Devil Bosses

Inspired by the Meryl Streep movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Washington Post business reporter Amy Joyce described several "devil bosses" in her Life at Work column last Sunday.

The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one tyrannical Iraqi woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools. But none compares to the woman who made all employees in her department stay at work during a two-foot snowfall that ended up closing the entire company for two days. We all had young children in day care and school whom we needed to get to -- and then get home safely -- but she was oblivious, even as afternoon darkness fell. We knew she was largely clueless and not intentionally endangering our children, but we were all so intimidated by her past tirades that we couldn't stand up to her. Finally, one of her male counterparts intervened, and we all were allowed to leave.

Devil bosses certainly can make your life hell, both before and after you have children. (Check out the AFL-CIO's Bad Boss contest for some unbelievable stories.) However, once you have kids, the power dynamic shifts even further because bosses have the power to make your family's life miserable, too. So, tell us a story about your worst boss, and what he or she did to ruin your life. If you dealt with the boss particularly cleverly, please let us know how.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  July 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts , Free-for-All , Workplaces
Previous: Your Job or Your Kid? | Next: Ask A Working Woman

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Great topic.
I've had two horrible bosses unfortunately. One was a classic sexual harrasser and blatently discriminated against the women in the department. He frequently gave the best opportunities to the males. I left because his supervisors seemed very supportive of him and I didn't want to work for a place that supported this type of behavior.

And just when you think only men can behave that way, I had a female boss who did similar things. There was one day where I found that I would be done by a certain time and I decided to leave (on time) to pick up my son from his after school activity. I made the mistake of mentioning this to this woman and she suddenly decided we needed a meeting at that very time. Then, at our morning meeting she interrupted a presentation I was giving to announce to our department that I had to fix my child care problems. (never had any childcare issues--I have a nanny and a very helpful husband). I was so humiliated that when I saw this woman later, I told her that her behavior was inappropriate. Further I told her that she couldn't run her very successful program without me. Well, after several more episodes, the entire department went above her head and she was forced to step down.

After my above two experiences, I worked in a place where someone in a position of leadership (not my direct supervisor), began harrassing me. I went directly to his supervisor to ask for "advice" on how to handle the situation. He was immediately reprimanded and eventually fired. People who behave badly toward one person, behave similarly toward others and are often arrogant about it. Good leaders recognize this and attempt to get rid of the toxic behavior.

I do recommend being direct with a bad boss. Often, they (and their supervisors)are unaware of how their behavior impacts on the department. Of course it really depends and if the direct route is taken, you should be prepared to leave. Also, a number of behaviors are illegal and many companies don't want the risk. So going to the HR department or to your bosses' boss can be helpful.

Posted by: working mother | July 14, 2006 7:40 AM

So, what nationality was the woman who kept the employees at work, and what was her schooling background?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 7:53 AM

I wouldn't let a boss or anyone else "ruin" my life...

There are many stories of Satanic bosses who dropped the leadership ball big time on and during the aftermath of 9/11.

Whenever my boss started screaming at me, I pulled out my blood pressure pills and slammed down the container in front of her. She hasn't screamed at me in years!

Posted by: Marlo | July 14, 2006 8:09 AM

Wouldn't employees without kids want to get home safely in a storm, as well? I don't think that desire is tied to family situation.

Posted by: dink | July 14, 2006 8:12 AM

I worked at Wal Mart in Utah and there was a manager there, who after I ask for help backed me up against the fish tank and started to yell at me. Well, he wasn't used to girls like me, and I told him if he didn't move he was going to get cracked. He followed me through the store and yelled, you are fired. I said really, I work her for shoe money, so I quit. Went home got the husband, in the car whipped up some tears, and went and got the other manager. My husband said we are going to sue because he touched my wife. He also told bad manager he was going to kick his ass, bad manager ran. In the end, I got my job back, which I didn't take and bad manager got fired. Turns out he was a felon for statutory rape, but it slipped through the cracks of his background check.

I had a snotty internship manager, who went to an Ivy League school and looked down on me because I had an accent. She told me if my husband wanted to be successful that I would have to lose my accent and learn how to present lovely dinner parties. Yeah, like it is 1950. I ignored her because I could tell no one liked her and that in itself was punishment enough.

Posted by: scarry | July 14, 2006 8:14 AM

"Wouldn't employees without kids want to get home safely in a storm, as well? I don't think that desire is tied to family situation."

well, Leslie wasn't one of them, so if they want to tell their story they will have to post it themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:17 AM

Bad bosses are evil regardless of whether their employees have children or not. Leslie, why do you think that having children somehow makes the situation more worse than dealing with a death in the family or a sick parent or pet or other tragedy?

Posted by: I'm missing something | July 14, 2006 8:19 AM

My boss always says "Family First" etc, but has never acted on it. I was put on bedrest for pre-term labor at about 30 weeks. He would call 2 or 3 times a week, really sugary, asking if I could come in for a few hours. I had to tell him the whole reason for bedrest over and over (and I had a doctor's note). Finally I said, "If I come in there is a good chance I will have the baby in the office, if not during the commute out there." The calls stopped. For a while.

Same boss, different attribute. I'm the first in the office, and I'm a manager, but it's a small company so I answer the phones a lot. He was in the office early one day and I went to the ladies room. Apparently the phone rang and he had to answer it. After I got back, he suggested I wait to go until someone else is in the office.

He would like to read (and edit) every email that goes out of the office. English is not his first language, and the emails end up so much worse than how they started.

Posted by: Newmom | July 14, 2006 8:22 AM

honestly, this blog isn't about how to balacne your life, it's about how to balance your life with children. I suggest we ignore the comments today about parents, dogs, cats, singles and stick to the topic.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:23 AM

I'm guessing that Leslie was worried more about herself and the other parents because they had two trips to make-- to get their kids and to get home. The childless folks just had to get home, which is only one trip. Often (though not always) two trips take longer than one.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:23 AM

I have had great bosses who were supportive, ensured that my successes were recognized and allowed me to use my strengths to advance in the company. I have also had bosses who "delegated" all responsibility to me, refused to assist in difficult situations, blamed all failures on me and took credit for all successes. In both cases, the bosses got what they deserved. Bad bosses were either demoted or fired, good bosses have progressed in their careers. I am now working for a boss who is supportive and ensures upper management is aware of my value to the company. He does have some areas that need improvement. He has poor social skills and is sometimes slightly inappropriate. In the same way that he attempts to support me in improving the areas that need it, I have the opportunity to do the same for him. My previous boss was the exact opposite as described above. He is now losing good employees on a regular basis and my success and happiness in this position really irks him. Does it make me a bad person to gloat??

Posted by: ANT | July 14, 2006 8:27 AM

Why don't you just read the posts that apply the criteria you're looking for in an acceptable post and zip it. People are free to post whatever they want. And, you are not the editor of this blog.

The "other" topics tend to be few in proportion to the overall messages. And, frankly, how people balance their job/kids is not done in a vaccum. Other factors -parents, pets, single coworkers, etc.-DO apply and influence the situation. That's why its called BALANCING life (as you note).

Posted by: To anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:29 AM

I agree that everyone has had bad bosses and that makes balancing life-work issues harder. Please do not imply, as several have in their posts that this is a product of people of foreign nationalities or people with other language backgrounds. There are just as many and probably more "regular American" bosses who are as bad or worse than described. Leslie, shame on you.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:42 AM

Strangely enough, most of my 'bad boss' stories have to do with pregnant supervisors whose hormone swings and symptoms clouded their judgement and professional attitudes, or new parents who began talking to their staff as if we were all toddlers in need of constant correction and supervison on the smallest routine tasks.

My current seven months' pregnant supevisor, who has consistantly been fair, hard working, and open to comments and suggestions from her workers, told me the other day that she no longer "had time to listen to everybody's problems -- I'm busy having a baby!" Ohhh-kaay. Here we go again...

Posted by: CoinFlip | July 14, 2006 8:45 AM

but dink - people with children are OH SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT that the rest of the lowly beings describing themselves as humans!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:50 AM

that's not the point and most people don't feel that way, the point is that you are on a blog about balancing issues with children. Why do you want to be on here if you are only going to complian about the topics and parents?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:52 AM

No kids yet but I agree with the poster who said new parenthood makes a good boss cranky or in my case a bad boss worse. We were all sympathetic to a point as his two kids didn't sleep through the night, had the usual childhood colds but some days it seemed like a constant drama fest! There were definitely days when we overhead contenious calls with his wife in a close quarters environment that seeped into his mood with us. The saddest thing to me was their planned visits to the office when he was never ready for their arrival. Nothing like an ebullient 4 year who comes bounding in all excited only to have daddy make her wait.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | July 14, 2006 9:02 AM

This should be an interesting discussion! I have to admit I've had my share, however with small businesses there's never an HR resource and you're usually on your own when it comes to dealing with a challenging employer.

Being direct with them is definitely a key element. It's very important that they are getting clear and accurate feedback from the people around them, employees or co-workers. Hierarchy has its place but it doesn't exempt anyone from honesty.

Once that base is covered it's not necessarily going to be good. My experience found that only emotionally mature people could handle working with our nasty boss, so as bad as he was there was a great countering support system among the other employees (8-10 people). The ones who could not deal with him were out really fast.

But with all that said, I did reach a point where I had enough of trying so hard not to flinch in the face of his bad behavior (and I'll be quick to agree that some of it was illegal). I've found, not to excuse him, that my experience at his firm inspired me to raised the bar not just for myself personally but now as a business owner. At least I was able to figure out what I didn't want to be.

Posted by: Tracy | July 14, 2006 9:02 AM

I had a horrendous boss for several years. She seemed very sweet at the beginning, but what I didn't see was the "nice to your face, stab you in the back" approach. I had a miscarriage, and while I was out, a matter I was working on (the first thing that really used the expertise for which they had hired me) suddenly turned critical. She told me to stay home, that they'd cover it, but when I returned three days later, she publicly removed me from the case. When I asked her privately why, she acted concerned for my health and mental state, said she didn't want to "burden" me, despite my protestations that I really wanted to work on it -- but six months later, she denied my request for a promotion (I was doing 2 jobs) because of my supposed nonperformance on that one case. Apparently, she'd had no qualms about telling the rest of the department (who didn't know about the miscarriage) that I "had really fallen down" on that matter -- something she'd never bothered to tell me.

Her management style was classic swoop and poop. She'd give you directions, then disappear on other things for a month. Then out of the blue she'd reappear and hold a project status meeting for the entire team, at which she would criticize you for doing A, B, and C, instead of X, Y, and Z. So you'd run off and do X, Y, and Z, and a month later, it was "why in the world are you doing X, Y, and Z, instead of A, B, and C?" Pointing out that that's what she'd told you to do, or arguing with her, just wasn't even worth it. Her version of "constructive criticism" was "I don't know how you managed to pass the Bar in the first place" (luckily, that one wasn't directed at me).

My solution? I complained to my immediate supervisor, who commiserated (he'd worked with her for 15 years), but was powerless to fix anything. Found out he'd talked to the CEO, told him they were losing really good people -- and the CEO said he didn't care, he trusted her legal advice. So it became clear that my choice was either to stay and get beaten down like the folks who had worked with her for 10-15 years, or to get the hell out of dodge and maintain my sanity. It was a tough choice, because I was working across the country in a small town without a lot of other jobs in my area. But I went home, did Quicken to figure out whether we could still pay the mortgage if I quit (yes), and gave notice. Best decision I ever made.

The funny thing is, before that job, I had always been successful in whatever job I had held. But within less than a year of working with her, I was questioning my own intelligence, abilities, competence, etc. When you are constantly dealing with someone who treats you like an idiot, it's hard not to start to wonder if maybe she's not on to something. Luckily, I'm now back at my old firm, working with people who think I'm smart and competent -- and who treat me that way on a regular basis. It's funny, I used to complain about one of the partners I worked for. But you don't realize how truly life-sucking a bad boss can be until you're stuck with one -- now, when my partner's quirks annoy me, it's a lot easier to just laugh about it.

Posted by: Laura | July 14, 2006 9:06 AM

Laura -

You just descibed my boss!

Posted by: Tracy | July 14, 2006 9:14 AM

"including one tyrannical Iraqi woman"

Wow! Leslie, that's in such poor taste given the Iraqi war--and her ethnicity is not even pertinent to your all!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It wouldn't change the meaning in the least if she was British, French, Israeli, American, Cuban, Iranian, Russian--it doesn't matter! If it did matter, you wuold have put in what the enthnicity is of the woman who made you stay in a snowstorm.

If I were you, I'd have that edited right out of your BLOG post. I'm shocked that the Washington Post allowed that to be posted in the first place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: onlymom | July 14, 2006 9:17 AM

writing from the working mother perspective and only from such. The worst bosses (based on personal experiences and friends' experiences)in order of magnitude: single never married career women; married no kids career women; married/divorced with kids career women whose kids are raised by nannies; male bosses with working spouses whose kids are attended by nannies; male bosses with stay at home spouses. The botton line -- if you attitude towards life work balance drastically differs from your boss you are going to have a problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 9:23 AM

I re-read Leslie's posting and I don't think that the Iraqi woman and the one who made them stay in a snow storm was one and the same.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 9:26 AM

In Leslie's defense - the fact that the woman was Iraqi had some bearing on her school background, the description of which did paint a vivid picture of her methods. Nowhere did Leslie say that all Iraqis are tyrannical - it was simply part of a description. If the boarding school comment hadn't been included it would have been irrelevant, but as it was, it helped the description. Calm down, people. There's a line between stereotyping by race, ethnicity, or cultural background and simply using those characteristics to describe. One is harmful, the other useful.

Posted by: SEP | July 14, 2006 9:26 AM

I didn't say the two bosses were one in the same. I was saying that she said the first woman was Iraqi, and for the second boss (the snowstorm boss)she didn't mention the ethnicity at all.

Posted by: onlymom | July 14, 2006 9:28 AM

Re: picking children up in a storm

Yes, everyone needs and deserves to get home safely. But in addition to the two trips, parents with children to pick up also run the risk of their children being stranded at their school or daycare if they don't get to them in time and the child riding out the storm with someone other than his or her parents. Can't the childless folks see that it's just an additional worry for those who do have children? The same thing would apply if you had a parent at the senior center to pick up or a dog in doggy day care - you just want to be with your family in these situations but children aren't able to get themselves home like your spouse is (hopefully!)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 9:30 AM

"The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one tyrannical Iraqi woman..."

Leslie, did you actually write this? This ethnic reference seems like something that an angry coworker secretly slipped in to make you look bad. I'm very un-PC but agree that this ethnic reference was unnecessary and inapproprate.

