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What are typical things a bad boss says?swipe left

“We’re a family”

“Orientation is very cult-y. It’s like: ‘We’re a family. We love each other.’”

— Ricky, JuiceLand

“We hope those who work in this facility would like to become part of the Walmart family.”

— a spokesperson after Walmart took over a DHL facility laying off 511

“I support unions, but just not here.”

“I think unions have had a positive impact on a lot of places, like if you’re working on an assembly line.”

BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, but that he didn’t think a union is “the right idea” for his staff.

“The right of the working man to combine and to form trades-unions is no less sacred than the right of the manufacturer to enter into associations and conferences with his fellows, and it must be sooner or later conceded.”

– industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1865. Then, in 1892, his workers at the Homestead steel mill struck. Pinkertons were brought in to violently oppose workers. Seven workers and three Pinkertons died. “Nothing… in all my life, before or since, wounded me so deeply,” Carnegie wrote in his autobiography.

“They say ‘keep them hungry.’ And they’re referring to not giving some people a lot of shifts.

— Ricky, Juiceland

“I have a friend in the military who trains military dogs, Laura. And they only feed a military dog at night. Because a hungry dog is an obedient dog. Well, if we’re not causing people to be hungry to work then we’re providing them with all the meals they need sitting at home. I’m completely with you Laura. These benefits make absolutely no sense to us.”

— Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer explaining why COVID-19 unemployment benefits should be cut

We asked readers to email us about their bad bosses in a few sentences. Here are some responses:swipe left

“I once worked for a VP who came to work at noon, took a 2 or 3 hour liquid lunch, and began to work around 4:30 or 5 pm. Of course, he expected me to stay late and meet his demands.”

“The restroom at the office had very cheap toilet paper. The boss had his own package of White Cloud toilet paper that he would proudly carry down the hall to the restroom.”

“I typed a nine-page document which was dictated by my boss.  He found an error on the last page.  He took an orange marker and swiped it over the entire 9 pages.  This was before computers.  I had to type the entire document again.”

“He was the chief ER Doc. He hired and fired. He kept me working full time but I didn’t get benefits. He said ER docs should be male as “girls talk too much and have babies.” He wanted nurses to wear heels. (The union had to be the one to stop him.) He was a boss from darkest hell.”

Here are some of the nicknames we heard about for bad bosses from readers, sources, or a history book.swipe left

Cruella

El Exigente

Employees named for Charles Revson, who founded Revlon. According to the New York Times, Revson “was another legendary dictator—a ruthless, crude, arbitrary whip-cracker, who nevertheless was considered a magnetic character and creative genius.” He once famously “ceaselessly badgered” a man who had a mole to undergo plastic surgery.

The Usurper

The Last Business Eccentric

The name given to Gulf & Western C.E.O. Charles Bluhdorn by the New Yorker in a profile, Bluhdorn was infamous for his violent temper. He was a tycoon of his era. Bluhdorn turned a Michigan auto-parts into a massive conglomerate taking over 150 companies. Like with other yelling bosses, he was heralded for his nature called “strong willed” or (as with Henry Ford) just a crazy genius. Vanity Fair dubbed him “combustible.” He would yell in meetings, according to one report, and some employees remember him being so angry he’d be “literally foaming at the mouth.” It was so very eccentric.

Snake in the grass

25

When this guy arrived at the office we warned each other by saying 25. A chorus of 25 would go down the hall.

Robber Baron

Before it was a general term for ruthless business practitioners, “robber baron” was about bosses of a particular era. Those “overlords” of society born around 1840 who would conquer American capitalism, as Matthew Josephson wrote in his seminal text popularizing the phrase during the 1930s. It included Cornelius Vanderbilt (the Commodore), James Fisk (Big Jim), and Daniel Drew (the Great Bear)—all the businessmen who oversaw massive businesses as the industrial revolution boomed. One record tracks the phrase specifically to Vanderbilt, who supposedly tricked his employees by paying himself a fee as leader of the railroad company. The nickname stuck as a way to describe a boss who steals with corruption from his employees.

One of Noah’s graphs here

More short bad boss stories from our readers:swipe left

“Yes, you’ve been excellent this year, but I can’t give you a 5 on your review or the max increase/bonus, because you need to have something to work for.”

— After moving to a remote 100% telework environment in less that 48 hours without any office downtime.

“Had a boss who tried to sound like he knew what he was talking about all the time (he didn’t). He had the catchphrase “in reference to” and would sprinkle it in everywhere. I mean everywhere, sometimes every sentence. In reference to how many times he’d say it, I think the record was three times within one sentence, in reference to the most times repeating it (see what I did there, in reference to using this manager’s catch phrase?)”

“Yes, you’ve been excellent this year, but I can’t give you a 5 on your review or the max increase/bonus, because you need to have something to work for.”

— After moving to a remote 100% telework environment in less that 48 hours without any office downtime.

“When my boss was away on a business trip, the [next person in charge] told me to spy on employees in the office and tell her what I learned. I was appalled and said no. When my boss came back, he called me into his office and, with the other person sitting there, screamed at me that she was my boss when he was away and I screwed up denying her demand. Everyone in the office could hear this. (All of us were in the ’scream tank’ with him at one point or another). So when I got my next paycheck, I went out at lunch and cashed it, then came back to tell my boss I was quitting. But he was out at a meeting, so I told the bookkeeper instead and left.”

“I worked at a small college office development office. My immediate supervisor was an Associate VP who had been trained by the Foundation VP. She told me in the first week that if I went to a meeting, I was to leave my office light on and the door ajar. (She even demonstrated how much the door should be open.) In week two I was told I could not heat up my lunch or make popcorn, because the smell might offend donors who dropped in. There was a conference room with a huge table, but we were forbidden to eat in there. My boss informed me that I was to turn my desk and monitor around so the monitor faced the door; she explained that this way her boss could see what I was working on. Eventually, when I handed her my letter, my boss gave it back to me and asked me to rewrite it to include how grateful I was to have had the opportunity to work in the development office. I looked at her for a few seconds and handed the letter back to her. ‘That request is a perfect example of exactly why I am resigning,’ I explained.”

Second Noah graph here

//4 more stories to add and then, done!//

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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