Readers tell all: Our horrible bosses

A fictional bad boss may be entertaining, but real bad bosses are often no laughing matter.

Our story on bad bosses prompted many readers to vent about their own experiences with bad bosses – and the serious toll it took on their health, careers and families.

Here are a few of the tales of woe. Some stories have been edited slightly for clarity, and none of the stories were independently verified.

One reader described a boss who terrorized one team – and then was transferred over to terrorize another.

Walking on eggshells
“I had the worst bully boss ever. This guy would belittle you on a daily basis, he had a horrible temper. He would go ballistic at the drop of a hat, knock office furniture over, throw things and make everyone around him miserable. The whole department had to walk on eggshells around this guy. If you made a mistake, first he would go nuts and then not speak to you for days or weeks. He played favorites and alienated others. He would send you nasty e-mails every day to the point where the worst part of the day was checking your email. He micromanaged everyone to the point where you were afraid to do anything. This jerk was finally transferred to another location and now our department has the nicest boss and everyone is happy and productive. The funny thing is upper management told this jerk before they transferred him that they liked what he did and to do the same thing where he was transferred to. I have pity for the people he now manages.”

Lots of readers wrote about weird office behavior, but this story of a bad boss with a whiffle ball definitely stood out.

Whiffle ball in the office
“Most of my career, I've had good bosses and mediocre bosses and one really bad and mentally ill boss. She was the comptroller of the company and I was the AR/AP Bookkeeper. She would tell me how to do a task one day, the next day it would be a completely different way and the yelling would commence. When she got really angry, she would bat a whiffle ball around the office. She had a really great swing. Many times I'm sure my head would be missing had I not gotten under my desk.

"She fired me. It was the first time I'd been fired, and I was devastated at first. Then, after about a week, I noticed the pain in my gut had disappeared and other symptoms of stress disappeared as well and I decided my firing was probably the best thing that could have happened in that circumstance. I later learned she had lost her job and had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I'm not sure if she ever worked again. Even with all the abuse, I still felt sorry for her when I'd learned of her fate. “

Over on our Facebook page, one reader remembered a boss who was so bad people expected to leave the office crying.

Leaving your review in tears
“The running joke in the office was, 'If you didn't leave your review in tears, you must be having relations with him.' He had me thinking that I was a horrible worker until I got my new job and get rave reviews for the next 14 years.”

Many readers said they either left or were forced out of their jobs because of bad bosses. Often, however, it turned out to be the best thing that happened to them.

Getting blamed for boss' mistakes
“I had a boss like that for four years. It was a two-person department, just him and me, so it was easy for him to take the credit for everything that went right and blame me for everything that went wrong (even though the truth was almost always the opposite). Finally, though, he overplayed his hand. After one particularly egregious screw-up (by him) he was doing his usual finger pointing at me, when HIS boss said, 'That's enough -- fire him!'

"So I got fired for his mistakes. But by the time I got home, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been under so much stress from him that it had been killing me.

"Now here's the best part: I found another job where I was given an honest opportunity to prove myself, and my career took off very successfully. He, on the other hand, without having me as a scapegoat, was exposed as the fraud he was. He himself was fired within a year, and his career went down the toilet from there.

I realize that justice like that doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is sweet.”

Did you have a boss from hell? Join the discussion.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Bad bosses in film and TV

    We may not like them, but chances are, almost everyone who has worked long enough has a horror story about a superior who generally behaved like Homer Simpson’s boss, Mr. Charles Montgomery Burns. Here are some of the most narcissistic, psychopathic bosses ever to appear in the movies or on TV.

  • Bad bosses in film and TV


    Blake in "Glengarry Glen Ross"

    Alec Baldwin played an abusive boss in "Glengarry Glen Ross," the 1992 story of wheeling and dealing in the real-estate business. Key quote: "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing."

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
  • Image: "House"

    Bad bosses in film and TV


    Gregory House in "House"

    House, played by Hugh Laurie, was a narcissist and the quintessential bad boss in the series that ran from 2004-2012. He was a maverick ... and a nut case. Key quote: "Relax, I have just the thing to cheer you up... we're being sued!"

    Fox / Fox
  • Bad bosses in film and TV


    Avery Tolar in "The Firm"

    Gene Hackman, left, played Avery Tolar, a mentor in the shady law firm that Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is convinced to join in the 1993 film "The Firm." Key quote: Avery Toler: "Do you think l'm talking about breaking the law?" Mitch McDeere: "No, I'm just trying to figure out how far you want it bent." Toler: "As far as you can without breaking it."

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
  • Bad bosses in film and TV


    Miranda Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada"

    Meryl Streep played Miranda Priestly, the officious and evil fashion magazine editor in "The Devil Wears Prada." Key quote: "Please bore someone else with your... questions."

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox
  • Bad bosses in film and TV


    Buddy Ackerman in "Swimming with Sharks"

    Kevin Spacey plays a producer who is the boss from hell in the 1994 film "Swimming with Sharks." Ackerman is the prototypical boss from hell. Key quote: "You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn't bother flushing it. My bathmat means more to me than you!"

    Vidmark Entertainment / Vidmark Entertainment
  • Image: Mr. Burns

    Bad bosses in film and TV


    Mr. Burns in "The Simpsons"

    Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns of the animated hit "The Simpsons" is the evil head of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, known for being horrible and heartless in all sorts of creative ways. Key quote: "Smithers, release the hounds."

    FOX / FOX
  • Andy Kaufman and Danny DeVito in Scene from <Taxi>

    Bad bosses in film and TV


    Louis DePalma of "Taxi"

    Danny DeVito, left, made Louie DePalma a household name in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hurling insults from wihin the caged-in dispatch office was DePalma's favorite managerial style. Key quote: "All dispatchers are scum."

    Bettmann / Corbis / Bettmann / Corbis
  • Bad bosses in film and TV


    Bill Lumbergh in "Office Space"

    Gary Cole plays slimy, callous boss Bill Lumbergh in 1999's "Office Space," a spoof on corporate life and downsizing. Key quote: "Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too..."
    Quotes from

    20th Century Fox / 20th Century Fox