Posted by: MBA Mom | July 14, 2006 9:30 AM


How does where she was born have a bearing on her school background? The pertinent description was what she'd learned growing up in British boarding schoools, and that how that carried over to how she behaved as a manager. The fact that she was born in Iraq doesn't matter.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 9:31 AM

I worked for a man with no heart. I was raped, got pregnant and then had a miscarriage. Another woman in the office had a miscarriage the same week. I was told that I needed to get back within two days. The other woman got 2 weeks off to "grieve with her husband" and I was told I should be happy that I wasn't having the rapist's child. Too bad I had no witnesses or a tape of the conversation.

Posted by: Worst boss ever | July 14, 2006 9:35 AM

That the bad boss went to British boarding schools might be relevant. That she was Iraqi is not. Shame on you, Leslie. Shame.

Posted by: Jayne | July 14, 2006 9:39 AM

I once had a boss who said he "didn't like me in pants" and demanded I wear skirts everyday instead, even in sub-zero temps. Don't know if that's better or worse than time I worked at Starbucks and was periodically forced to wear stupid buttons that said things like "give beans a chance." !!!

A little off topic, my husband and I just rewatched the great 80's flick "Baby Boom" last night, with Diane Keaton. Remember that one? Made me think of how far we've come, and how far we have to go.... If you can get beyond the rockin' 80's synthesizer soundtrack, it's a great movie!

Posted by: Ingrid | July 14, 2006 9:41 AM

*posting as a slightly different name as there are apparently two of us on the blog*

I had the world's worst bosses at my last 'real' job (a financial services company). One, who was getting married, would come in late, spend her entire day looking at bridal catalogues and talking with her bridesmaids, and never get any work done. However, the other employees (it was a call center, so I was on the phone all day) couldn't even think about having a catalogue or magazine on their desks - even if they weren't reading it! I did origami to keep myself sane, she decided that it was distracting (although I had better stats than anyone in my division) and forced me to stop. How sitting there quietly folding small peices of paper was distracting to ANYONE I'll never know.

Second bad boss there was also my last. I was a phone rep and part of an elite group that took over a new product. They decided that they wanted me to go to the e-mail group to teach them how to use the new product. I did, and was doing great (amazing stats, etc. - was really underemployed, but fresh out of college and it paid well). Then I decided to go back to school to get my MBA, about the time that the other boss in the group (the good guy) left, and we were left with dingbat manager and surferdude assistant manager. Dingbat was ex-military but had no college classes and was REALLY threatened by the fact that I'd started participating in the company-sponsored diversity group and getting some recognition outside the group (she thought I wanted her job). She used some really underhanded tactics to make me look bad with her boss (who was also new and didn't know me). Fired me, and two of the three other native american employees because we all started getting together after work and participating in company sponsored activities around diversity (she was also an ethnic minority, but didn't want to participate, which was fine by us). Left one of the native americans there because she was scared of her, and so she could say 'well, it was a coincidence that I fired all the Injuns (yes, she called us that, publicly).

I got my revenge, though. Thanks to being unemployed, I had time to travel and met the love of my life - and found a job making more than she did, in a state with lower cost of living. And I found out that a few weeks later, when the department's stats had sink so low after the three people she fired were removed from her averages (we were also her top producers, but she didn't think about that when she fired us) that she was demoted to a phone rep, no supervisory duties, and transferred to another division which was much lower profile. Karma will get them every time.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | July 14, 2006 9:41 AM

I agree that the Iraqi boss probably WAS clueless. Had it been a sandstorm, she probably would have been much more understanding.

Posted by: bigJim | July 14, 2006 9:45 AM

Enough with everything always being PC! She used adjectives (Yes, Iraqi is an adjective) to describe a boss and because it pertained to the story. Grow up.

Posted by: re: onlymom | July 14, 2006 9:50 AM

I'm guessing that Leslie was worried more about herself and the other parents because they had two trips to make-- to get their kids and to get home. The childless folks just had to get home, which is only one trip. Often (though not always) two trips take longer than one.

No, the childless folks should just stay and work thru the night. What else could they possibly have to do?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 9:53 AM

The majority of people for whom I've worked were undoubtedly descendants of Satan. Lying, Cheating, Treachery...all staples of their behavior. Certainly made me grateful for the good ones for whom I've worked.

My solution...? I started my own business. Best thing I've ever done.

Posted by: Registered Voter | July 14, 2006 9:53 AM

"Enough with everything always being PC! She used adjectives (Yes, Iraqi is an adjective) to describe a boss and because it pertained to the story. Grow up."

Being PC is important--it's how you avoid offending people! I don't agree that the fact that she was Iraqi pertains to the story. And whoever you are--who didn't even post under your own screen name--is the one who needs to "grow up!" If you don't want to be PC, try doing that in your real "face to face" life where you aren't an anonymous poster on a blog, and see how far that gets you.

It is always appropriate to be PC!!!!!

Posted by: onlymom | July 14, 2006 9:56 AM

Since when is being PC immature? Being non-PC would be more of a reason to tell someone to "grow up."

Posted by: re: re: onlymom | July 14, 2006 9:59 AM

Is it not PC to insert ethnicity into anything anymore, even when it is descriptive? People seem to be saying that somehow, by saying this boss was Iraqui, that Leslie is saying that all Iraquis are bad bosses. I did not read it that way. Would it have been equally offensive if she had said that she had a wonderful Iraqui boss? Or a wonderful British boss, or a hateful Russian boss? I am all for being PC, but I think people are oversensitive.

Posted by: Rockville | July 14, 2006 10:01 AM

Laura and I may have had the same boss!

Pre-children I had a boss who fooled around, didn't come to work.... Then in a crunch would come and she'd work 24/7 and expect us to as well. I never did all-nighters in college, and I couldn't do them at work either. I was pinged for this on my review and it hurt.

After that I was upfront with her. When we started the next project I told her early on I was not going to work at night. I had a co-worker who didn't like working regular hours and we teamed up. In the end I got a better review, and a promotion to a different group (thank goodness!).

Working parents have to draw lines. If your supervisor can't accept that you will leave early on snow days (and they need to know that before it snows) then you are in the wrong job.

Posted by: RoseG | July 14, 2006 10:02 AM

Bosses don't make life miserable, that is something we do to ourselves. Surly bosses (pregnant or not) can only upset us if we are insecure in our own choices and priorities.

If I were in the snowstorm, and truly felt the situation was dangerous, I would have left without permission. Let them fire me, over it. My family is too important to let let a ridiculous decision by a boss put me or my children in potential harm.

That boss didn't make anyone more miserable that day. She made a bad decision, and the risk of losing your job was more compelling than the perceived risk to the safety of you or your children. Every mother made their own decision that day based on their own priorites and beliefs about how serious the situation really was. It had nothing to do with the boss.

I can't believe any parent would knowingly keep their child at risk, just to keep their job. It defies every maternal instinct. Most mothers I know (working or not) would risk just about anything to ensure their children's safety.

Posted by: Spunky | July 14, 2006 10:04 AM

We didn't attack Russia. We're not at war with them right now. We're at war with Iraq. The current political climate and world events is what makes this non-PC--and more than that, it makes it poor taste. If it was a relevant detail, that would be one thing--but it's not.

Posted by: re: rockville | July 14, 2006 10:05 AM

If Leslie could explain how being Iraqi was pertinent to the description of her bad boss, it is acceptable to use as an adjective. I do not think it applies. She could have as easily used any other nationality or none. The Boarding school comment was appropriate as it described her management style. While I am not insistent on PC all the time, the ethnic reference had nothing to do with the topic. She did not use an ethnic reference in her next boss description, so why was it needed in the first? Shame on you Leslie. You should know better.

Posted by: Not Iraqi, but... | July 14, 2006 10:05 AM

I called in sick once for nerves; so my boss put me on report-now I'll come in even if I've got the bubonic plague.
Most supervisors are cowardly and paranoiac. They got their current position by back-stabbing someone they thought was plotting against them.
My current boss calls meetings to insult me in front of other employees-His favorite phrase; after assigning me his job to do is "Tomorrow is another Day" and Frankly, I don't give a d---".
However, I put up with it since my job is 5 miles from my house. Once every week for year; he told me he could fire me. ( I've been here five years ). He tries to micromanage things like the position of a date on a report; however, when it comes to something serious; like connecting our network to another campus 30 miles away; he dumps everything in my lap. Everything I've been involved in has been successfull; however he says "I constantly disappoint him". He stayed furiously mad at me for 4 months for what he perceived as an insult ( although he has insulted me in untold number of meetings for five Years ); even though I had no intention of insulting him. I now regard him as Bipolar and dangerous; since it appears he cannot control his rages.

Posted by: supervison not needed | July 14, 2006 10:06 AM

My 21-year-old cat recently died; when I told my boss the next day, he got a big grin on his face and laughed out loud. I will always remember how insensitive his response was.

Posted by: Manager | July 14, 2006 10:08 AM

And if she hadn't said "Iraqi" and merely put in the bit about the English boarding school--which is relevant in explaining a particular kind of attitude--everyone would have assumed the person was English. Thus the nationality reference, to clarify. I fail to see how that is somehow impugning Iraqis. She was impugning English boarding schools.

Posted by: notethnic | July 14, 2006 10:10 AM

had a boss who thought nothing of working 80 hours a week or more and expected us to do the same. his typical week went like this -
monday drove to metro early in am and rode to work. work all day until last metro left. ride last metro out to get car. drove car into city to park on street. worked until 6am when he had to move his car. drove home. changed clothes. drove to metro would arrive work tues around 2pm. work until midnight. on wednesday he would start all over again. plus he would work saturdays & sundays. he couldn't understand why i couldn't do the same thing. i pointed out to him that he had a wife who grocery shopped, cooked, cleaned, and did his laundry. i had to do those things myself and those things took time. he replied that his wife had nothing to do with his ability to get the job done. i felt sorry for his wife if he truly didn't recongize her contributions to his ability to work. i guess he thought the clothes fairy was the one who cleaned his suits & washed his underwear. he fired me when i asked him how long he thought it would take him to notice if he wife left him?

another boss, back when i had to punch a clock, would purposely make work when i had something planned for an evening. if he knew that things were tight for a particular week he wouldn't give me any hours. luckily, i figured out pretty quickly what he was doing and just made sure i talked about going to a concert when money was tight so i worked overtime and when i had a concert to attend i would mention that i'd be willing to work overtime. he never caught on.

Posted by: quark | July 14, 2006 10:11 AM

The one Iranian boss I ever had was a sweetheart. But I had an Indian boss that was totally demanding. Asians must not go to English-style schools because I haven't had a demanding Asian boss. My boss from who worked 24/7 was from Pennsylvania so...

I never thought about the problem being English boarding school behavior but I think that's probably it. It's not the nationality of the boss it's the training.

Posted by: RoseG | July 14, 2006 10:14 AM

My husband's boss at a new job (8th week; lawyer) said that everyone works Saturdays and though he had no work to do, he should come in to socialize (lame on so many levels). My husband responded that he could not do THAT Saturday because it was our daughter's 1st birthday party. Although it was obvious this guys was not family friendly, he responed by saying something that should really be left to sit-com bosses: "Your one year old will never know if you were at her birthday party, but I will know that you weren't here on Saturday." Husband, showing overwhelming self-controo by not hitting the guy, quit two weeks later.

Posted by: lawyer | July 14, 2006 10:15 AM

The Iraqi adjective was appropriate, because it told us that the woman was from another culture and a different background which could be affecting her supervision style. This is different than the British boarding school's effect on her supervision style.

Would those of you who are picking at this be offended if she had said "foreign"? And how on earth does the war make it less PC to say "Iraqi" when it's used as an adjective? That's just silly.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:19 AM

And if she hadn't said "Iraqi" and merely >

It would have been fine if people who thought teh woman was English. If she was English, French, Polish, etc. It doesn't matter. What matters is the fact that she went to British boarding school. Wherever she was born is still irrelevant. And given the war with Iraq, it's in poor taste!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:19 AM

"The Iraqi adjective was appropriate, because it told us that the woman was from another culture and a different background which could be affecting her supervision style."

Then, why didn't she say where the snowstorm boss was born, if it's so appropriate and relevant?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:22 AM

To the poster who said that her boss requested that she wear skirts, WOW!!! That's unbelievable. Congratulations for not choking him to death.

When I was in college, I worked at a golf course as a pro-shop attendant. My boss consistently objectified me and made me very uncomfortable. After I had been working there for about 3 months, he came by to tell me what a good job I was doing. He said "Yeah, I knew when I hired you that you'd make a bunch of money. Those horny old guys love to come in a be served by a pretty young thing like you." !!!!
Which was true. The regulars would call me cutie pie, and they would tip me very well. They would often ask for six packs of beer that were deep in the refrigerator so they could see the *effects* of the cold air through my shirt (I was told this after I left--stupid me for not catching on). I only stayed in that job for about 6 months, long enough to learn that "pretty young things" should stay the hell away from dirty old men.

Posted by: Meesh | July 14, 2006 10:26 AM

What if she had written:

"The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one black woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools."

Would "black" then be an important descriptive detail. What if it was a gay woman? Would that be an important descriptive detail? Why not?????? For the same reason Iraqi is not an important descritive detail!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:27 AM

I will never forget one boss who completely blindsided me in the beginning. When I interviewed for the job, he seemed very personable, down to earth, and approachable. After a few weeks, I realized he was two faced. And the face he showed his employees was the bad one. He was a late riser, and his day did not begin until after 10:30 AM. He expected everyone to stay late with him and held it against us when we had family commitments and had to leave before 7:00 PM. He made unrealistic promises to clients, and then scapegoated whomever was handy. He could never confront you directly, and instead criticized you behind your back, so you never knew where you stood with him. He left whiny messages on your voicemail at 1 and 2 AM and was obviously peeved that you were not in the office to answer his questions at that hour. And he tried to bribe his secretaries with flowers and candy for mistreating them (he went through 4 secretaries during the 6 months I worked for him). After a couple of months, I was onto him and started looking for another job, which thankfully, I found pretty quickly. I was gone after 6 months. It was a difficult experience, but I did learn from it. I learned that I have the patience and staying power to suck it up while I look for another job. I learned that I have options and don't need to stay indefinitely in a situation I don't like. And I learned that I can take control of my life and change something I don't like. It was a tough 6 months, but I would not say I was miserable. But yes, I was motivated to get out.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:28 AM

Leslie's note of her boss' ethnicity was completely relevant, as was her note of her boss' education. Both contributed to who the boss was based on her past experiences as well as how she learned to work/manage the way she did.

