Top 40 Bonehead Boss Stories

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 2:52 PM EDT

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and bad management. With that in mind, here is a collection of horror stories about real-life bosses in real-life situations. Like my recent post "The 32 Dumbest Things that Real-Life Bosses Said", this post is based on material that my pal Larry Jacobs and I compiled for our talk radio program, Funny Business, which used to run on WRKO, the big talk radio station in Boston.

Some of these stories may have already appeared on the Web, but this is first time they've been gathered into a comprehensive list. Readers welcome to add their own stories as comments, of course!

  • #1: I worked as a secretary for a large metropolitan hospital. My son was in day care at a local church. One day a co-worker ran into the office and screamed "the church is on fire, the church is on fire". Immediately, I ran to the church, where I could see the smoke, the fire, four fire engines and people everywhere. I was in a panic. I lost my shoe, tore my dress and dropped my purse looking for my son. After finding him (Thank God!), I returned to work frazzled and disheveled. When I made it back to my desk, my Boss approached me and said "You left your station without permission. You will be disciplined for this!"
  • #2: My company has certain key programs, part of what they call their "strategic vision." All other projects are considered "non-strategic" and get no funds for capital equipment, research or marketing. After my non-strategic department's sales beat the rest of the company for three straight years, they renamed my department "Strategic Systems."
  • #3: I work in the library of a major college. The Director instituted a computerized card catalog and checkout system which required each book, all 100,000 of them, to be barcoded. She wanted this done quickly and told everyone that we would be working a full day on Saturday. We all showed up and worked 9 hours. On Monday we learned there would be no overtime pay for Saturday. When approached, the Director said "Oh, Saturday, that was volunteer work".
  • #4: After months of hard work, I closed a deal for $7,000,000. My customer bought the equipment because of our strong personal relationship and my company's technical capabilities. Six months later they doubled the order. My Bosses, thinking that they had closed the deal, limited my commission to a fraction of what it should have been. I found a new job and quit. A week later my customer moved the order to my new company.
  • #5: My last promotion entitled me to two new departmental benefits: a chair with arms and a bigger cubicle. Since I didn't see the need to disrupt my life and move another employee for 4 MORE INCHES, I declined the larger space. I was very comfortable where I was. But my Boss wouldn't let it die. He got maintenance workers to 'reconstruct' my area. It took them all day to add an 18" panel to my cubicle. When the work was done, my Boss stopped by. With a big grin on his face he said "Now this is more befitting of your new status."
  • #6: I work part time in a lumberyard which had theft losses. Aha! said management, it must be our thieving employees. Polygraph tests were ordered for every employee. I flatly refused to take the test. Since I was the leading sales person, I was threatened, but not fired. A week later, during a routine, late night drive by the police caught the thief loading a truck with material from the yard. It was the VP who had ordered the lie detector tests.
  • #7: I had a job working at a summer camp during college. I had worked at this camp for five summers. This particular summer my best friend unexpectedly died from heart failure and I took leave to go to the funeral. When I returned, my grandfather was on his deathbed and my mother asked me to request more time off. Obviously upset, I approached my Boss and explained the situation. She said "Well, you're just going to have to get over it and get on with your life. I can't let you go again." My grandfather died the next week. When I told my Boss she said "You should have planned better, you have no bereavement time left."
  • #8: Recently, the plant were I worked was faced with a union drive. In order to determine who was "at fault" the President arranged for private meetings so they could air their issues, with no supervisory or managerial personnel were allowed in order to ensure that all comments would remain confidential. During the meetings, I happened to visit the HR manager's office and surprised him by just walking in. After I was seated he indicated that I should be quiet and then he readjusted the intercom. He was listening in on the "private" meetings. The President had "bugged" the room and the HR manager was furiously taking notes, so that the President could "get even" with the workers.
  • #9: At the publishing company I work for, management regularly stressed their policy of promoting from within. When a middle-management opening occurred, the divisional vice president told my Boss about the opening. He said "Even though there's an opening, don't post it in your department. Someone unqualified might apply."
  • #10: Last week my Boss discovered the motivational quote "Only in the dictionary does SUCCESS come before WORK". He ordered a large banner for our work area with an "improved" version of the quote. The banner reads: "Only in the dictionary does SUCCESS come before HARD WORK".