We have all had our fair share of weird bosses. It happens all the time: you interview for a job, it goes great, and you look forward to the new gig. Then, you get there on the first day, and your boss does something so strange that you just know it's going to be like that the entire time. But it's not easy to just up and leave a job when things get weird, and that's part of the reason Ask a Manager exists.
The site is full of great advice for bosses and employees alike about how to navigate nearly any professional situation, especially those that are actually super unprofessional! The latest reader who wrote in asking for advice is in one heck of a pickle. Get a load of this story.
On June 25, a reader with a very strange professional conundrum wrote in to Ask a Manager.
"I was hired about six months ago at a small business," she began. She's in her mid-20s, so this is her first job out of grad school, and it's a super tiny company: it's just her, the owner / director, and a part-time assistant. Because it's so small, she ends up spending a lot of one-on-one time with her boss. "Sometimes she's a lovely person," the woman continues, "other times she's quite difficult to handle." Uh oh.
Apparently, this woman's boss is constantly saying things like, "This is such a good job," "I give you such great pay/hours," "You kids don't appreciate how good I am to you," and "No other job would treat you this well."
So that begs the question... what is this job? It must be some really cushy gig, right? A luxurious situation, with part-time hours but full-time salary, opportunities up the wazoo, perks like none other... right? Wrong. "For reference," the woman writes, "I work 9-5 five days a week, and make $35,000 in New York City."
Cue the longest eye roll in human history.
Either this boss is living 50 years in the past, when $35,000 might have possibly been a comfortable living wage in New York, or she's completely delusional about what things cost these days. She sounds like a real Lucille Bluth to me. ("It's one banana, Michael. What could it cost, 10 dollars?")
As if that woeful misunderstanding of how well she pays her employee isn't bad enough, it manages to get worse.
This boss claims she likes to mentor young women, but often that "mentoring" translates to "mothering." For example, our advice-seeker wrote, she is "constantly reminding me to watch my purse on the subway, wear a helmet when I bike ... or explaining to me how to wash my hands properly (!).
"She's contantly bringing in food, and then offering it to us multiple times a day. 'Why don't you eat a banana?' [Lucille Bluth, I tell ya!] 'I brought you some good soup,' 'Take home this beet salad.' Whenever I politely decline, she gets offended."
This is really strange and it does sound like this boss is treating her employee like a child rather than an employee. It's gotten so bad that this poor woman has been "choking down food I don't want / secretly throwing it away." Once, when the boss caught her doing, she was "subjected to a tirade" about how ungrateful she was. But this is a job, not a dinner party!
Again, it only continues to go downhill from here. I wish I was joking.
The other strange thing this boss does is make her employee parade around the office in her old clothes. Bizarre, right? She brings in her old dresses and jackets, makes this woman put them on, and even goes so far as to ask her to wear them on certain days. It sounds like this woman is treating her employee like the daughter she always wished she had, and it's rightfully making her employee extremely uncomfortable.
To make matters worse, she almost fired this woman last month after she lived my nightmare and fell through a loading hatch in the street, breaking two ribs, hitting her head, and landing in the hospital. Because she didn't manage to call her boss to let her know she was in the hospital, her boss berated her and accused her (again) of not being grateful and not caring. The nerve!
On top of all that, she's been working full-time and receiving a salary, but she just found out she's technically a 1099 contract employee, which is definitely illegal.
This is an all-around nightmare situation, and the expert manager who she came to for advice basically told her as much. Alison Green, the "manager" of Ask a Manager, advised this woman to start looking for a job immediately. Like, yesterday. It is a totally toxic situation and she needs to get our of there as soon as possible. "None of what you described is normal, and it's not OK," she writes.
It's also definitely illegal to treat your full-time employee as a contractor, and she advises this woman to address the problem head-on. She wants her to approach her employer and say, "We can get in a lot of trouble for that, because federal law is very strict about who can be treated like a contractor versus and employee." But more than anything, Alison stresses getting the eff out of there and finding a new job.
Everyone in the comments was just as taken aback as Alison at the strange things this woman has had to put up with. "Do not be grateful for this job," one commenter wrote. "You are basically in an abusive relationship with a controlling partner." That's exactly what this is, and many commenters pointed this out. "This ticks multiple boxes on any abusive relationship checklist," one wrote. "Your boss is literally an abuser!" another comment reads.
Just because someone is your boss doesn't mean they get to treat you however they want. In fact, it's because they hold the power in the relationship that employers should be extra careful about how they treat and interact with their employees. What this woman is doing is wildly out of bounds in every single way.
Ask a Manager is, unfortunately, chock full of similarly bizarre stories of bosses abusing their power and making things uncomfortable for all involved.
This person's boss was similarly obsessed with food, except, instead of trying to force food on her employees, she made them share with her and even give her full meals, otherwise she'd flip out and do petty things, like offer to buy lunch for the rest of the office but not for the "greedy" person who wouldn't share. Seriously psychotic stuff!
Another reader wrote in wondering what to do about their boss who has "sent an offensive and racist political meme to all employees at our site."
One person wrote about their boss who trash-talks other employees to his subordinate, while yet another constantly comments on her employee's weight loss and food choices. And another brought her dog into work semi-regularly, let him pee by her employee's desk repeatedly, then got upset when her employee expressed that she'd rather not have that happen.
What is wrong with people? Why can't people just be normal and nice?! Does becoming a boss do something to the part of your brain that knows how to be a decent person? If you have a good boss, thank your lucky stars because it's seeming more and more like a one-in-a-million chance.