On a similar note, of all of my past bosses, the only males bosses I got along with well were gay. They supported their staff in outstanding ways, they were quick to sympathize and easy to work with. I'll be the first to admit that they were also demanding perfectionists, but they were willing to teach and expected a normal learning curve when employees were learning a new position or job duty.

On the other hand, all of my straight male bosses were nightmares. One of them fired me (my first job out of HS) for taking 4 days off to have non-elective surgery. He insisted that I should have waited and done it over the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately (for him), he couldn't find any one person who could do the work I had been doing and had to hire 3 people to get it all done. (Hey, I was young and inexperienced, I didn't know I was allowed to say "No!")

I guess what it boils down to is that sometimes someone's background (ethnicity, education, orientation, whatever) has a greater bearing on their behavior than the PC-ers would like to believe.

I think Leslie's comment was entirely accurate and appropriate.

Posted by: Just Sayin' | July 14, 2006 10:32 AM

A week after my brother who was very close to me died my boss basically said that I had grieved enough after a rude comment he gave me made me burst into tears. A year later a coworker's father died unexpectantly and he told her it was time to focus back on work just a few days after she returned and the day after her fiance left to go back to Iraq. This was a very small office and the boss would say we were like a family but he wasn't very eloquent at times about our real families.

Posted by: Dlyn | July 14, 2006 10:33 AM

When describing a particular scenario, a good writer will use adjectives to help the reader visualize the situation as they read.

Like it or not, referring to an "Iraqi" woman adds an extra "realness" to the story. Unless of course you have a P.C. conniption fit and stop paying to attention altogether.

Posted by: bigJim | July 14, 2006 10:35 AM

To lawyer

Your husband was very smart to quit quickly in view of this "mandated Saturday face time" at his firm.

I worked every Saturday and a lot of Sundays at a firm for over 6 months before I got out and went to the Feds. My office is looked up at 6pm and closed all weekend.

Posted by: Marlo | July 14, 2006 10:41 AM

One other issue with the snow storm - once when I was single a group of us just went to the hotel across the street. Great party - but can be a budget blowing option. But even if the money is not an issue this is not an option if you have to get a child from day care.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 14, 2006 10:49 AM

"Then, why didn't she say where the snowstorm boss was born, if it's so appropriate and relevant?"

Because OBVIOUSLY the snowstorm boss was an American and not raised in/from a different culture, so her nationality was not relevant. The Iraqi woman's nationality could be relevant because it explains that she has a different background.

"The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one black woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools."

Would "black" then be an important descriptive detail. What if it was a gay woman? Would that be an important descriptive detail? Why not?????? For the same reason Iraqi is not an important descritive detail!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

For the same reason I listed above. Race and sexual orientation are not the same thing as nationality/where a person was raised.

Posted by: PC, but this is getting ridiculous | July 14, 2006 10:51 AM

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Bad bosses can do things to your self-esteem. I worked for 10 years at one place and was considered a "star", as soon as I was perceived as a threat to the new boss, I was treated very poorly. He then began to tell his superiors things about me that were not true. Since I was unaware of these things until it got so bad that I left, I had no way to counter these lies. It really created bad morale for the whole department which got worse when I left. Organizations need to realize that bad bosses are bad for business, not just bad for employees.

With regard to self-esteem, I felt pretty low. I was always the "good girl", was on time, worked hard, accomplished a lot. Everyone else liked me (I'm sure he hated that too) and wanted to work with me. But despite knowing that intellectually, I was an emotional wreck and felt like a failure. I then got a job as the head of a department elsewhere and used my bad bosses experiences to become an excellent boss. Whenever I got into a personnel situation, I'd ask myself "how would I want my supervisor to handle this?". What I found is that it is really hard to manage people. In my department there are some real deadbeats and it took a lot of effort for me to help them through their issues. My supervisors wanted me to reprimand them and even fire a few. I made the effort to figure out what their issues were (they preceeded me). If they had a "bad boss", I can see how that bad boss could mistreat them and even spill onto the conscientious employees. It takes a mature, insightful person to be a good leader. My two bad bosses experiences has in some warped way made me a better person and a better leader. I would have preferred not to got through what I did, but I try to make every experience something to learn from.

Isn't it amazing how many "bad bosses" there are? I think companies and organizations do not adequately prepare people for leadership.

Posted by: Working mother | July 14, 2006 10:53 AM

are iraqs not a race?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 10:55 AM

"are iraqs not a race?"

No, Iraqi's are not a race, they are a nationality. "Arabs" are a race.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:04 AM

"are iraqs not a race?"

No, as anyone who's been paying attention to the Sunni/Shiite/Kurdish conflicts in the region - as opposed to looking for reasons to jump down Leslie's throat for providing cultural context and an interesting bit of detail - can tell you.

That said, I'd be interested to know if the snowstorm boss was from someplace where two feet of snow wouldn't be all that big of a deal, or at least wouldn't snarl traffic to the degree it does here.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:04 AM

Thank you, bigJim. Geeze, it's out of control today. And in terms of being PC....most of you have either said, or at least nodded your head when someone said 'he was as drunk as an irishman' and yet you recoil in horror when someone says 'he was dirtier than a mexican' Both are stereotypes, but one is commonly used and one isn't.

There's a story on the WashPost website about a person who complained about the Naval Academy sponsor family questionnaire...and has since been absolutley grilled by commentors about how ridiculous and overly PC his complaint was.

Posted by: bigAl | July 14, 2006 11:05 AM

Why is easy. The snowstorm boss was a boring mid-american who was neurotic for unknown reasons.

The Iraqi boss who was subjected to British boarding schools was someone I think, Leslie was making an implication in that description, that this woman's nationality affected how she was treated in said British boarding schools and was repeating those experiences, only playing the leadership role.

It may also imply that this ethnicity may have included a pretty high-powered work ethic, ie, be gosh happy you have a job, and gosh happy to have the honor to work overtime and keep that job.

Sometimes these things can combine to make a colorful description.

Sometimes being PC can take that color out.

Posted by: Deanna | July 14, 2006 11:06 AM

Iraqis are not a race. In terms of Anthropolgy, there are three races in the world: Mongoloid, Caucasoid and Negroid--or Asian, White and Black. And they are determined by skull size and shape...therfore they help determine your origions and region of the world you've descended from. Iraqis are an more of an ethnicity.

Posted by: bigAl | July 14, 2006 11:09 AM

The reference to the British boarding school was useful, because it gave us some real information. Although we may not know the details, we've read, seen, and heard enough to know what it means to have learned fear and intimidation in a British boarding school.

But, as far as I know, there are no widely held ideas about how being Iraqi might affect one's management style. Even with all we've learned about Iraq in the past few years, I wouldn't have a clue about Iraqi management styles. Thus, the reference to the boss's nationality is gratuitous and, potentially, prejudicial.

It's not wrong to mention or discuss cultural differences when they are relevant, but, in this instance, I don't see any evidence of relevance.

Posted by: THS | July 14, 2006 11:12 AM

Instead of gay or Black, a more apt analogy would be Southern, or Midwestern, etc. It says something about where you grew up and how you were raised.

I bet if the snow storm boss had been from Alaska she would have mentioned it. But Leslie was using her judgment about the relevant attributes of the individual.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:13 AM

How is it relevant that woman is Iraqi - be consistent - describe the other women's background too.

Posted by: Devilish | July 14, 2006 11:18 AM

I hate to quibble, but being an anthropologist, I have to say that the idea of "race" is highly controversial and most people in my field agree that there is no biological basis for these definitions at all. Terms such as Caucasian, Black, etc. are social constructions based on appearance. Sorry, Big Al, but don't use Anthropology (well, modern Anthropology, anyway) to define what is and is not a race.

Posted by: Tamara | July 14, 2006 11:19 AM

I guess I've been pretty lucky -- by and large, I've worked for people who I respect, and who rarely asked me to do anything they wouldn't do or work longer than they were doing themselves.

With one exception -- A few years ago, I was hosting my very first Thanksgiving dinner, and my in-laws were due in town at any minute. It was 7:00 pm on Tuesday, and I'd been scheduled to take Wednesday off to prepare, etc. One of my least favorite partners came swanning into my office and told me he needed a brief written ASAP. I told him I couldn't, and why, and he said "no, you need to do this. Then he proceeded to say he was going home, and that I should finish the research call him with the results. But I wasn't to call after 9:00, because he'd be putting his (teenaged!) kids to bed. I ended up working until 10:00 pm, then spending half of the next day writing the brief. I found out a week later that he hadn't so much as glanced at my draft yet.

It was the last time I worked for that guy.

Posted by: NewSAHM | July 14, 2006 11:20 AM

I have to admit that I am so tired of PC issues.

If a person is male and you CALL him a man, all men are not going to have a fit; if a person is Catholic and you call them Catholic, why would all Catholics get angry? If a person had a mustache, you mention it when describing the physical appearance. It isn't like you said: All men with mustaches are inconsiderate slobs who don't brush their teeth. Talk about generalizations!

I was going to refrain, but I decided not to: I have heard news stories about Muslims protesting the fact that someone dropped a Koran in a toilet; would Catholics or Christians have violent protests if someone dropped a Bible in the john? If so, not one holy throne has been so 'blessed'.

Posted by: Stacey | July 14, 2006 11:21 AM

RE: Snowstorms & >>Can't the childless folks see that it's just an additional worry for those who do have children? <<

Not when you feel like your safety and well-being don't matter! I once worked at a place where, during an afternoon snowstorm, all the employees with children were dismissed early, but the nonparents had to stay. The email that went out to everyone actually said, "Road conditions are becoming treacherous, so those of you with children to pick up may leave now."

I understand the two-trip thing, and I applaud the company for being family-friendly, but if the roads are dangerous for parents & kids, then they're dangerous for nonparents. The poster is right--everyone just wants to get home in those circumstances. Making nonparents stay on the basis that the roads weren't "dangerous enough" for us left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Posted by: Snowbound | July 14, 2006 11:25 AM

THS- Iraqis are widely known to have a hands-off management style. When employees make mistakes, they lop off their hands.

Actually, bad jokes aside, I agree that the actual nationality of the boss didn't have anything to do with the situation. But when trying to paint a mental picture in the readers head- it's OK to state where someone is from. Saying the woman was Iraqi,Japanese, German or Nigerian-- all them them conjure up a specific image. None of them worse than the other.

Posted by: bigJim | July 14, 2006 11:26 AM


This isn't even a joke! What is it, except in poor taste?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:27 AM

This isn't even a joke! What is it, except in poor taste?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:29 AM

I am a prosecutor in Wisconsin and work for the District Attorney in our county, an elected position. Twelve years ago used to have two courthouses, one in the county seat, where my wife and I lived, and the other in another city, 30 miles away. My wife was working in another city still further away. We had found a wonderful daycare center a couple minutes from the courthouse where I worked so my wife and I decided the baby would go there after my wife had a few months off, and I would be point for sick baby calls and pick-up/drop-off. Three weeks before the baby is due, my boss (who was an a-hole for a lot of reasons not related to children and parenting) called another attorney and myself into his office to announce that because of a vacancy in the county seat courthouse, one of us would have to be transferred up there, and it would be me, and not the other guy, who was single and not yet had his turn at the vacant positon's caseload, (juvenile court- yuch!) I had already done my shift at that hateful work years earlier. Needless to say I was steamed at this disruption of my wife's and my carefully laid plans for caring for our first-born.

The way I dealt with it was to actively support his opponent come election time, giving large amounts of money to the challenger and even leaking a fairly damaging story about my boss to the press.

The challenger won, and he's been one of the best bosses I've ever had.

Posted by: wihntr | July 14, 2006 11:29 AM

"he fired me when i asked him how long he thought it would take him to notice if he wife left him?"

I LOVE that! Maybe you should have replaced "if" with "when".

Posted by: Stacey | July 14, 2006 11:30 AM

Look, is there anything about being Iraqi that defines management style? If not, the mention of nationality is irrelevant. As I posted before, if Leslie or anyone could explain how the nationality or origin contributed directly to the boss' style, then she is welcome to add "color" to her description. Would any of you "non-PC" people agree that if she said Jewish, or black, or gay that someone might be offended? Leaving out the nationality/origin would not really change the context of her story and does not really add nuance. It does however make me reevaluate Leslie. Perhaps her employee style had something to do with their interactions.

Posted by: Not Iraqi, but... | July 14, 2006 11:36 AM

"Making nonparents stay on the basis that the roads weren't "dangerous enough" for us left a really bad taste in my mouth."

I didn't say that nonparents should have to stay when parents are allowed to leave. I said that parents whose children are separated from them in times of crisis just have an additional worry. Think about the parents of children who were in schools near the WTC on 9/11....they had to not only worry about themselves, but reaching their children and ensuring their safety. It's just an additional worry that a childless person doesn't have - it shouldn't diminish the needs or rights of the childless person to leave at the same time and get home safely. I don't think Leslie was saying that people without children should have had to stay, just that she was worried about her kids in addition to herself.

If an adult is stranded at the office, it's not fun....but if a child is stranded at daycare or school it could be very traumatic.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:38 AM

Many years ago, fresh out of college, I worked for a terrible boss - incompetent, accusatory, dishonest, and generally unpleasant. I lasted all of 6 weeks or so before it was agreed that I would quit rather than "modify" some accounting records to be submitted to the government for payment. Karma being karma, a few years later I was interviewed during the investigation and subsequent criminal prosecution of the bad, bad boss. I think he's still in the proverbial pokey.

After this and a few other unsatisfactory employment experiences, I went to law school and worked as a litigation associate. LOTS of horror stories there about tyranical partners, unsympathetic co-workers, comments during pregnancy and being asked to return to work 2 days after my child's birth. Yep, 2 days. I didn't make it in for another couple of weeks and not full time then. Still, a very short maternity leave. The firm "offered" to have my work delivered to my house while I was on leave - however, since we lived on a military base at the time and it was just after September 11, the runner couldn't get to my house.

Posted by: SS | July 14, 2006 11:45 AM

Folks, we are supposed to cheer when a woman from a male dominated country throws off the shackles and ascends into an arena that is not a 'traditional' role by her culture's standards. We 'assume' these women are sympathic and mentors to all women.
I feel that Leslie used "Iraqi" in an appropriate manner to describe a female boss who, according to that country's traditions, is usually not empowered as a manager except for within strict dictates of the home culture. This particular woman was of the upper class because she had attended British boarding schools and interpreting that fact meant this woman might have had assimulated into British culture, replete with the 'people skills' Western culture values. One's culture and education does not necessarily a good manager make; an individual's personality is still the same.

