Horrible bosses are The Worst. I’ve had them. You’ve had them. Your friends have had them. Hell, they even made a movie about them that I didn’t see because, for whatever reason, I choose to waste my time watching “Big Brother 13” THREE TIMES A WEEK instead of wasting my time like a normal person by doing this like “going to the movies” or just “NOT watching “Big Brother 13.”
Anyway, the point is: Terrible bosses can make our lives a living hell. But can you imagine hating your boss and company so much that you were willing to walk away from a $46 million dollars? That’s what Carson Palmer, Pro Bowl quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, is prepared to do rather than play another day for his teams' infamously terrible, notoriously spiteful owner, Mike Brown.
Refusing to let Palmer walk away from his nine-year, $118 million-dollar deal (of which he has four years left), Mike Brown would rather let the veteran quarterback rot. Something about how he made a commitment to the team blah blah blah, this coming from a coach who cuts players before their contracts are up all the time.
A few years ago, I had a horrible boss. Not only was she completely incompetent, she routinely took credit for my hard work. I mean, I literally emailed her a presentation at 9 a.m. one morning and then heard her an hour later telling someone she was up all night working on it. When a project didn’t go as well as people hoped, she was the first one to throw me under the bus. “Well you guys said Daisy was the expert, so I just trusted her.”
Unfortunately, and for reasons I’ll never understand, instead of supporting me, this woman was competitive with me. I hate to think it had to do with the fact that I was a smart, confident, attractive woman, but…all signs point to THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT IT WAS.
Fairly quickly, I grew disillusioned and started venting to my coworkers despite the fact that I knew better. It didn’t take long for the nickname I’d given her, Soccer Mom, to make its way to the higher-ups. (To be fair, she WAS a Soccer Mom. But, yes, I know, not nice to use it disparagingly. Also, not even that great of a slanderous nickname. WHATEVER.) Suddenly, I was the one who was being reprimanded about my behavior, despite the fact that this woman. MY BOSS, consistently ignored me (she once went 37 days without acknowledging me) and spoke down to me whenever she was forced to interact with me.
When it came time for my review, I wasn’t surprised that she slandered me at every opportunity, but I was shocked at just how far she took it.
In a last ditch effort to make it work, I asked for a meeting with Human Resources and my boss. I acknowledged that I needed to work on my attitude, which had completely disintegrated over the past month or two. I also confessed that I’d become the girl who cries in the bathroom at work three times a week, and that I hated being that girl.
Soccer Mom pretended like she was genuinely baffled by this revelation and denied that she’d done anything to make me cry. When I mentioned that her attitude toward me was horrible and that I felt like she was setting me up to fail, she rolled her eyes and asked for an example.
“Well, “ I said, referring to my notes (I wrote down everything that happened in all of our meetings), “like last week in my review when you told me that you would ‘never EVER’ consider me for a promotion. Or the time you told me at 5:30 p.m. that I had to create a PowerPoint and present it in front of 20 people at a 9 a.m. meeting the next morning.
“Those things never happened,” she said and shrugged.
It was then I knew what I had to do.
I turned to HR. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I wanted to make this work. I really did. I love this company so much, but…it’s clear to me now that making it work isn’t an option. I can’t work for someone who can’t even be honest about the what’s actually happening.” And then I asked the hardest question I’ve ever had to ask professionally. “Is there any way you can lay me off?”
I lived paycheck to paycheck, but knew at that point it made more sense for me to be unemployed and broke than to continue to suffer under such a horrible woman. (I’ve only barely explained how bad it truly was.) Luckily, the company agreed to lay me off.
I cried the day I left and, for the next couple of weeks, walked through life in complete fog. I was so depressed that I actually can’t recall my first six weeks of unemployment. I slept too late, drank too much and felt sorry for myself.
But then one morning, I woke up and, for the first time in eons, I wasn’t bitter. I wasn’t angry. I tried to remember what this feeling was, and then it came to me: I was happy. Broke as hell and slightly terrified, but happy.
Carson Palmer doesn’t need a huge paycheck; all he wants is to play for a team that respects his talent and is a playoff contender. He’s given the Bengals years and years of hard work, even while suffering through several injuries. And because he’s a better person than I, he’s never once uttered a disparaging word about the Bengals' horrible no-good owner. And yet, Mike Brown refuses to cut him and give him the opportunity to play elsewhere. Instead, he’d rather make Palmer suffer.
Most employment is at-will, so we can walk away whenever we want (or conversely, be let go). However, most of us also rely on our paychecks to pay the rent/mortgage and the bills, so walking away isn’t always a possibility without another job lined up. Unfortunately, I was so depressed at my job and in my life, I also wasn’t in any position to be interviewing.
Quitting/asking to laid off was the only way I knew how to get back to being me, and once I’d regained a sense of self, I was able to confidently and rationally decide to become a freelance writer. I’m not saying I’ll never work as a full-time employee again, but being in a situation with such an abusive boss definitely scared me off of making that type of commitment for a while.
So what about you? Have you ever had a horrible boss? How did you handle it? Share your stories in the comments so we can all commiserate!
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the company went through a re-org a few months later, and Soccer Mom was one of the first to be let go. And yes, I still call her Soccer Mom; I’m super mature like that.