“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Unfortunately, enjoying one’s job of choice can be difficult when one has a boss who doesn’t seem to care about the emotional and/or physical well-being of his/her employees. Some managers will go to extreme lengths to make sure that everything under their watch is running smoothly—except the experience of those who work for them.
Don’t these people realize that their employees might work better and produce better results if they actually enjoy working for the company? We could spend all day wishing all bosses were great, but maybe our time would be better spent reading these 42 examples of times that bad managers made some truly horrible moves that completely destroyed employee morale.
42. This One Starts and Ends With a Beach
Boss pitched a sales incentive trip to Cancun if the team hit the goal. My team exceeded the goal, and then they cancelled the trip. Two people quit, I accepted a position with their main competitor, and less than a year later, they closed in bankruptcy. Karma’s a beach.
41. Taking Out the Trash
I work in a big corporate building. The same older lady came by everyone’s desk towards the end of the day to collect the trash. Just the sweetest lady ever and every time she’d walk to my desk she’d give me a big smile and ask me how my day was and chat for a minute as she got my trash (usually I’d dump it in for her). I had some rough days but she has a way to cheer me up and send me home on a higher note. I know I’m not the only one either.
So then a few weeks back our work implemented a new policy to “cut down on trash usage.” It’s no longer allowed to have a trash bin at our desk and we have to walk across the room and use the community trash to throw anything away. Not a huge deal but the real reason they did it is so they can cut down on cost… i.e. the cleaning crew.
Sad to say that I haven’t seen Sharon since.
40. Surprise! Nothing Works Right Anymore!
This school wanted to switch to Chromebooks. So what did they do? One summer while teachers weren’t working, they removed every single Windows station and replaced them with Chromebooks to be issued to teachers. They were told to “figure it out.”
When teachers came up and asked how they could teach Photoshop, programming, AutoCAD 3d modeling, etc., admin basically googled their program name plus “Chromebook extension” and told them “see? There’s an extension for it and it works!” I don’t think I have to add that it did not work.
They ended up bringing back the desktops for most teachers.
39. Maybe Find a Solution Instead of Adding to the Problem…
Put up a poster that said “Complaining is like vomiting. You feel better but everyone around you feels sick.” The morale was already bad but it was just an awful way to take a hit at upset employees rather than do anything positive.
38. Newsflash: Employees Are Not Your Slaves
I was one of a large number of programmers working on a project at CSC. We had a deadline coming up in a couple months and they over-promised to the client and then asked us all to work extra hard to meet the deadline, and asked us to work 50+ hour weeks. Which we did—and then some: some of us put in 70-80 hour weeks to meet this deadline.
But once that deadline was met, suddenly there was another deadline they needed to meet. And another. People got tired, had lives to lead, and scaled back on their hours. Most of us were still working 50-60 hours a week, but not a lot more than that.
Once they realized we weren’t killing ourselves on their project any longer, there was an All Hands meeting where the managers told us that they were incredibly disappointed in our lack of professionalism because so comparatively few employees were now working more than fifty hours a week.
One of our harder workers stood up and said, “Look, I have three kids. I’m driving an hour into and out of work every day, I’m taking care of my family, I’m trying to get presents for Christmas, write out Christmas cards, decorate and clean the house for everyone we’re having over for the holidays—I’m having a really hard time just getting to fifty.”
And the manager looked at her and sneered, “If it wasn’t Christmas, it’d be because it’s Easter, or Memorial Day, or because it’s summer and it’s nice out. You’d always have some excuse.”
There was dead silence in the room.
When we left that meeting, we didn’t talk to each other, but every single worker on that project put in exactly fifty hours a week after that.
Then came Christmas—raise and bonus time! Every worker on the project got a 1/2 percent raise; the managers got a five-figure bonus. We were pissed.
For management, the pain came after Christmas. First week of the year, four programmers had better jobs lined up and quit. Three more the following week. Five the next. We hemorrhaged 3-5 programmers every single week for over three months. It got to the point where the managers had to schedule a meeting every Monday at eleven to discuss that week’s resignations and rearrange the surviving staff.
37. A Three-Part Plan That Can Never Fail
Bought a manufacturing plant.
Tried to hire them back for $2 less.
36. Just Looking Out For Number One
I once had a retail manager who sent out a memo that we worked so hard and did such a great job this month that she gets a bonus. That went over like a lead balloon.