Posted by: SpEdTeacher | July 14, 2006 11:50 AM

Holiday leave was limited to a certain percentage of employees based on a rotating roster. One year Employee A was allowed to be off Dec 26. Employee B (me) and Employee C were denied leave for Dec 26. Employee A went to boss and said that she would come to work Dec 26. Employee C then asked boss if she could be off. Boss said, No, Employee B is next in line. BUT, the Boss never told Employee B that she could now have the day off. All three of us were at work on Dec 26.

I wish that Employee C would have asked me directly if I were taking the day off. Neither of us had children at the time, and I was able to see my family Dec 24, and Dec 25 plus any other evening during the holiday season because there were only a few of us and we were all local. I would have gladly given the day up for the other worker who was planning to spend the entire week at her mother's house with many family members who were coming from out of town.

I still don't know whether that particular boss was that devious to intentionally not tell me I could have the day off, or if he was just incompetent. I actually think he was more incompetent than devious.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 11:51 AM

The fact that Leslie's Iraqi reference has engendered so much debate (and distracted from the topic at hand) is evidence that she should have left it out.

Posted by: Friend | July 14, 2006 12:15 PM

"Folks, we are supposed to cheer when a woman from a male dominated country throws off the shackles and ascends into an arena that is not a 'traditional' role by her culture's standards."--and becomes a "tyranical boss". Wooh Hoo I'm Cheering!


Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 12:16 PM

It's not non-PC. It's offensive, and unnecessary.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 12:23 PM

"If an adult is stranded at the office, it's not fun....but if a child is stranded at daycare or school it could be very traumatic. "

I don't know about that. As an adult being stranded at the office overnight would definitely be traumatic. As a child being stranded overnight with my friends at school might have been fun.:-)

Posted by: kep | July 14, 2006 12:24 PM

i also asked him if his children even knew what he looked like or did they have to rely on pictures. seriously, it took me several months to recover from that particular hell-hole. i did feel sorry for his wife. if he truly didn't see that he could focus on work because of her efforts at home then she was one unappreciated woman.

Posted by: quark | July 14, 2006 12:28 PM

Outside the current discussion:

I wonder if anyone can comment, but I have heard under Sadaam's rule, pre-sanctions, Iraqis enjoyed significant educational opportunities, both men and women. Many women were able to become well employed without some burdens of Islamic laws--in fact Western in attitude and scope. Thus, calculating when Leslie may have had this boss, her Iraqi background would have only made her less different thus her nationality was even more irrelevant. I have to stop reading this blog as I am even more clear that 1. Leslie chooses to be provocative, particularly of the mommy wars and 2. has little basis for her assertions in facts.

Posted by: This is getting dumb | July 14, 2006 12:35 PM

"i also asked him if his children even knew what he looked like or did they have to rely on pictures."

I'm sorry, but this is incredibly unprofessional. Regardless of how you feel about your boss, there are better ways of dealing with it than mouthing off like a 12-year-old. Please.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 14, 2006 12:41 PM

Just wanted you all to know I'm reading all the comments about my Iraqi boss and am just trying to take it all in...hopefully I will find a way to explain why her country-of-origin was relevant without sounding racist...

The bottom line was that she was incredibly mean, to everyone, but particularly to me because I was her first and only direct report. I've found that first-time bosses can be really harsh. She had to be extremely tough to get ahead as a female Iraqi in foreign cultures (the UK and America) and she made my life (at work and at home) miserable for way too long. I always felt badly for her that she'd been sent away to British boarding schools and seemed not to have family nearby to support her.

But it wasn't fair that she took it out on me -- we've all had those bosses with the attitude "life has been rough for me so I'm going to make it rough for you." I ended up leaving the company because of her, because, as so many people have pointed out, sometimes that's the only solution.

The snowstorm boss was also from "another culture" but I fear the PC police will attack me if I say from where! And I don't think her upbringing had much to do with her lack of sensitivity on that particular day.

Can we move on?

Posted by: Leslie | July 14, 2006 12:43 PM

BTW, Tamara, you're right. My brother is getting his Masters in Anthropology and he has told me many times before that "race" is not biologically based. It is invented by society. There is just one human race--how could there be races within it?

I would say that "Iraqi" is a nationality.

Posted by: Meesh | July 14, 2006 12:50 PM

It just amazes me that some bosses don't get it. I recently worked at a place where in one year's time, we lost 12 out of about 30 people, 10 of them due to bad management (in other words, the boss). She couldn't see it. It was always everyone else. Her department is now full of new people who have no historical knowledge and no experience. If she does not see the light, in another couple of years, she will have another wave of turnover. And this is the kind of job that requires a couple of years of on the job experience before you get to be truly productive.

Posted by: DC | July 14, 2006 12:52 PM

Stacey - google "piss Christ" to find out whether some Christians would dislike their religious imagery ending up in the toilet. It was a nice little art exhibit from a few years back, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

SpEdTeacher - learn the difference between Afghanistan and pre-war Iraq. Wasn't one of Saddam's tyrranical top managers a female?

As for the other stuff - if I had kids, it was snowing badly, and my boss didn't think it'd be a good idea to let people out early? I'd leave and take it up with her later, *after* the kids were home safely. If not intimidating a clueless boss is more important than scrambling the kids out of daycare before the snowstorm really hits, you might want to rethink those priorities, there.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Sometimes daycares will close for a snowstorm and will require parents to pick up their kids within a certain (short) period of time: usually two hours or less. In these cases they do not call you to tell you: you have to call them and ask them if they will remain open for the rest of the day. My husband's company closes early for some severe weather but only if the federal govt offices also close. Otherwise, you can take off early but must dip into your vacation time to do so.

I think bottom line is it should always be based on predetermined company policy so people can plan for it. It shouldn't be up to the individual boss. Despite being a parent, I don't think policy should be more lenient for parents but instead should be sensible for everyone. Single people may have an ailing parent who cannot be alone overnight because of a health condition or something. If my boss did that to me, I would just leave if I was concerned for my kids' safety.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Vice president of our company told an unmarried employee who was pregnant that she should give the baby up for adoption.

Posted by: Suzy | July 14, 2006 1:03 PM

These bad boss stories are making me feel better about my own situation! Here is my story. I recently had a baby. After I returned from maternity leave, my boss, started saying in front of my co-workers that I had "mommy mush brain", even though, when asked, she could not point to any specific problems with my work. She also began requiring me to stay past our closing time, which meant that I did not get home until 7PM. And, she refused to let me work at home, even though she had regularly let me work at home before having children (my work is easily done via telecommuting). Guess where I work - at a children's advocacy organization! That's what takes the cake. I complained to HR, which was minimally helpful. Then I went to EEO to complain about discrimination based on family status. EEO gave me several options about how to deal with the situation. But, just knowing I have a case helps me stand up to my boss. However, the main way I am dealing with the situation is by looking for a new job. Also, to those who suggest quitting on the spot when bosses treat you badly - I can't, my family needs my income. It would be irresponsible for me to quit not knowing where my next paycheck would come from.

Posted by: New Mom | July 14, 2006 1:04 PM

When I graduated from college I accepted an entry-level position as an assistant to a group in a large Fortune 500 company. The assitant to the president of our group was evil from the word go. On the first day during my "orientation" I asked her if you had to dial 9 on the fax machine to get an outside line. Her answer was that I needed to improve my problem solving skills. After being there a few months, she came to me and told me I want to the bathroom to often during the day and would henceforth be limited to once in the morning and once in the afternoon unless it was "that time of the month" in which case I could go one extra time.

The CFO of our group was actually worse. He called me into his office one day and yelled at me for 20 minutes, saying I was the worst employee the company ever had, that I was worthless, and that my resume must have been a complete fabrication because I was too stupid to have ever graduated from college. My offense: when ordering food for his breakfast meeting I forgot to specify no pulp in the orange juice. He hated pulp in his orange juice.

Why did I stay? I was promised a big bonus if I lasted one year... the previous 3 employees in the position before me didn't last a year total. I made it but gained about 40 pounds and near the end was throwing up almost daily from stress.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 1:06 PM

yo momma!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 1:06 PM

I had a tyrannical alcoholic male boss who inflicted upon fear and intimidation tactics. Anyone offended? Anyone relate?

Posted by: Arlington Dad | July 14, 2006 1:17 PM

Employees come to a job because of the company. Most leave a job because of the management.

No specific horror stories here.

I always ask for references from my potential new managers and when those references have been good I have never had a bad boss. It is only when I didn't get references from my ultimate boss or the management structure changes that things were bad. Most of the time, I just left.

Posted by: Working Dad | July 14, 2006 1:17 PM

My favorite bad boss story: There is a somewhat prominent pro golfer who also had a side company that operated golf tournaments for charities and businesses, etc., and was run by his father. One year, the business hit some hard times, so the dad announced to the staff that all the married women would have to take pay cuts because they didn't really need the jobs anyway. Needless to say, an uproar ensued, the golfer stepped in and the cuts never were implemented. And, oh yeah, that little company doesn't exist anymore.

Posted by: BigTex | July 14, 2006 1:23 PM

To Arlington Dad:

YES! only mine was a tyranical, alchoholic, neurotic, evil woman (I was going to say Hag!). She had live-in-boyfriend problems and brought all of her personal issues to work and took them out on me (I was the youngest and newest office staff member, everyone else was her age or older). She spent hours each day discussing what she should or shouldn't do with BF and how to resolve some issue -- that she had discussed and beaten to death the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. And when I couldn't provide her a "Dr. Phil" moment, I was fired.

Afterward, the accountant called me at home and apologized for not warning me in advance, since she and every other office member had known what would happen, but didn't know how to counter it. Since boss was an elected position, everyone in the office decided they had had enough and fought to get her opponent in the office for the next election. It worked and they are all much happier and a more diverse group (age, sex, race, everything) than they were previously.

She was a very unhappy woman who created a very unhappy office environment.

Posted by: Just Sayin' | July 14, 2006 1:30 PM

I just have to chime in that I once worked at a company with about 10 employees, the longest of whom had been there about two years. Owners were horrible, mean, abusive, and clueless. I left after two years (I was only part-time and they never abused me because I didn't need the job so I didn't take their cr*p). I was the longest-term employee when I left. Since then, it's about half-turned over again. Owners see this as nothing to do with them.

Posted by: OnClueslessBosses | July 14, 2006 1:30 PM

She actually had to justify her comments. Nothing in your explanation, Leslie, justified why nationality had to be mentioned. If you felt bad about her background, you could have found common ground with her which may have helped your interaction. I agree that sometimes nothing helps with a bad boss, but your comments smack a little too much of provinciality that no one would expect of you. As far as the snowstorm boss, you clearly stated that no one explained why staying was a problem. If there was a knowledge gap, should you not try to correct it? Most organizations would of course opt for the safety of all of their employees, not just the ones with kids.

Posted by: Poor Leslie | July 14, 2006 1:36 PM

My boss was really the devil. He relocated my cubicle to a basement, took away my stapler and then took away my check. He even made sure I didn't get any cake at all the office parties. But I finally made it away from there despite years of muttering to myself!

Posted by: milton | July 14, 2006 1:38 PM

started saying in front of my co-workers "that I had "mommy mush brain", even though, when asked, she could not point to any specific problems with my work. She also began requiring me to stay past our closing time, which meant that I did not get home until 7PM. And, she refused to let me work at home, even though she had regularly let me work at home before having children (my work is easily done via telecommuting"

That's rough. How stressful for you to go through that after having a new baby. No one needs that cr*p. I hope that your EEOC complaint goes somewhere. I felt like I had to file after my bad experiences with my boss. He fired a more junior woman because she found out that the men at her level were paid more and the reason given was that she didn't "need" the money. Further at a meeting to discuss this issue, one of the persons in leadership asserted that she'd rather be home with her child. I protested that statement as sexist and untrue. The woman had come to me for advice (as the token senior woman in my department)and I recommended going to HR. The bad boss began to harass me because he thought I told her to see a lawyer (I didn't, but I think what I advise someone outside the office is my business). This same bad boss stood naked in front of other staff after taking a shower at the office, asked a newly wed employee if sex hurt on the honeymoon, demonstrated for a new mother how to massage her nipples, etc. He's still there and the EEOC complaints (there were several) are still being "investigated". So the moral of the story is don't hold your breath for any relief from our government to enforce the laws. My advice would be to take care of yourself and do what is best for you and your family.

Now this will be political---it's really a shame that this administration has no interest in addressing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The EEOC is overwhelmed and underfunded. Obviously this is an important issue for ALL American workers. While you can't sue for having just a "bad boss" (though you wish, right), many of the experiences discussed here today either border on illegal behavior or are frankly illegal. Companies don't do anything about it because they know how week enforcement is, how costly it is to pursue a case for the worker and because of "at-will" laws in most state, can fire anyone and say it was for other than illegal reasons.

Posted by: working mother | July 14, 2006 1:41 PM

my comments were unprofessional but so is expecting an employee to work 80 to 100 hours a week especially when no comp time or any sort of compensation is given. this was not a law firm & i wasn't working to make partner nor was this the medical field working in a hospital. we weren't on any deadline. this was the way he worked and he expected others to work as he did. if you couldn't work the hours then there was something wrong with you. i wasn't heartbroken when he fired me. totally burned out, yes but heartbroken, no. the company went under not too long after i left.

i wonder if this guy had problems at home and was using work to hide from them. his lack of recognition of his wife's contribution to his career might have been a clue. his tone of voice when talking about his wife & children maybe indicated that home wasn't a place he wanted to be. fine but don't take your personal problems out on your employees.

Posted by: quark | July 14, 2006 1:43 PM

"My boss was really the devil. He relocated my cubicle to a basement, took away my stapler and then took away my check. He even made sure I didn't get any cake at all the office parties. But I finally made it away from there despite years of muttering to myself!"

I think burning the office to the ground was good payback! :)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 1:45 PM

To the 9:30AM poster. I am a married with no kids poster and I resent your post. I totally get that people with children need some flexibility. If you are working for me, all I ask is for you to give 100% while in the office and if you miss days during the busy periods, be flexible to help when you can.

To me, as long as everything gets done I am happy. To hear that moms and dads don't think I can understand and am a bad boss because I don't have kids makes me question why I am flexible to begin with.

And, to let you know, I have missed dinners with friends and nights with my husbands to ake up their work when the child has been way too sick for them to come in at all. I don't complain becuase this is my choice. Plus, I am the boss and in charge of my dept. So, I need to make sure we meet deadlines. I just choose to be nicer than others here because I hope someone will do the same for me someday.

