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Bad Bosses: 7 Tales of Failure

We had lunch with a friend the other day and she was telling us some pretty extraordinary tales from her office. We thought it would be fun to bring a few of these stories together.

Full disclosure - some of these are truly unbelievable. It’s a quick read, they’re good for a laugh and everyone needs a little levity in the workplace now and again.

The list below represents the best of the stories we have heard first hand, our own personal experience, and some of the best that we have read over the years.

Related: Project Management 101: Why Sherman’s March Does Not Work

1. A vice president of a fortune 500 company would repeatedly call employees from her car during and after business hours asking things like, “What is the best dry cleaners on 14th?” or “What is the best sushi place near downtown?” One employee had enough and told her, “Dawn, there is this thing called Google - check it out” and hung up on her. Simple and to the point - well done!

2. There was a manager who had a team of nine people and two of them were pregnant. In a group meeting he voiced his anxiety by stating, “Great, two of our team are knocked up - that’s 35% of our team gone.” We’re pretty sure there was an HR issue after that comment, and it became clear that math was not his strong suit.

3. A mid-sized company recently showed a training video during a quarterly meeting about the importance of working together in a moral and ethical manner. It expounded such virtues as optimism, hard work and honesty. It claimed that honest management would cultivate honest employees. The video was very uplifting and motivating. Just before the lights came on, the last message ran across the screen. It read "FOR DEMO PURPOSES ONLY -- ILLEGAL TO USE FOR TRAINING PURPOSES".

4. If you – or anyone else – wanted to speak with this boss you had to make an appointment with his assistant, which is probably not that unusual for a high-level executive. However, it was strange that he was the only executive who had replaced his office facing windows with frosted glass and installed a doorbell. If you needed to speak with him outside of a prearranged time, you had to ring the doorbell and hope that he felt like answering. That’s just weird.

5. A board of directors’ committee was meeting off-site to discuss current committee initiatives. The tables were set up in a U shape with a large flat screen at one end of the room. There were three women and five men present. As committee members made their presentations, they passed the HDMI cable to one another to connect their tablets to the large flat screen. Inexplicably, one of the board members said, “Let me see that cable” and plugged it into his tablet. The screen lit up with one of those “colorful” jokes with corresponding inappropriate visuals not suitable for the workplace. Good judgement does not seem to be a core competency for this board member.

6. There was a boss who always took credit for others’ work. One employee had had enough. The next time she was responsible for preparing a financial report, she created the numbers knowing they were wrong and that the boss would not check them. He did exactly as she predicted and he signed his name to the report. And when he presented it, he got railed by the management committee. Furious, he came back to her desk only to find she was in the process of giving her resignation letter to HR. Lesson learned – it’s probably best to check your numbers. Even better, to give credit where credit is due.

7. There was a boss who was notoriously lazy. He was rarely in the office and traveled extensively to “meet with clients”. Whenever he returned for a few days he would wander around the office chatting with anyone who had a free moment; and when he wasn’t doing that, he retreated to his office to watch Netflix and plan his next “business trip.”