35. Summoning the Crickets
I told the hiring manager that I was disappointed in one of his hires because he knew literally NOTHING about our job and asked him “doesn’t that cheapen my knowledge and expertise?”
His response: “Well, let’s be honest, your job doesn’t really need all that, does it?”
There were four other people my level, with varying fields of expertise, at that meeting, and it got real quiet after that.
34. We Can’t Go On Together With Suspicious Minds
I worked at a club in Miami and the owner was out of his freaking mind thanks to years of drug abuse. When the housing market crashed obviously people were spending far less going out, but he insisted we were all stealing. We had meetings once a week with all kinds of threats.
Finally he put in an automatic pouring system for 50k+, it basically looks like you’re pouring drinks from a soda gun, super boring. The fun vibe and flair we had was totally gone which made sales drop even more. He ripped the system out two weeks later.
33. You’ve Got to Get Up Pretty Early in the Morning to Outsmart This Kitchen Staff
My mum is the cafeteria/kitchen manager at a school. For the past decade, the admin has been trying to find a way to fire the entire kitchen staff and hire new people for minimum wage. They currently make great money and the benefits are better than my dad’s, who works at a Dow 30 company. She’s part of a union, for the record.
Yet, they haven’t been able to let anyone go without there being a serious lapse in responsibilities. Let one person go, suddenly all of the dairy in the fridge is expired because the new, $8 an hour person has zero training and doesn’t know when things need to be pitched and re-ordered. Surprise! Sorry kids, no milk or cheese for the next two weeks! (Bring on the parental complaints.)
Their most recent strategy was to hire [the SIL of a high-ranking administrator who is] a “nutritionist.” I researched her, her only “qualifications” are a decade-old two year degree in hospitality management, and an “approval” from an unaccredited, unrecognized NPO. She got hired making $150,000 a year. Thanks, public records.
The most recent strategy to oust the current employees was a massive testing program on stuff people working for the school for 20+ years have never had to know. Every employee but one passed the three different weed-out tests.
Apparently, the nutrition monster stormed out of the meeting yelling when she found this out.
32. Deli-cate Promises Are Made to Be Broken
Worked in a deli years ago and the manager promised us a no-holds-barred BBQ at his place if he got his bonus for the deli performing well.
He got his bonus and, surprise surprise, we got nothing. Apparently the wife wanted the bonus for their kids’ private school fees.
31. Stepping in to Correct the Record
I, along with nine other coworkers, did a Kaizen project where we cut customer complaints from over 100 a month to single digits due to streamlining our process.
The plant manager sent out a company wide email essentially taking credit for the whole thing. He noted how he put together this team and under his direct supervision he got the project done without even mentioning our names. T
hat pissed all of us off until the Continuous Improvement manager sent a reply thanking all of us in a big screw you move to the plant manager. I was just happy that the CI manager was a no BS guy. I left that job a few months after we completed it and still use it on my resume.
30. Nothing Requires Your Full Attention
They banned phones, electronics, puzzles, books, etc. from being used at your desk. I work at a call center. We were expected to just sit and wait for the next call to come in “distraction-free,” even if it was a super slow day.
Telling employees that they are going to fire you if you don’t make more sales. Then when someone quits tell them naww that was just motivation. We were never going to fire you.
28. How Soon We Forget
New principal came in. It was like he forgot what being a teacher is like… he made us sub constantly on our plan periods instead of getting around to calling a sub. If we weren’t subbing, he would come into our rooms as we worked on plan time things and go over ridiculous things that could have better been sent in an email. He fired the lunch supervisor and made us supervise lunch. Then he started giving us a hard time about using the bathroom between classes because if we were in the bathroom, who is supervising the halls?
It boiled down to us working before and past contract hours with zero breaks. No bathroom. No lunch time (you can’t eat and supervise). I went off on him one day because he accosted me for going to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom to change my tampon. I waved a spare tampon around in the hallway in front of God and students and told him I’d had enough of this and if he had time to drive to McDonalds for lunch (he had a fry box in his hands) I could be spared two minutes of supervision to change a tampon.