PLEASE GIVE WOMEN LIKE ME SOME RESPECT!! That is what I am trying to do for you.

Posted by: Thought | July 14, 2006 1:46 PM

I once had a unpaid design internship with an ad agency where I basically became the receptionist on day one and never entered the art department. Once I was asked to help out in accounting - just once. When the head of accounting left it was discovered that many people were overpaid and the books were a mess. When the company contacted the former employee she maintained that "the intern" had made all the mistakes...After 5 months of being the scapegoat for every office problem, I told them to find another receptionist to work for nothing.

Posted by: f-dawg | July 14, 2006 1:52 PM

Ok, I have a twist on this "bad boss" thing. I am a boss and how about "bad employees"? I am a mother of two and have NEVER been an imposition for my employer or other employees. I am fortunate my husband is supportive and helpful. Notice I said fortunate because I thank my lucky stars. I understand that emergencies come up and am very sympathetic. I feel these things could happen to anyone. Here is the issue: I have one employee who had a baby last year. She came back from maternity leave with all of these demands about her schedule. She couldn't work this day or these times, etc. It turns out she chose a type of childcare that does not work with our type of careers. I gently recommended that she might want to consider a nanny (she has the money, highly paid, etc) and told her that since I have had nannies, I could help her with the process. She told me to mind my own business. So I told her that's fine, but then I expect the same from her as everyone else (everyone else in the department has kids and manages to do what they are supposed to do). Despite this, she has been very demanding about her schedule and it has been unfair to the rest of us. I've advised her that if she can't do the job, then she needs to find a job that can accomodate her needs. Others have had childcare emergencies and I have bent over backwards to help them because stuff happens. I'd also do it for someone who didn't have kids-- for a parent who was ill,etc. But expecting everyone in the department to bend to one person's issue? I don't think so. This woman has complained about me to others in the department and has made me out to be a "bad boss". Fortunately, most in the department don't agree with this. I think I might have to let her go and I can't think of a more unpleasant task.

Posted by: Fairlyl new boss | July 14, 2006 1:58 PM

The term "tyrannical Iraqi" is descriptive in a base way in that it relies on a negative cultural stereotype to describe what sounds like a complex, interesting character. This is lazy writing! Lesle, you can do better than that.

Posted by: Friend | July 14, 2006 2:00 PM

New bosses are the worst. I hate having to break them in. They tend to be meaner and less flexible than those with more experience because they are trying to prove themselves, and may feel the need to unequivocally assert their authority. And some of them are threatened by really good employees who have comparable experience to theirs. But bad bosses are a fact of life, and you can learn from the experience if not from the person.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 2:06 PM

Good idea from fairly new boss. How about having next week's Friday Free For All be about Devil Employees?

Posted by: Leslie | July 14, 2006 2:10 PM

Don't want to give too many details here out of fear of reprisal . . . . though I'm actually pretty happy with my current boss. But one observation I've had is that my "worst" bosses have been women without children. Not in terms of making life difficult on a daily basis, but in terms of understanding when accommodations have to be made for family reasons. In particular, I was reprimanded once for letting a project fall through and not working beyond my reduced schedule, when the reason I did not do so was because the doctor ordered me to work a reduced schedule because of pregnancy complications. I had begged her to reassign some of my workload so I could get everything done, but to no avail. I think the problem is that women who do not have children do not have a first-hand understanding of what is involved, and see those of us that seek accommodations as turning the clock back and taking away some of the gains that our predecessors fought so hard for. I think that some women think we do more damage to the women's cause by working part-time schedule and rushing home to our families than we would if we just stayed home completely.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 2:13 PM

I'd have to agree with you - as someone who has chosen not to have children, it can be incredibly annoying to see others accommendated because of issues with their child, whereas this is something that would never happen for someone who is childless. I would be looked down upon if I had to leave early or missed a deadline to do something that was important in my life, but was not a child.

I think the bottom line is understanding on BOTH sides - work is work and things need to get done and as fairlynewboss points out, some people are less flexible than others.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 2:18 PM

Oh, please. Instead of asking for stories of put-upon parents in the work place, why not ask for stories about the folks who are forced (with no compensation) to cover for the parents who always seem to have to leave early, show up late, or bring their kids into the work place?

I worked for a man in Texas who gave raises/promotions based on an employees social circumstance. When a man would get married, he'd get a raise because he "now had responsibilities". Similarly, men would get raises or bonuses when their wives had children. Women in the same situations (recently married, recently given birth) would not get raises or bonuses since they "have a husband to take care of them". This happened in the late 1980's and the boss in question was in his late 40's.

Posted by: Terry in Maryland | July 14, 2006 2:20 PM

Enough with the exclamation point overkill! It makes your posts look juvenile and stupid. One is sufficient--this isn't MySpace.

Posted by: NYC | July 14, 2006 2:21 PM


I can't wait for the "Devil Employees" tales next Friday!!!!!

Posted by: Marlo | July 14, 2006 2:25 PM

"I think the problem is that women who do not have children do not have a first-hand understanding of what is involved, and see those of us that seek accommodations as turning the clock back and taking away some of the gains that our predecessors fought so hard for."

Wow, good post. I completely agree. When I was pregnant, I was allowed to take 1 hour naps in the nurses office everyday. This in no way hurt my work or anyone else's (we are on a production schedule with no deadlines.) My boss actually told me about taking a 1 hour nap everyday and encouraged it (she's great) but when a coworker of mine found out that I was doing this she really tried to make me feel bad about it and said that she couldn't believe it was even allowed. I responded by telling her that she would understand when she gets pregnant (of course she is unable and has since adopted). She didn't even get that our office realizes that losing 1 hour of production everyday is better than 8 hours if I had called in sick b/c I was just too tired to work. I think it's very hard for women without children to understand that pregnant women are entitled to special accomodations just like any other medical issue. If your doctor orders bedrest, it's not a good idea for you to be in the office!

Posted by: arlmom | July 14, 2006 2:29 PM

Leslie - shame on you for the Iraqi incident. Thought you were smarter than that.

Posted by: LE | July 14, 2006 2:35 PM

What I don't understand is why anyone wouldl tell their co-workers where they're going.

"Sorry, I have to leave. I have an appointment that's been scheduled for a long time."

As for a boss that "makes" everyone stay, how does that happen? You can always take personal time or a few hours off. If he didn't give his blessing to close down the business, oh well.

Posted by: Cal | July 14, 2006 2:45 PM

"of course she is unable and has since adopted"

Whoa. Talk about catty.

Posted by: Lizzie | July 14, 2006 2:48 PM

I used to work for a lawyer that routinely made me work OT, my average day went until 8:00 pm. One Friday, I had tickets to the theater with my husband, and informed him days ahead of time that I could not stay late that day. He seemed agreeable, but on that day, he kept me overtime again, claiming it would just be a little longer. My husband was waiting for me in the car downstairs and would call me every 5 minutes to find out how much longer. I was told him I was trying to get down and ran down the hall to copy one last stack of things before I left. In the meantime, my husband called again and my boss inadvertantly picked up my line. When my husband heard him, he told my boss to tell me that if I was not downstairs in 5 minutes, he was going to dinner and the theater without me. My boss came running to the copy room, took the papers from me, and told me to leave quickly because my husband was upset that I had kept him waiting. It was pretty funny.

Posted by: Arlington | July 14, 2006 2:52 PM

Ah the bad boss. I worked for one, too. It was a small company, so there was no HR, and he was the head of the company. He would scream at me for no good reason and eventually I started avoiding him. He demanded that I do all sorts of things that were not "part of my job", like plan his family vacations and walk his dog. I was not allowed to go home until he did, even if I was twiddling my thumbs, though he would often leave early. He also used the company as he own personal slush fund and claimed his vacation home as "corporate headquarters". Finally, I had a rip-snorting confrontation (I didn't return a call immediately when he called me at home when I was on a personal day; I wasn't home so I didn't get his message until after hours) with him that ended with me quitting on the spot. Afterwards, I fantasized about reporting some of his questionable business practices to the IRS.

Posted by: MG | July 14, 2006 2:54 PM

"of course she is unable and has since adopted"

Whoa. Talk about catty.

Actually, I put that in for some background. I think part of the reason she resented my naps is because she was trying to get pregnant herself at the time, and was having trouble, so when I got pregnant, she was very catty about my clothes not fitting, saying I looked "bloated" and not pregnant, etc.

Posted by: arlmom | July 14, 2006 2:55 PM

I'm the same anonymous poster from 2:13 pm, and I have to admit I was the same way before having children. As a new associate in a law firm, I couldn't believe that one of the partners was out the door at 6:30 every night because she had a six-year-old at home. I was staying until all hours, and needed her help on an assignment. I was in that "new associate" mindset where every second counted, and when I went to her office at 6:00, didn't want to be told that my question had to wait until the next morning because she was wrapping things up to leave for the day. My attitude wasn't helped by the fact that the male partner I also worked for talked about how she left every day at 6:30.

When I later had a co-worker who worked part-time, I was annoyed when I needed to consult with her on a day she was not in the office. I was even pregnant with my first child at the time and didn't understand! (The pregnancy complications came with my second child). I remember thinking at the time that women like her were hurting the rest of us. So to a large extent I've done what my post was criticizing.

Don't know about the rest of you, but I've noticed that pattern a lot in myself. I've been secretly critical about things my brother-in-law and sister-in-law did in raising their kids (behavior in public, etc.), just to discover, a few years down the road, what it's really like to be a parent! So I'm trying to not criticize people until I've been in their shoes, but you know how that goes . . . .

An apology to "Thought". I had not read your entry when I posted mine. I apologize if I insulted you further - didn't mean to.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 2:55 PM

i will also add after having told about my bad boss that when i became a supervisor i was HORRIBLE at it. some of it was maturity or lack thereof and some of it was i just am not good supervisor material. the 4 people who worked under me for the 6 months i was a supervisor could probably write about how bad i was. i wasn't as bad as some of the bosses described here if only because the project i was on was a small one. maybe if i'd had a larger more important project i'd graduated from annoying to boss from hell. as it was i learned from being on the other end of things how to be a better employee. i've never had the slightest interest in being in management again altho' maybe now that i'm 20 years older than the last time i might be better at it. but maybe not. i'm not really willing to try it.

Posted by: quark | July 14, 2006 2:57 PM

I couldn't believe that one of the partners was out the door at 6:30 every night because she had a six-year-old at home.

This kind of behaviour has less to do with family and more to do with law firm culture. Associates are expected to work very late and at a moment's notice (at least in DC firms). Long time partners have earned the right to take off earlier, whether to tend to family or play tennis or whatever. But I have also seen partners cancel their family vacation at a moment's to attend an unexpected meeting or deal with a crisis. Law firm culture is very hard on everyone, especially in prestigious (I hate to use that word) big city firms.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:00 PM

"When I was pregnant, I was allowed to take 1 hour naps in the nurses office everyday. This in no way hurt my work or anyone else's (we are on a production schedule with no deadlines.) My boss actually told me about taking a 1 hour nap everyday and encouraged it"

I find this completely bizarre - and I'm a woman who has been pregnant 4 times. Yes, you are more tired, but I did my extra sleeping at home, not on work time. If I needed a nap during the day, you better believe that I would have had to work an equivalent amount of time after my normal quitting time to make up for it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:01 PM

Leslie, what exactly does the fact that your boss is Iraqi have to do with ANYTHING? Shame on you. You don't mention the races of your other tyrannical bosses. >:(

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:03 PM

I have had many jobs. In all of those jobs I have been fairly successful (i.e. regular promotions, good reviews, etc). Some of those jobs I loved, others I hated. One of the things that almost always made the difference was the sex of my boss. I find the - as a woman - female bosses tend not to be as supportive.

The men I worked for wanted me to get my job done. They had no reason to compete with me or talk badly about me. When I needed to leave for a personal reason, it was almost always okay as long as I got my work done.

Unfortunately, working for women has always been different for me. Women have always felt threatened by any good work that I have done -- or even taken credit for my work. Even though they have gone out of their way to encourage the males of the office, they somehow do not like the females who excel. I wish that I could say that it was just me and not females in general but it wasn't... all of the females who excelled were targeted. I think that women are just more threatened than men... and therefore -- I will never work for a woman again.

Unfortunate but true...

Posted by: Wish Women supported women | July 14, 2006 3:05 PM

At least we don't work for Naomi Campbell :-)

Posted by: missicat | July 14, 2006 3:05 PM

To everyone who is trying to defend that saying Iraqi is relevant, just look at how that one 5-letter word completely derailed today's thread. You don't need to mention race if it's not relevant. Period. What occured today was allowing a little racism to show. I'm sure I'm not the only one sending a letter to the Washington Post...

Posted by: wow | July 14, 2006 3:08 PM

If this is typical law firm culture, why would anyone agree to work there? Bad bosses can be found anywhere, but if you know in advance that a certain place is more prone to unreasonable demands, then don't accept a position there.

For the woman with the theater plans (and others in that situation), just leave. If you say you must go, but then stay anyway, you will never be taken seriously about leaving when you need to. I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, but I truly think that most people will not be fired on the spot.

The same for snowstorms. "I'm sorry, but I have to go" and then go. If more people did this, then the employers would have no choice but to be more reasonable.

My choice has been that I will only work hourly positions. When the bosses have to pay overtime to keep you late, it doesn't happen as often. Granted, I won't make the money that others do, but I don't have the conflict about leaving on time that many others have.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:09 PM

PC police are out in full force today.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:11 PM

If this is typical law firm culture, why would anyone agree to work there?

Well, for starters, the work is interesting and brand new associates get paid six figure salaries to start. Most new associates are aware of the culture. Some don't want this environment and opt for other avenues, like government, but in government, they will not soon make the kind of money that comes from these firms.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:14 PM

"I will never work for a woman again."

They say that if ALL your boyriends/girlfriends have the same negative traits, it's time to look at what they have in common--namely yourself. While you've got less control over your choice of boss than your choice of romantic partner, if all your experiences with female bosses have been negative then the fault may not be completely one-sided.

Posted by: Female manager | July 14, 2006 3:16 PM

Reason to work at a law firm - $$$$ lots of $$$ - big firms pay first year associates over $125K - you stay and really, 6:30pm is not that big of a deal if you are childless and single (lawyer here, at a mid-size firm!)

