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Readers tell about very bad bosses — and real gems

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By Mike Benbow
Herald Columnist
Published:
Last week I asked readers to tell me about their bad experiences at work as I prepared to watch the new film, "Horrible Bosses."
If you missed the column, I should mention that I started things off by writing about someone I've always thought of as a bad boss.
But I learned something from those who took the time and effort to share their experiences. After reading your emails and talking with you, I now know that I've never really had a bad boss, just a few with some irritating quirks.
Cheryl sent me a list of 10 things her ex-boss liked to do, noting that it wasn't a complete list. They included:
• Sending mean emails at all hours of the night so they were waiting for her when she started work.
• Calling her at home and screaming at her continuously for five minutes in a voice so loud your husband and daughter got to listen in, too.
• Firing three of her five co-workers, giving her their tasks, and calling it a promotion.
• Employing her without benefits for a year and half and then hiring someone else with less experience at more pay and full benefits.
• After she quit, calling her on a weekend to berate her as unprofessional and saying he was owed an explanation.
There was more, but you get the gist.
Jim had a similar experience with a boss who required that reports be written "to his exacting standards with no detail of what his standards are." He'd then throw the reports back to be rewritten, again providing no details about what was wrong.
"When I approached him to put together an internal stylesheet so we could all get our reports right the first time, he told me I was not allowed to do that," Jim wrote.
"This guy is a horrible communicator and he did everything he could to hold things over your head," he added.
Jim mentioned a number of other frustrations with his boss, saying: "At one time I got so frustrated I spent an afternoon building an information sheet about office bullying, and it was my intent to mail a copy of this to every employee with the hope that everyone would get a copy of it and start talking about it openly in the office … I never did … but this is the kind of scheming you do when you're stuck in this type of situation."
He sent me a copy of the sheet, titled "Bullies Among Us," which included information about the legalities involved and some advice for dealing with the stress. Among other things, it suggests getting a new job, which is what Jim did. It also mentions a helpful website, www.workplacebullying.org.
Others talked about bosses who were often drunk, others prone to violent outbursts, and even one who liked to fire people on the spot "without write-ups, discussions or any other due process."
Said Brian: "Because the economy was so bad, and so many people were looking for work, (he) knew there was always a line of people that he could hire to fill these vacancies."
In addition to horrible bosses, I got a couple notes from people who had some very good ones. Ken said he had a string of good bosses at Comcast before retiring. "They were fair, honest, made us earn our pay," he said. "They went out of their way to be supportive when I would get stuck by a question I could not readily answer on the phone."
Nancy passed along some things she learned from her best boss: "Be nice to people on your way up the ladder, because you could see them again on your way back down; help your employees and co-workers succeed, for then you will eventually have friends in high places."
Good advice, Nancy.
And thanks to everyone for responding.
Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459; benbow@heraldnet.com.
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