To add insult to injury, the staff banded together and we documented these things to get him fired. The next person comes in and decides that action of creating unity with the staff needed to be dismantled so she changed where all our rooms were and in most cases what we taught (regardless of our certification). I quit. I couldn’t take it anymore. Kids are my number one concern in teaching and when a school dissolves into politics and nonsense it just isn’t worth it to me. I could get treated like crap in any profession and probably get paid more.
27. Can’t Pull One Over on Us
Removed COLA raises each year for all employees and implemented a “raise when promoted or taking on more responsibility” model. However promotions are very rare and raises are never approved. So everyone is losing money to inflation each year and they tried to sell it as a big “win” for the employees.
We aren’t stupid people.
26. If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Take a Sledgehammer to It
Had a boss everyone loved, then she got transferred to another store and the new guy that replaced her decided the schedule that we’d all gotten used to needed to be “shaken up.” He posted the next week’s schedule that was completely different than it had been under the previous manager, got a bunch of complaints from people saying they can’t work x days or y times and it SEEMED he was receptive since he took that schedule down. Then suddenly BAM, he just reposted the same exact schedule and said screw everyone.
Oh, we had some people calling in sick from time to time under the old manager, but this new manager has pretty much half his crew every single day calling out because of his scummy tactics.
Here’s the first thing to learn about being a good manager… you don’t need to “shake things up” for people to be better workers. You don’t need to “put your mark” on anything if it’s working just fine the way it was.
25. Get Your Priorities in Order, Kid!
A grocery store I worked at for just about four weeks or so in 2000 did something stupid. The manager, who primarily employed high school seniors like myself, would state “your employer is your number one priority. You work for them, not the other way around.
I don’t care about whatever teenager/high school things you have going on. If you can’t work the shifts I want you to, I don’t want you to work for me.” Only job I straight up walked out on after he told me I couldn’t get off for my own graduation.
24. This is Not What I Signed Up For…
My boss changed half the shifts to 3 am shipment and the other half were regular retail hours mostly for school kids lol. Turns out the four teenagers that go to school that he switched to 3 am never came again. The shipping manager quit because she had a 2nd job that was more important during the day.
The new manager was just too stupid to notice any of it and I too just stopped showing up because, I kid you not, he tried to make me a janitor after the contracted janitor serviceman quit lol. “I need you to come in tomorrow when Les would come in and do all the toilets and floors.” Uhh I’m not a janitor so I have none of that equipment. “Bring it from home.”
I found a new job two days later.
23. False Sense of Hope
Told a bunch of people they were going to be promoted to get us to do extra work, but no one actually got promoted. I basically did her job for a month. Me and three of my co-workers quit and she got fired a few months later.
22. All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
She actively tried to ban friendships.
If co-workers became friendly she would schedule them so they would NEVER see each other. “You’re here to work! Not to socialise!”
She also banned everyone from coming into the workplace when they were not working. It was a pub. She banned socializing in a pub.
This was a corporate pub, so drinking for free was never allowed. She was literally turning away paying customers. A co-worker once asked her if he could bring in his visiting Grandpa to show him where he worked and she told him to screw off.
She became insanely paranoid when she learned four people were in a WhatsApp group. She said the only reason people who work together set up group chats is because they wanted to talk trash about her. She was actually kind of right.
21. Kindness Just Flew Away Here
At an airplane factory: manager started rationing gloves, hairnets, masks, and trash bags at the same time we had to go on a 12×6 workweek, like that was gonna make up for the increase in labor.
20. Not the Handiest Manager Around
I worked at a new car dealership for a few years as a technician. The first year and a half I was there we were allowed ONE box of gloves per month. Penny pinching, number fudging manager was let go, manager that had actually turned wrenches in the past gets hired and immediately tells us to get gloves when we need them because he wants zero complaints about interiors getting dirty while in the shop.
Of course he didn’t last and we got a manager that said to me “pack up your stuff and get the heck out” (not fired apparently but I was already one foot out the door). We went from a shop with no tech turnover to all but three people leaving.
19. Something to Get Excited About…Not!
Held a super positive, pep rally style company wide meeting about how they were going to start combining our sick days with our vacation days and now just call them “PTO.” This was presented to us as a great thing, since we could all now use our PTO days fully as vacation days if we wanted to.
Once the system was implemented, everyone realized that instead of getting 10 vacation days and 10 sick days per year, we now all had 15 PTO days. Everyone was pissed.