I also agree about leaving - I had one partner who knew that I had to leave to go out of town for the weekend at noon - had to absolutely leave at 12:30, (purposely lied to him about the 1/2 hour due to prior experiences). Had to get something to the client before I left - got to the office at 7am, finished it up, left for him by 8:30am, was on his chair when he rolled in at 10am and proceeded to hang out and talk, even though he knew of the time crunch. At noon, ketter still sitting on his desk - untouched, waiting and waiting for him. Went by one more time to tell him I was leaving (he had this thing about email) at 12:25pm, still not there. Called when I got back to my desk to leave a message that I was leaving. He had the gall to ask me if I was really leaving because *we* had to get this letter out by COB. I calmly said to him, "It was sitting on your chair at 8:30 this morning and I have been waiting for you to look at it since you got in at 10am, yes, I have to leave." And I left. He got it done without me and he never said a word about it on the following Monday, because he knew that the head of the group would back me up!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:18 PM

Mid sized firm associate,
Good for you for sticking to your guns. But I have seen associates fired for lesser offenses when an important rain-making partner did not like that he/she did not get his/her way.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:21 PM

"Some don't want this environment and opt for other avenues, like government, but in government, they will not soon make the kind of money that comes from these firms"

"Reason to work at a law firm - $$$$ lots of $$$ - big firms pay first year associates over $125K - you stay and really, 6:30pm is not that big of a deal if you are childless and single (lawyer here, at a mid-size firm!)"

I guess the answer is $$$ and 6:30 is not that big of a deal, but there have been quite a few stories about much later nights and weekends. The problem is that not everyone remains childless and single and then there is resentment. The resentment comes from both sides - those who change and want a less demanding schedule and those who don't mind, but feel like they are taking up the slack for others. I like $$$ as much as the next person, but I like my (40 hour-per-week, leave when I need to) schedule much more.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:28 PM

"really, 6:30pm is not that big of a deal if you are childless and single"

Um, yeah it is, especially if you have a long commute. Single people do have a life outside of work. I've been in jobs where I worked 60+ hour weeks, never got home before 7....never again. Pay was terrible at that job too.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:28 PM

I disagree with these posts about women bosses. My best bosses, by far, have been women. Working in engineering and computer science, I don't think most men in the field are able to see women as being on an equal level with them in technical knowledge. It's such a relief to work with and for women because you are just accepted based on your work experience and education with no need to prove yourself as a technical person despite being a woman (and with men, no matter how good or smart you are, they don't seem to ever see you as a technical person).

I've also found my women bosses to be much more competent so that the whole department does a better job and looks better.

It's so great to work with women I would be very reluctant to accept a job with a male boss again.

Posted by: dai | July 14, 2006 3:29 PM

I had a bad boss who also was homosexual. We worked at a bank but you would have thought it was broadway play given all the drama that shaped his behavior and the behavior of his #2 who was also homosexual. I have never seen such diva behavior. He told me he had to have a report by tomorrow, so I stayed late and did it.I asked #2 where he was so I could give it to him. He said "BOB" is on vacation for two weeks!!! Six months later he asked me in a panic if I had done the report and I replied yes, i had it done but then you went on vacation. He flounced out of the office.Most of the staff quit in a year. He was my shining example of how not to lead.

Posted by: Patrick | July 14, 2006 3:29 PM

I have had good and bad bosses of both sexes. The best is my current boss who is a man, and the worst by far was a female. Maybe we should discuss how gender affects management style.

Posted by: to female manager | July 14, 2006 3:31 PM


You wanted to explain why her country of origin was relevant--but you didn't. Not every Iraqi woman who now lives in America, or Britain, is mean. Now, the fact that she was a first-time boss was a detail you didn't include in your first post--but, to me, that's more descriptive than the fact that she was born in Iraq. You personally seemed to be more enamored with the fact that she was from Iraq--and you made assumptions on what that did to shape her. And you felt sorry for her that she went to boarding school--did she feel sorry for herself that she went to boarding school. She was nasty to you, and you seem to be grappling with WHY she was MEAN to you--and your explanation is that she was Iraqi and went to boarding that's why she was mean. That may, or may not, be true--and it's a huge assumption on your part. Now, why did the snowstorm boss make her mean decision--how come you didn't presume on that one?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:36 PM

My dad owns a small business and is a bad boss. I am very embarrassed by this, it's like he is an alien in human relations. We had an employee who wanted 2-3 days off because his son was shipping out to Iraq. My dad said he had not been there long enough. Guess what, he saw his son and quit and we had to go through the process of hiring someone else, very time consuming, expensive and disastrous for morale. I am the only one who does not work at the business now.

Posted by: wesley | July 14, 2006 3:36 PM

Are we still on the Iraqi thing? Can we turn the page already? Leslie offered an explanation and if you accept it, wonderful, but if not, NOTHING you say here is new. Everyone has already posted. We get it, you're upset. Now shut up!

Posted by: Michael | July 14, 2006 3:37 PM

I'm the poster of "really, 6:30pm is not that big of a deal if you are childless and single". I think that it's all about what you are used to. Right out of college, I would could down until 5:30, but after being indoctrinated in law school, what is "normal" for me is much different - it also helps that I am compensated for the long hours. (FWIW - I am single and childless, in my personal situation, getting home, going to the gym and having dinner at 10pm is not that big of a deal FOR ME.)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 3:37 PM

It is funny how people forget their childless days once they have children. Please those of you who think it doesn't matter when childless coulples leave work, please think back to when you had your freedom. Most of you probably had plans too.

Posted by: Funny | July 14, 2006 3:38 PM

To the lawyers out there, if money is your only goal in life, then don't be surprised to find yourself working for people who don't give a damn about anything else but power and money. I feel sorry for you, life has so much more to offer than endless work and corporate politics. When you are near death, you will never say I wish I made more money and spent more time at the office. Sad

Posted by: melissa | July 14, 2006 3:43 PM

I remembered to give myself a name this time.

When I worked for a law firm, I worked all hours and most weekends. That stopped when I switched to government. There are a few reasons for that. First, I had children so my attitude towards additional hours changed. Second, the government can't pay what law firms pay. If they expected that kind of work at a government salary, we'd be leaving in droves. Third, there's not the same client relationship issues. The main issue with law firms is that, even if you make partner, the clients expect you to be available 24/7. And if you're not, they can always fire your firm and go elsewhere. I had a few difficult bosses at the firm. The one who told me on Friday afternoon he wanted another draft by Sunday, so I cancelled my weekend plans, and he didn't review the draft until later that week so we had to get an extension anyway. But even if there were no difficult partners, when a client wanted something done, it had to be done right away, regardless of whether the request was reasonable. Speaking of theater tickets, I found out on Friday morning that the client, at the last minute, decided I should conduct interviews at one of its sites over the weekend, before a long-planned investigation was done the following week. I had to cancel my plans to go to the theater that night with a group of people (my future husband and some friends, who had never met him), hop on a plane, and spend the entire weekend working. I probably billed about 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Here, in the government, the client is stuck with me. I can be fired if I do poor work, but my office can't be fired in favor of a firm. That's not to say that I don't work my share of weekends and extra hours where there is a true need for it. But my boss is less likely to make me put in time for "fake" deadlines and emergencies to accomodate the client's unreasonable requests.

Posted by: former law firm associate | July 14, 2006 3:44 PM

When I was in college, I had the absolute dream job. I worked for the Department of Army as a computer programmer for an agency that played war games. It was staffed by 50% military personell, mostly officers, and 50% civilian employees that had many student workers. My first boss, ranked Major, was great! He was very intellegent, funny, productive and I just loved going to work. It was 10 times better than going to school!

My second term there, I worked with another student worker, Mike. I considered him a slacker. Often he fell asleep at his desk, had loud and obnoxious telephone conversations with his girlfriend, goofed around with his other student pals, and generally, let's just say, he was far from a gifted programmer.

On our second term, our new supervisor, ranked as a Major, introduced himself to us. The first thing he said after his rank and name was, "Everybody is human. I don't mind if you make a mistake, once, but if you make the same mistake twice, you'll find out that I don't tolerate that!"

Within the first few days of work, the new Major quickly found out who to go to when something needed to get done, and it wasn't Mike. However, for some reason, several times he called me "Mike". I didn't know if he was trying to be subtle with an insult, or if he just made a name mistake. The next time he called me "Mike", I just let him know that my name wasn't "Mike", and he apoligized quietly.

Here's how the next conversation went:

Major: Mike!

Me: [silent]

Major: Mike! [A little louder]

Me: [silent, but thinking Mike fell asleep at his desk again]

Major: Mike! [Even louder]

Me: [Still silent, looking up from my desk wondering what the hell Mike was doing this time]

Major: [Looking right at me and seemingly very angry] Let me get one thing strait, when I call your name, you answer me! You're not a 2 year old!

Me: My name's not Mike. I don't know where Mike is.


Me: sergeant! [You civilians probably don't know how disrespectful this comment was]

Major: [Shaking with rage] You don't want to get into a pissing contest with me!

Me: I thought you didn't mind if I made a mistake, once. You broke your own rule at least 4 times.

Major: I don't care what I said, if you want to get anywhere around here, you'll show respect.

Me: I can be phoney.

For the next few days, we scowled at each other. Conversation was rare, only when absolutely necessary. Mike continued to screw up, which amused me.

then it happened again, the Major and I were the only 2 people in the office:

Major: Mike!

Me: Yessir, Colonel. {Once again, wrong rank, but this time a promotion]

Major: [closing eyes and shaking head and then addressing me by my correct name] Umm, uh, do you drink beer?

Me: Yes, I do.

Major: Want to go out after work?

Me: Yeah, sure, you own me about 5 I think.

That was great, there's nothing like being a young college student sharing stories with an Army Officer. And better yet, he was buying the beer. I told him, if he wanted the best out of me, he shouldn't make me afraid of making mistakes.

My next semester (term) at work, I got to work on the war game nodel and play the games. The first thing I heard the boss, Full Bird Colonel, say at the staff meaning was, "Your family comes first. Never, ever put your work before your family. What we do here is not as important as your children. If you need some help, we can work something out. Is that clearly understood?".

For the last 8 years, I've had an ex-marine, workaholic, does the work of 3 employees, tyranical boss. At first, he used to be the biggest jerk in the office and we've gone round and round on many occasions, but interestingly enough, The biggest problems got solve with the help of a few beers. Now-a-days, he's one of the best bosses I've ever had. And once again, despite many disputes, I've never ever had a problem taking off for a family emergency.

I think that when it comes down to dealing with nightmare supervisors, family or not, it boils down to a matter of respect, and the most respectable bosses I ever had were trained in the military.

Posted by: Father of 4 | July 14, 2006 3:48 PM

I've learned a lot on these posts. I'm sure that folks who have said women are worse managers/harder to work for are right. Haven't we figured out yet that all the "truly good" women have left work to stay home and "sacrifice" for their kids?

Posted by: Susan | July 14, 2006 3:50 PM

To clarify - what I mean to say in my 2:13 post is that women without children are harder bosses for women with children, in part because of attitudes that I have to acknowledge having before I was a parent. I don't agree that generally women are harder than men to work for. The person who heads our office now, who has two grown children, is fantastic.

Posted by: former law firm associate | July 14, 2006 3:55 PM

Susan, you are doing a disservice to those of us still in the workforce. I have promoted many people who worked for me. Others stay within our company and have been promoted to roles in other groups. I try to develop skills while being as fair as possible.

There are still women out there doing a good job as manager. Or am I the only one? Has anyone had a good time with women?

Posted by: Thought | July 14, 2006 3:57 PM

Wow, it seem like there's a disproportionate amount of lawyers posting to the blog. Interesting. I wonder why? Ideas?

Posted by: Friend | July 14, 2006 3:59 PM

No, NO! I was being facetious!! Sorry, the Friday snark has crept in. I meant since so many other boards talk about how women leave to "sacrifice" for their kids, that would mean there are few good women left. But I totally agree with you - I think there are a lot of great women managers out there!

Posted by: Susan | July 14, 2006 3:59 PM

The BEST bosses I have had were women. My first job out of college, my boss was fantastic - helpful, mentoring and when I was ready to leave to bigger and better things, encouraged it and supported me. Now, eight or so years later, I find that I enjoy working for women more than men, guess I feel like I have more in common with them.

Posted by: YEA Women Bosses! | July 14, 2006 4:01 PM

I think it's important to keep in mind that those who post here share PERSONAL stories and nobody means to generalize. So it's just happens that a lot of personal stories today are dealing with working in law firm and male vs. female bosses. Oh yes, and the Iraqi woman boss.......That's the whole point to share our personal experiences.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 4:03 PM

I'm posting because I met a deadine earlier today and am brain-dead for doing anything productive. Will make up for it next week! But I better stop checking this blog for more comments before I lose my job . . . .

It just occurred to me that maybe we have a double standard here. A lot of people are criticizing Leslie for her "Iraqui" comment. I myself was surprised but refrained from saying anything because plenty of others had taken care of that. Yet a lot of people, myself included, have made comments about women. Why is it okay to label someone according to their gender and not according to their nationality? Is it because a lot of us posting are women, so it's okay for us to criticize women?

Posted by: former law firm associate | July 14, 2006 4:06 PM

Bad typo on "Iraqui". Told you I was too brain-dead to be productive.

Signing off for good now.

Posted by: former law firm associate | July 14, 2006 4:08 PM

bigAl- Yes, I most certainly WOULD recoil in horror if someone said "as drunk as an Irishman." The issue is civility and manners with regards to a person's nationality OR ethnic background. It is always the more considerate thing to at least try to be respectful. I agree with those who have stated that that one particular person's education has more relevancy than their nationality or ethnicity.

She seems to be an intelligent person, so I am surprised and put out that Leslie would even mention the Iraqi background.

Posted by: Kirkpatrick | July 14, 2006 4:09 PM

I wonder what the Iraqi boss called Leslie? Did she say I have this white woman at work who I cna't stand, I wouldn't doubt it, but then that would be okay!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 4:16 PM

Oh, yes, women with children at SOOOOOOOO much more important than we childless-by-choice women. (You know, ladies, there are ways to prevent them.) In my many years of working I've found the female bosses were the most difficult and unbearable. Don't get me started on the whiney Jewish princesses who think their secretary is a scullery maid. One told me to call the DC Government to find out why her garbage hadn't been picked up.

Another denied me vacation time in April because the women with children wanted to be home with their kids during spring break and I was needed at work.

I'll work for a man any day, but will change jobs before I work for another woman.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 4:19 PM

So, back to Devil Bosses

I had one, (who was eventually transferred to another department thankfully!) who lied to the client. Not stretched the truth, not glossed over a small error. Lied. Claimed company-wide experience in a tool we couldn't spell if we tried. In addition, this boss was the type that had to keep the "big picture" close hold. Individual employees on the team only knew slightly less than what we needed to to complete our jobs. We spent more time talking to each other (and trying to talk to devil boss) about the state of the project and what needed to be done.

