty awful to boot.

Got your own horrible boss story?

Share it in the comments! Or, if you’re going through a horrible boss time right now, try signing up for Enhancv and getting the job you deserve.

Eric D. Halsey

A writer with a passionate belief in the power of peer to peer learning and storytelling to change lives. Wants nothing more than to spend a day cooking, reading books, playing board games, and discussing history and politics with friends. Also always up for an adventure!

2 comments on “What’s scarier than a terrible boss? Literally nothing
  1. Vet on

    I am a vet and I got a job at the start of my career at a place according to the owner well reputed. I was given a surgery to finish within given time. I managed to finish in given time but this was first mistake. My boss was not happy for one reason how and why you managed to finish surgery within required time. Then once I started I was given a monthly target to reach unluckily I reached target but that was another mistake. That freak didn’t like anybody to reach his/her targets and he actually tries to finds ways to insult people for being good also. If you act like a dumb ass and start following like a sheep you are accepted otherwise you will get insult almost everyday.Quite horrible experience. But thanks God now at a good reputable practice.

  2. An IT guy on

    I once started a job at a well-known Internet company where, in the first few days, all newcomers had to finish some planned tasks in a given schedule. Unfortunately, during my first week at such job, my aunt died unexpectedly and I had to take a day off to attend her funeral at a distant city. This obviously delayed my work with respect to my colleagues, who had a extra day to finish their duties. My boss knew about this all, as I had to get his approval to take the day off. Yet, in the 1:1 meeting to see how my first days were going, my boss complained about me lagging behind the rest. No words for the day off or the reason why I had to take it and, of course, no questions on how I was feeling those days. So, just a few days into my new work experience, I got to know that such company was only about results, and nothing about people and fairness. This rotten work relationship continued to become my worst ever working experience, causing me some actual health problems derived from the anxiety this person caused to me. I obviously didn’t last much there.


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