18. Second Thoughts About a Messy Decision
They got rid of their night cleaning crew the week after I started and we had to learn how to clean the whole department on our own before close. I work in a meat department so this meant taking apart and cleaning two meat grinders and a band saw that were covered with meat goop.
Almost the whole department quit because of this, but I stuck around and got the hang of it. After about three months though they hired the cleaning crew back. Now closing is a breeze.
17. It’s the Little Things That Count
In a very short span of time, they changed everyone’s 401K plan (for the worse) and then implemented an office-wide cleanliness policy. No eating at your desk. Only three personal items on your desk. Everything labeled. No items other than your keyboard, mouse, and monitors on your desk at the end of the day.
Talk about pissed off. You could feel the gloom when you walked in. Everyone’s give-a-hoot meter broke at once.
16. But Tell Us What You Really Think
In a company of six people, owner said in a meeting with everyone that his two sales guys are irreplaceable and that the rest of us are “just paper pushers.”
15. Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Try working in IT. Apathetic attitudes towards us are just the standard state of being.
It’s a job where if you work absolutely perfectly, you’re totally invisible and only appear on the radar when something messes up.
Just a few weeks ago we did a major office move. My department worked back to back 12-18 hour days to get everything moved over, which we managed with less half a day’s down time (and we were moving the company’s main data center).
By the end of the final weekend after carrying 30+ servers (plus cabs) up four stories, re-cabling 200+ desks and literally moving trucks worth of gear I got home and my legs just wouldn’t work any more. I still have the blisters on my feet from walking about 30 miles in two days… and I was still at my desk at 7am the next day to run around the office fixing teething issues.
Then, a few days ago the chief got the whole office together to thank everyone for their hard work. He had a stack of envelopes with “thank you” cards and £50 vouchers in them. Everyone who volunteered to help with the move got one…including the people who “volunteered” to have an early snoop around the new office, spent 30 minutes on site and did precisely zilch.
You know who didn’t get a mention, or an envelope? Anyone in IT. The people who were there working unpaid overtime until 2 am for weeks.
14. Selectively Poor
Cancelled the Christmas party and Christmas bonuses for the whole company because we “didn’t have the money for it.” I found out later the CEO and the CTO used company funds to take a week-long ski vacation in Whistler instead of doing something nice for the employees. You better believe I spread that evidence around the office.
13. Technically Speaking, You’re Screwed
It’s not one specific incident, but my current company in the last couple years switched from guaranteed permanent employment for anyone who worked there long enough to a system of permanent contract labor for a huge section of their workforce. Rumblings of unionization have started amongst the contract workers…
12. Sometimes It’s Best to Keep Your Mouth Shut
Company consisted of something like 1,200 employees at the time, and rented out a big conference center for a Christmas party. At the opening of the party, the CFO was giving opening remarks, and asked—expecting cheers—if everyone liked their Christmas bonuses.
He got booed.
See, of that 1,200 people, a bit over a thousand were in customer service. No one in customer service got bonuses, only people in the “corporate” departments got bonuses. And our awesome CFO decided to rub everyone’s noses in it, because clearly the Chief Financial Officer of a company would have no idea that 80%+ of his company didn’t get bonuses.
At the same party, the CEO made an announcement that the company would be closed on Friday (Christmas that year was on a Thursday), and everyone got a day off. Now, he had literally just finished making a speech about how everyone was important, and everyone was part of the company, no matter the department. He had shoveled crap hard, trying to make CS happier.
The next day, we all got a memo that Customer Service still had to work on that Friday. We apparently didn’t count as “everyone” and the CEO just hadn’t realized that the announcement wouldn’t apply to anyone.
January saw a 60% attrition rate.
11. A Fight to the Death
Started firing people by lining two up at a time and seeing which one they prefer to keep on. Didn’t matter if you were there for 20 years or two.
Also hiring management from outside and not promoting within which means the new managers have no knowledge of anything that company does in terms of ethics, procedures, or employee status. It has turned this “clique” type environment into every person for themselves. Very toxic.
10. I Can List All the Things Wrong With This
Changed up the metrics that determined people’s bonuses. And included things that were important for the business to know, but completely beyond the control of the people who’s bonuses were impacted.
For example, we had a “right party contact” rate—how many times you actually got the person you were calling vs. the number of calls you actually made. The problem was the phone number list came from elsewhere, and the people making the calls were just given a list of numbers, and you had to call them all. No leeway.