What really made the situation horrible, though, was that the immediate management team was purposely ignoring the growing problems. We complained, suggested, questioned, and communicated until we were blue in the face and were told "I don't see a problem here." Yeah, uh huh. And I have a bridge to sell you in Arizona.

Posted by: Corey | July 14, 2006 4:26 PM

Susan, thans for writing back in. I agree with you. I think the business world misses out on a lot of great women because they "sacrifice" for their kids.

It would be great if things were more flexible so they would stay!

Posted by: Thought | July 14, 2006 4:37 PM

The PC police show their ugly face here today. There are cultural differences between peoples that show up. It is a fact, the PC people want you to believe that we are an interchangeable, faceless, androgynous mass of humanity. The real victim is the truth. The PC people only win when good people say nothing.

Posted by: Andrew | July 14, 2006 4:38 PM

"It just occurred to me that maybe we have a double standard here. A lot of people are criticizing Leslie for her "Iraqui" comment."

I'm just going to say that I criticize the Iraqi comment as well as the "All! Childless! Female! Bosses! Suck!" commentary. Those generalizations are pretty horrible - I've got a wonderful childless female boss (and her boss' boss is also childless and wonderful). They're great both with employees with children and employees without - always supportive, always good about granting leave, regardless of the reason. Our office is also mostly female, with mostly female managers.

Also weird is the commentary that childless/childfree coworkers always hate parents. We always seem to have pregnancies in twos or threes around here - a few women get pregnant all around the same time. It's actually kind of adorable. Sure, it's a bit of a stress to redistribute their work, but it helps knowing that our AWESOME CHILDLESS FEMALE MANAGERS (and our equally awesome male managers, and managers of both genders w/kids - really, it's just a great company) treat everyone equally - I can take off for lasik eye surgery as easily as a pregnant employee can take off to have her glucose levels tested. Mostly, pregnant employees get treated with the same respect as non-pregnant employees, and, mostly, we're accomodating to their needs. Nobody really thinks twice about it. I didn't even think about it until I read some of the comments here.

But you notice how I said "mostly?" A little while ago, there was one mother-to-be who would use her pregnancy as an excuse to sit at her desk and do nothing (there's no physical aspect to the department's work, and while I understand keeping stress down, if you're here, you could at least file or do some simple, everyday tasks on the computer). Whenever there was a project coming up, or research to be done, she'd act tired and drawn - but whenever she thought nobody was around, she'd be chatting on the phone or something. We all have our moments of not working when we're supposed to be, obviously, but she perfected it like she was an Olympic athlete. At first, we were concerned, but we figured it out pretty quick.

Everybody knew what she was up to, but nobody could do anything because we were understaffed. Many of us did give her the cold shoulder, and I'm sure that if she were on this blog, she'd be talking about how nasty and mean her coworkers and bosses were to her.

My point is, really, sometimes - not always, but sometimes - the person causing your problems at work is you. If you've had multiple experiences with childless/childfree women, and they all suck, well, the only common thread is you. Before making generalizations, think about your own behavior, and the "nasty" person's behavior to others.

Posted by: supporting good managers | July 14, 2006 4:40 PM

I think it's funny that so many people think Leslie "should have known better" than to use the term Iraqui to convey a sense of why her boss was rotten. Obviously she doesn't, and she's been slammed countless times before for stereotyping men, SAHM, and WOHM. Generalizations and stereotyping seem to be her forte, not an abnormality...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 4:45 PM

"I've learned a lot on these posts. I'm sure that folks who have said women are worse managers/harder to work for are right. Haven't we figured out yet that all the "truly good" women have left work to stay home and "sacrifice" for their kids?

I have a female boss and she is the best. She has always been flexible with me and allowed me to carve out a schedule that benefited both my family (more time with them) and my work (happy & sane employee who performs well). Susan, perhaps your comment was meant in jest, otherwise it is just ignorant.

Posted by: SSB | July 14, 2006 4:47 PM


After posting I noticed your follow-up post. I'm glad it as in jest. My boss has grown children of her own, maybe that is why she is so understanding and willing to take some chances with her employees with kids.

Posted by: SSB | July 14, 2006 4:51 PM

My best AND worst bosses were women. Best bosses in general were always flexible when you deserved it (I can work from home if I need to, because I get 1.5 times the work done there than I do in the office), had the 'hire the best and get out of their way' management style, and took my opinions seriously if I was informed and should be taken seriously, regardless of other factors (the fact that I'm young and recently out of school). Worst bosses micromanaged, threatened and managed by fear, and assumed that because I am a 20-something white girl that I'm clueless and just waiting for the right man so I can quit and be a housewife (had one tell me that one time - still puzzled where she got that).

I think it boils down to security in their position and security in themselves as manager as to which bosses are good and which aren't - I've always excelled in my jobs, and the good bosses recognized this. Looking back at the worst of the bunch, they always were the ones who were either so insecure personally they had to have constant ego-stroking, or were so incompetent that they were in peril of losing their jobs. Men AND women.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | July 14, 2006 4:53 PM

To the poster that was denied vacation in april - here we have an unstated rule that the team member with the least re-schedulability gets priority - assuming vacation time requests come in at the same time. So, if I need school vacation week off, but my collegue is going alone to the bahamas - he/she is asked if it's really such a big deal to go the week before or after. I can't reschedule school vacation week - I simply can't. Now, if you have a conference, or competition or something you can't determine the schedule of - I'm sorry and that's not fair.

Posted by: Vacation priorities | July 14, 2006 4:56 PM

I think bad bosses do stem from insecurity or neuroses. They know deep down that they are not up to the task or they feel that they are so superior that everyone is an idiot.

Posted by: brett | July 14, 2006 5:00 PM

Oh, yes, women with children at SOOOOOOOO much more important than we childless-by-choice women. (You know, ladies, there are ways to prevent them.)

Yeah, it's to bad your mom didn't know about them.:)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 5:09 PM

"women without children are harder bosses for women with children"

Not true in my experience, but I have to ask if a woman with pets counts as a woman with or without children? :-)

Posted by: fract'l | July 14, 2006 5:09 PM

"In my many years of working I've found the female bosses were the most difficult and unbearable. Don't get me started on the whiney Jewish princesses who think their secretary is a scullery maid"

Just tell me anonymous poster that this is a joke. How anti-semetic of you. People are getting pissy about Leslie's unfortunate Iraqi comment and you make an even worse comment disparaging Jewish women.

As with men, there are good bosses and bad bosses. There are some women who have come up under difficult circumstances and have no desire to mentor/help younger women while there are others who desire to help younger women. Generalizations are not helpful I've had more bad male bosses than women bosses. So what does that mean? Nothing really. Just that there are a lot of bad bosses out there.

And as a "boss", I'll tell you that there are two sides to every story. There are plenty of "bad" employees who expect things that are unreasonable, don't do their jobs, etc. We had several people in my department come in 30 to 40 minutes late every day which impacted on our ability to get our work done. After a couple of weeks of this, I sent a very polite e-mail reminding people how important it is to be on time so that we can do what needs to be done. (These are highly educated professionals who should know better). At our next department meeting I got slammed for sending out the e-mail and not bringing in each late person into my office to reprimand them individually. It involved 4 out of 5 people of a certain job description so I thought this was a little nicer. One said that this e-mail caused bad morale. I replied that their tardiness caused bad morale (I had had a lot of complaints about them from other staff members). It's amazing how you can ask people to do their jobs, in a nice professional manner, and then get criticized for it. So some of these posts about "bad bosses" may have another side.

Posted by: fairly new boss | July 14, 2006 5:15 PM

The strangest bad boss I've ever encountered was a habitual liar--even about things that did not matter at all. It got to the point where I don't think I would have believed him if he'd told me what he had for lunch. I think he wanted to control information that people had, and the best way to do that was to invent the information. (He also indulged in butt-saving lying that blamed others for things that were his fault, but that at least is understandable.) Crazy, but nothing else made any sense.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 5:21 PM

having been a horrible boss i'm not sure what caused me to be such a bad boss. insecurity? maybe but i felt like i knew the product as well as the people i was supervising so i don't know if that was it. immaturity had something to do with it; i was 25 years old. no training. i didn't work my way up the ranks. the guy who interviewed me just liked me and made me a "team leader". i don't like to be bothered with details. some of it probably had to do with the fact that i just don't think i'm management material. i don't have the patience or tolerance or the whatever. i was lacking in organizational skills. however, i don't think i was an evil boss just incompetent. i have absolutely no interest in going through that again. the worst part of it was that i knew i was bad and didn't have a clue how to be better.

Posted by: quark | July 14, 2006 5:23 PM

Good leaders are not born that way. Good leaders develop skills either through experience or training. You say that you had no training, had no organizational skills, were immature, etc. Those are probably the reasons that you were not successful--not that you were not managerial material per se.

And you bring up a good point about who gets promoted---often it's not because the person being promoted deserves it or is the best candidate. My worst boss was made director of our department because he was buddies with someone above him. This person had no managerial or leadership skills. But he was a boy.....that's a topic for another day.

Posted by: fairly new boss | July 14, 2006 5:29 PM

I know some of you are tired of the Iraqi thing, but I don't buy Leslie's explanation, and here's why.

When I was in highschool, I was assaulted by a black man at a park. When telling a friend the story, I said that the man was black. She asked me why I included that fact. As much as I blustered about it being descriptive, and part of the story, and blah blah blah (like a lot of the posts today) I knew in my heart that I mentioned it because it made the story scarier to me, a white girl raised in a lilly-white community, and probably to most of my friends, who were similarly raised. It was a huge realization for me of the often-times unrealized racism that we can carry with us, and that is something I have tried hard to change in myself.

Leslie's casual mention of the woman being Iraqi seems a lot like my mention of the man being black - it's adding emphasis in a way that reflects her own stereotypes that she assumes are shared by many.

Posted by: Well | July 14, 2006 5:30 PM

I just want to say thanks to all of you who have posted humorous comments here today. A great way to start the weekend! Chill, everyone!

Posted by: Texas mom | July 14, 2006 5:31 PM

Well, you mentioned it because it was the truth. I hate seeing reports of a man who robs someone and they say, he had a red shirt, green pants, nike air jordans but then won't mention his race out of fear of the PC people. It's pure nonsense.

Posted by: WESLEY | July 14, 2006 5:37 PM

No, Wesley, as I said, I mentioned it because at that time a black man was scarier to me than a white man (though thanks for trying to make me nicer than I am). Sure, it makes sense to mention race when you're warning or putting people on the lookout, and yes, sometimes it can be purely descriptive in the course of a story. I don't hesitate to use race to describe someone when I am actually trying to describe them. However, in the case of telling about the assualt, I wasn't trying to convey his appearance. And I don't think Leslie was either.

Posted by: Well | July 14, 2006 5:47 PM

How is the bosses' ethnicity even remotely relevant to your story?

Posted by: Raven | July 14, 2006 6:20 PM

"So, if I need school vacation week off, but my collegue is going alone to the bahamas - he/she is asked if it's really such a big deal to go the week before or after. I can't reschedule school vacation week - I simply can't"

Ok - I don't quite get this. If school is closed, then there are usually daycare centers, nannies, or whatever else you use on a normal 'school is closed' day. If it is not a childcare issue and you just want to take a vacation because your kids are out of school, then you should get no more priority than any other worker wanting vacation at that time. If the other person WILLINGLY reschedules, that is nice, but it should not be required.

What if the person says, yes, it really is a big deal to change my plans? Who gets vacation in that situation.

I am a working mother of two, so I truly do understand that parents MAY have more personal concerns than non-parents. But, in the workplace, I don't think that anyone deserves preferential treatment. All places of employment should treat their employees as human beings who have lives outside work. Flexibility should be available to all. I have seen parents who drag themselves to work sick, make appointments after work hours whenever possible, work late to make up for lost time, etc. I have also seen parents take advantage of their employers by scheduling all appointments during work hours, never considering having back-up child care, etc. I have seen good and bad traits in childless workers as well.

Posted by: just wondering | July 14, 2006 6:39 PM

The federal government has clearly defined leave policies for the employees. In general, if you use leave time for childcare, elder care, pet care, auto care, doctor's appointments, sickness for children or whatever, then there is less leave time available for your own illness and vacations. It seems that people don't get as upset about why other people are out of work. Why complain about someone running out for their children when the parents are generally at work when you are on the ski slopes or lying on a beach somewhere.

Posted by: just wondering | July 14, 2006 6:47 PM

The worse boss I had was a woman. She was bad to everyone, maybe a little harder on the men actually. She would yell and curse at people in meetings. She got away with it because she was by far the most valuable member of the team due to her extensive knowledge of the work product. It would have taken several people to replace her. I just wish that her bosses would have found a way to make her a consultant without giving her boss powers.

The second worse boss I had was a man who would actually walk around clapping his hands saying, "Wrap it up, break's over, back to work". This was right at the end of scheduled break - not even 10 seconds after.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 6:54 PM

A call came into the post office saying that the grandmother of one of the mail carriers had just died. The mail carrier had not yet left the post office, but the boss said, "Don't tell Sharon until she is done her route. The woman is already dead. It's not like Sharon can get there in time to say good-bye."

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 6:57 PM

First boss reported to 2 executives, who brought in a programmer who brought software with another firm's copyright. Boss told me I would travel from DC to programmer's site in NH as often as possible, so I changed jobs.

Second bad boss once threw a chair across the room, and petitioned to get me fired. When that failed, he had me transferred to an offsite project who insisted they needed my skills. If this was so, I asked him why he petitioned to get me fired.

eventually bad boss 1 (and his 2 superiors) where fired and indicted for fraud.

bad boss 2 (and his boss) were fired shortly thereafter.

Posted by: Two Bad Bosses | July 14, 2006 7:06 PM

I wonder what would have happened well, if you had been a black girl assulted by a white man?

I'll tell you all hell would have broke loose. Racsim goes both way and i'm tired of people acting like white people are the only ones who do it. lily white? WHy would you say that?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 7:33 PM

Why do people keep writing about Leslie's use of the word 'Iraqi' but no one is bothered by the poster who complained about 'whiney Jewish princesses'? Is that politically correct? Just wondering.

Posted by: Older Mom | July 14, 2006 7:33 PM

Older Mom: my guess is that most people are assuming the person who made the "whiny Jewish princesses" remark was either attempting sarcasm, or being boorish just to get a rise out of people. Ignore trolls, and they sometimes go away.

Leslie, meanwhile, is expected to be somewhat more sensitive and professional than an average troll. She's getting held to a higher standard, that's all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 7:55 PM

I was offended by the whiney jewish princess remark. I don't care if she meant it with sarcasm or not. It was still offensive.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2006 8:04 PM

"Racsim goes both way and i'm tired of people acting like white people are the only ones who do it."