So you’re calling blind from a list you don’t control… and get penalized if the list is lousy.
Oddly enough for the people in charge of making the phone number lists, their bonuses were not influenced by right party contact rate.
9. X Does Not Mark the Spot in This Office
Casually said that the best employee was X and everyone, including X, knew that X was among those who did the least amount of work.
X was the most friendly to the boss, always coming in to say, “Hi, do you need anything?”
8. So How Did You Enjoy My Wrath?
Head of department realised that we weren’t about to meet our targets for the financial year. Completely banned annual leave for three months, forced anyone who didn’t fill in their timesheet on time to attend a disciplinary meeting (despite problems with the system meaning that some didn’t get filled in) and generally had lower management terrified, causing a massive blame culture and several people to be signed off with mental health issues.
In the end, the employee survey which went to his bosses was hilariously bad, and he’s now somewhere else making some other people’s lives a misery. The best part was when his replacement came in and fired his right hand man who was also a jerk.
7. Check Your Personal Problems at the Door
Had a big fight with his wife in front of everybody. I don’t think you should run a restaurant with your family members unless you’re really solid with each other.
6. A New Level of Jerkery
Fired the girl who was in her third trimester of pregnancy three days before her maternity leave was to start.
5. The Fun Police Reporting For Duty
We were once in the middle of a very stressful period of work, and everyone was feeling it. However, one afternoon, an off-hand comment turned into a conversation that we all got involved in which led to a few laughs. My manager, returning from a meeting, piped up “Oh we’ve finished tomorrow’s work, have we? What’s all this about (insert subject matter)?” Entire team instantly deflated.
Unnecessary. Every employee needs time to blow off a little steam.
4. A Tale of Freezes and Fridays
It was a one two punch.
The company wide meeting announced the promotion of several high level management and executives (mostly title and responsibility changes). Lots of smiles and handshakes, not unlike a college graduation ceremony.
After these promotion announcements, they declared that due to the stagnant economy and poor sales, the entire company would be experiencing a pay freeze as a result. So, no raises for anyone.
They then concluded the meeting by discontinuing “Casual Fridays.” So, no more jeans on Friday.
It almost felt like it was designed to make people want to quit and leave. It worked though, I and many others moved on to greener pastures within the year.
3. Small Business, Big Problems
Small business. 20 employees +/-. Boss made a big speech about austerity measures and no raises this year. A week and a half later he drives up in a brand new Silverado with all the bells and whistles. Expensed to the business of course. He would hate to have to pay taxes on those profits.
One of the less subtle members of the staff took a literal dump in front of his office door.
2. The Devil’s in the Details
Former teacher. The administrators at my school were usually pretty chill, but had a habit of randomly coming up with minor rules that they would enforce for us (male teachers had to wear ties even on jeans day, etc.). Overall it wasn’t bad, except for the time an administrator made a crucial mistake… they banned staff from drinking coffee in front of students.
Now if you’ve never worked in a school, you’d think this isn’t a big deal. When you spend nearly 100% of your day in front of students, it definitely is a big deal.
First we tried to find any loophole we could. Energy drinks? Banned the next week. Tea? Banned two days later. It was chaos.
Eventually, we realized they couldn’t fire an entire school’s worth of teachers and aides, so we ended up doing the one thing that private schools fear most: we formed a union.
Realistically, it was more of a weird pseudo-union focused specifically on civil disobedience regarding the coffee issue, but it ruffled feathers nonetheless. The administrators caved to our “demands,” allowed us to drink coffee again, and even bought each of us a reusable coffee mug as a gesture of goodwill.
And that’s the story of how a handful of school administrators almost accidentally created a teachers union over a complete non-issue.
1. Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
I used to work at an English immersion middle school in Korea. The admin was all Korean, including my boss, the vice principal.
Word started going around that the school was under investigation for certain admin taking bribes to admit students. The VP got visibly anxious for a few weeks.
Then one Sunday night we got a text message from one of the Korean teachers at the school: “The vice principal has passed away.” It turns out he had hung himself in the school lobby that afternoon. The teaching staff still had to be at school the next morning even though classes were canceled for several days. I remember walking into the school and seeing a custodian mopping the spot where the VP had been hanging.
Morale tanked pretty hard for a while.