Sorry but you're dead wrong. Racism does NOT go both ways. Bad mannaers and rude behavior, sure. Even prejudice. But not racism.

Memorize this:

Power + prejudice = racism

White people have privilege in this country, they have the power. Yes even poor white people. As such, a white person can be rude toward a black person (or other minority), or say something that is prejudiced and hateful, but they can never be considered "racist."


"Why do people keep writing about Leslie's use of the word 'Iraqi' but no one is bothered by the poster who complained about 'whiney Jewish princesses'"

Probably has something to do with the fact that people are a heck of a lot more interested in what our blog's AUTHOR had to say than some racist idiot on a blog.


Leslie, I have been following this blog since the beginning. You need to realize that you are not emailing to your best friend when you post your blogs and responses. You are clearly intelligent and write well but you have a tendency to be flip and use sweeping generalizations, and sadly today, got way to close to that line in the sand that separates a chatty, casual writing style from overt racism.

Even more troubling, I still have seen no evidence that you even GET what you did wrong.

Think about it like you are writing an article for the front page of The Washington Post. EVERY DAY. You never know who is reading.

Posted by: Bethesda | July 14, 2006 9:27 PM

"RProbably has something to do with the fact that people are a heck of a lot more interested in what our blog's AUTHOR had to say than some racist idiot on a blog."

I'm confused, if racism doesn't go both ways how is the jewish princess comment offeinsive.

And you are wrong it does go both ways, it's just never happened to you, but it will someday.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2006 8:53 AM

Okay, I think FINALLY I get it! Correct me if I'm wrong

tyrannical Iraqi = Saddam Hussein

fear & intimidation = victimization & terrorism

British boarding school = salvageable Iraqi culture, exempt due to the ever pervasive, underlying *anglo* power

They did this theme on that TV show LOST, with the Iraqi guy who had been forced into being a torturer by the US military, happened to very good at it. Once the viewers got to know the character it turns out he's actually worth keeping since at least he has a conscious.

It only took 199 comments but I finally got a clue!

Posted by: Tracy | July 15, 2006 9:00 AM

Memorize this:

some minorities have Power + some minorites are prejudice = some minorities practice racism

get a clue, Bethesda and stop living in the 1950s. It's everywhere and practced on everyone.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2006 9:24 AM

Under the rules for "Post a Comment" it says: "User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site."

So who decides what is an inappropriate comment? I think several of the comments posted here were inappropriate.

It further states: "Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed."

Really?! I had not noticed this to be the case.

Posted by: Older Mom | July 15, 2006 8:10 PM

Isn't it amazing how this trainwreck of a blog annoys readers and attracts judgmental replies and officious, self-righteous comments like honey attracts bees?

I never understood why my husband would watch TV programs he _knew_ would annoy him, just so he could yell at the screen. Now I do.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2006 10:26 AM

I apologize for my unfortunate reference to the ethnicity of one of my bosses in my lead from Friday. I was really off-base. As so many of you pointed out, where she was born had nothing to do with her being a bad boss. Although many years have passed, my anger at how I was treated blinded my judgment about how to write about the situation in an appropriate and constructive way. Thank you to all of you who pointed this out -- and held me to a higher standard. I really appreciate it, and won't make the same mistake in the future. Different mistakes, in all likelihood -- but I'll do my best. Thanks again.

Posted by: Leslie | July 16, 2006 1:36 PM

I worked for one total and complete nincompoop a few years ago -- and in retrospect, should have seen the signs during my initial interview with the company. (My hour long interview consisted mostly of nodding and going, "Uh huh, uh huh," while this woman ranted about her exhusband and her divorce. Award-winningly weird interview.) But the money was good, the hours were good and the commute was good, so I closed my eyes and jumped. Lasted about a year.

Shortly after I joined the organization, I learned that employee turnover was PHENOMENAL! There was one position that turned over 5 times in the one year I was there. And each time, the individual was fired, with no notice, for 'personality conflict' type issues.

If the convo's still open, I'd love to know -- Those of you who had bad bosses, can you tell the rest of us in retrospect, what the signs were that you should have seen -- and how can the rest of us tell in advance not to walk into a situation but to walk away instead?

Posted by: Shoulda Seen the Signs | July 17, 2006 8:57 AM


there were just as many people telling you that you didn't do anything wrong. My geuss is that someeone other than the people on this board were upset with your comment. It's really sad.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 9:57 AM

Leslie, I didn't comment on your description of your boss as Iraqi b/c, although I found it inappropriate, so many others pointed it out. Thanks for your apology and promise to be more thoughtful about it next time. I appreciate it.

Posted by: Raia | July 17, 2006 11:55 AM

Leslie surrenders to the PC police-news at 11. Leslie shame on you for caving!

Posted by: Patrick | July 17, 2006 12:07 PM

having been a bad boss i will say that i knew i wasn't very good and that probably made it worse. i didn't know how to fix the problem and floundered around trying to make things better. i thought i was doing what the other team leaders were doing (articulating deadlines, delegating etc) but it didn't seem to make a difference. would i have been better if i had had some sort of management training? don't know. i don't want to blame it entirely on my age (25) because there were other team leaders who were my age who seemed to know what to do or could fake it better than i could.

the other interesting thing was that about 5 years later i dated a guy who was being groomed by management for a supervisory role. when he had an issue he would discuss it with me. he & i would have almost opposite takes on a given situation. not that he was necessarily the perfect manager but it was interesting that we reacted so differently to situations.

the place where i made my snarky comment to my workaholic boss, employee turnover was very high & they didn't want to talk about why so many people left. i should have been paying attention but i was 23. i think now i would admit to making a mistake and have jumped ship long before i was fired. however, the plus side of being fired has made me realize that i could survive being fired. being fired was not the end of my professional career.

Posted by: quark | July 17, 2006 12:27 PM

When did being "PC" become the only RIGHT way to be? Geez people!

Posted by: good grief | July 17, 2006 2:54 PM

so glad the rich white girl caved and said she was sorry to the poor, poor Iraqi devil and all the liberals on this board.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 17, 2006 7:00 PM

Could you people possibly be MORE politically correct? What if Leslie had written "one tyrannical Canadian woman"? Would that have offended you all so much?

Posted by: Rockville | July 17, 2006 9:33 PM

Actually, my point in several earlier posts if anyone is still reading is that only include it if it explains something about your boss. So the Canadian is not needed any more than the Iraqi and is just as offensive and narrow-minded. No one likes to be stereotyped.

Posted by: Not Iraqi or Canadian, but. | July 18, 2006 3:46 PM

Probably no one is still reading this string, but I was really struck at how similar my "bad boss" story was to Laura's and some other folks. I also worked at a private sector law firm and had this nasty boss who was a micromanager who would talk about me behind my back but never told me to my face that I was doing anything wrong. She also used to play the game of coming in late and not looking at the documents I had drafted until I was ready to leave. I am an early bird, so I would get to the office at 6:00 or so and then leave at 6:00 or so to go to the gym. One day, as usual, I had dropped off several drafts on her desk to review early in morning, and of course she just never got around to looking at them all day. I finally left and went to the gym at 6:00, after sending her an e-mail noting that we couldn't file the documents until the next day anyway (filing with a government agency), so we could discuss them the following morning when she got in. So there I am in the locker room of my gym at about 7:00 that night, emerging from the shower naked as a jaybird to hear this person calling my name, and I looked up and there was my boss's assistant telling me to go back to the office to help my boss find the documents in Word and discuss edits with her. Unbelievable. They say living well is the best revenge, so eventually I moved to the government and actually love my job and my boss. And no one has tracked me down at the gym yet.

Posted by: GovLawyer | July 18, 2006 6:43 PM

I had to chuckle when I read some of the "Devil Bosses" stories. I think the worst thing my former "Devil Boss" did (of the many) was to start monitoring bathroom time and requiring it be reflected on our timesheets! But then she topped that by asking one employee why it sometimes took him more than five minutes in the men's room----to which he replied "um, sometimes I sit down." (A level of detail no employee should have to get to!) She discovered from my timesheet that I had no bathroom time--which I had to explain was the result of having no time to eat or drink. (She later checked the electronic key records and discovered it was true)! She really drove us hard and required that we be on call 7 days a week. It was nothing to be "required" to work 24, 36, 48, 72 hours straight without sleep. Unfortunately, no was not an option! But despite all that, it was the monitoring of bathroom time that beat all!!

Posted by: WashingtonParalegal | July 26, 2006 5:06 PM

How come no one is speaking up to defend British boarding schools? She insulted British boarding schools!!!!!


Posted by: Mr. Chips | July 28, 2006 1:41 PM

My boss from hell was at a job in New York City. I was a recently-hired senior tax accountant, lured away from another company in New York City. A huge increase in pay, and a shorter commute, and my office was only four blocks from Pace University, where I was earning a Master's Degree in taxation. I remember (this was in 1989) thinking what a great move this was...until I met Lester the nut job - a senior VP and the tax counsel at my new employer, in charge of my tax dept. This guy, in my first few weeks at the company, threw a BOOK at me, because he did not like the answer I gave to one of his bond amortization questions! He would hold staff meetings weekly, which I originally thought were for keeping people up-to-date and for an exchange of ideas - WRONG! The meetings were Lester's weekly opportunity to berate the VP of tax in front of all of us (about ten staff members), a wimp who worked for Lester for about 15 years and who put up with Lester because "Lester pays very well." Lester would often shout at this VP "Shut up" - in front of junior staff and mid-managers.

Once, I had the audacity to disagree with Lester on a tax matter, and he put me thru a month of busy-work as punishment (over and above my regular work-load). I quickly learned, based on observations of my co-workers in the room, that whenever Lester asked for comments at our weekly staff meetings, that you should immediately stare down at the floor or at the walls and DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH LESTER!

Around this time frame (1989-1990), voice mail was catching on. A voice mail message from Lester usually went like this "Nick...Lester" (phone hangs up). That's it. Not even a "please call me, Nick". Then, when you called him back, you got berated by Lester about some (usually) minor thing - but at some point he either got his answer or had someone else to berate, so he would just hang up on you, often while you were still talking ("Lester? Lester?").

He yelled at his staff all the time, and everyone was afraid of him. Once, my immediate boss allowed me to attend a two day tax seminar in Washington DC - almost. I was going to drive down the night before (saving my employer airfare), when my immediate boss called me (around 7 p.m., at home) to say "Lester says you can't go". Now, the $895 seminar fee was paid already and not refundable. But Lester decided that the tax seminar (where I would also earn CPE credits for my CPA license) was a waste of time for me.

But, that was Lester, the boss from hell.

I left that company after about 19 months, and I was amused to hear in 1995 that the NY Attorney General froze the stock option and other assets of the senior officers of this company for matters related to fraud - including Lester's assets.

Sometimes there is justice...

Posted by: Nick | July 28, 2006 4:16 PM

The old male principal at my firm is a megalomaniac who exults in showing how superior he is by putting his staff down by endlessly berating them and throwing hissy fits when he doesn't get what he wants. As a young attorney in DC trying to learn the ropes the situation was far from ideal. He only cared about himself and his business and made no effort to develop my skills or knowledge of the business. It was almost a total waste of time. When I told him I was planning to leave, he wouldn't help me find a new job or even make a phone call on my behalf but principals at another firm that shared space with us did make inquiries on my behalf. Further, clients at his firm who knew I was leaving offered themselves as job references and praised my work. It's too bad my first job out of law school was with a self-absorbed narcissist.

Posted by: Bad boss | July 28, 2006 4:29 PM

Quite a blog! I've had two worst bosses, in very different ways...

Boss 1: Was promoted into his position from below me and was scared that I knew more than he did, as I had an excellent track record and reviews.

From then on, I never got credit for a job well done (I was even told that an excellent string of results couldn't be put on my performance evaluation because the boss 'wanted to treat everyone the same'). Not surprisingly, this manager went out of his way to disparage me and to make me look bad... I spent an inordinate amount of time responding in writing to overblown criticisms, which padded my HR file considerably. While HR listened to my responses (which restrained the boss some), they never removed this manager.

I loved the actual work and was good at it, so I worked under this boss for far longer than I should have...

Boss 2: Not a bad person, but extraordinarily detail-oriented and prone to issuing conflicting instructions. This manager wanted to (and did) review every e-mail I sent to others before it went out (and I am a strong writer with many years of experience in our mutual field), did not respond timely to completed projects-- which tended to get bogged down waiting for the manager's input, changed instructions frequently, and did not delegate. This manager's own boss had similar traits, which contributed to the problem.

Our group was frequently a hotbed of inaction, as the staff waited for the two top managers to review... and revise... and review... and revise... completed work. Very frustrating for staff, especially for experienced workders who were used to getting things done expeditiously.

Not everyone should be a manager... and having a bad boss can destroy an otherwise terrific job.

Posted by: just me | July 28, 2006 5:02 PM

i had a female boss who was a nightmare wrapped in
fat and cackling. She could only interact with the
junior staff by screaming, she used to whine constantly
that nobody respected her skills( Word was she was a
good Database programmer once), and she micro-managed.
I got Mono and took sick leave and she informed me
that she had mono in college and never missed a day of school.
Frankly she was just one facet of a fairly dysfunctional
corporate management culture. this was an engineering firm
with a 40% annual turnover in engineers. They would spend
up to 20K on recruiting fees for young engineers then
deny everyone else pay raises and be surprised as people
walked out the door.

i've had numerous bosses and each of the women
were terrible bosses. Insecure, angry, twitchy.
Not all the men were wonderkids, but, wow, it was
horrible with the women.

Posted by: beltwaybandit | July 28, 2006 7:16 PM

I had a boss who sent me an e-mail while I was in the bathroom reading the paper. The only words in the message were "Where are you?" (I was gone all of ten minutes at the most.)

I walked into her office and told her that I was in the the bathroom. She responded with "Can't you do that on your lunch hour?"

I got a new job shortly thereafter.

Posted by: SamFelis | August 1, 2006 8:18 AM

Daycare is filled with women bosses. for some reason I had been coming across many females that saw me a middle aged African/American woman as a wide shoulder to dump all their problems on. One female prospective boss spent 1hour & 30 minutes telling me all about her life and problems dating back to childhood including that her mother was a slave.
I listened attentively while she asked m nothing about me or my life.
Women please stop mistaking all Black women for Oprah. Stop using me as a sounding board and just give me a job so I can pay my rent.

Posted by: Monica | August 4, 2006 2:02 PM

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