Weekly Features


Tales from the workplace: best and worst bosses

October 18, 2016

Boss's Day was yesterday, Oct. 17. In honor of this, Inside IUPUI solicited readers to provide some of their best, as well as worst, boss stories. Here we present:

The Good

Fast Friend

Sometimes your boss becomes more than just your boss in the traditional sense of the word. In certain instances you spend more time with them than you do with your own family. They become your mentor, your colleague and even your friend.

My husband was undergoing a kidney transplant, and I was the living donor. This meant that I had to take off work for six weeks to heal. I was able to keep my boss informed every step of the way, and also to schedule the surgery right after our busy time of the year when I knew that things would be slow. He was extremely patient and understanding during this time.

About a week after the surgery, I received a card in the mail. I opened it thinking that it was a get-well card, which it was, but it was also so much more. In it, my boss had included a number of gift cards to all of the fast-food restaurants in my town. He said that this way I didn't have to worry about cooking, and I could just worry about healing and getting better. This was such a touching gesture that really showed what a caring individual he was, and it also made me feel appreciated for all of the effort that I put into my job.

Baby meets boss

Having worked for IUPUI for 10 years, I know IUPUI becomes family! Over my professional career here, I have grown in my personal life as well: My now-husband proposed on-campus in my office, my boss and co-workers attended my wedding, and I became a new mother.

I have developed a close relationship with my boss over the years. I consider her a mentor and a friend. She is wonderful. She granted me flexibility to continue on a professional path as well as to grow as a mother, something I will never forget.

I took time away from the office for my maternity leave, but I had to bring my newborn to campus and into the office so my IUPUI family could meet her. In the busy-ness and excitement of returning to the office after four weeks away, I am slightly distracted when I hand my baby to my boss to hold. I don’t realize my daughter is fussy when I slip next door into my personal office for a few minutes to reflect on what’s transpired over the previous four weeks, feeling good to be back if just for a few minutes. I then hear some commotion, and I come out to witness quite the sight.

My precious little baby has just relieved herself all over my boss! This was not just a need to change a diaper -- we are talking major-level, crisis-office-evacuation blowout. It has gone through all of the baby's clothing, dripping onto the floor, and is all over my boss's clothing. I am thoroughly embarrassed as I try to help clean, knowing I need a steam cleaner for the office and to offer to pay the dry-cleaning bill. To my comfort, it was quickly laughed away by all. My boss joked that my daughter knew she was “the boss,” soon to take Mommy away from her and back to the office, and was retaliating.

Needless to say, it was quite the first meeting. Something we will laugh about over the years.

Sleep deprived

I came in to work one day at my on-campus job, sleep-deprived after staying up to write a paper. For me, sleep deprivation means that I become instantaneously slap-happy. Halfway through my eight-hour day, my boss accidentally knocked over one of our walkie-talkies. I proceeded to cry from laughing so hard. From then on (it's been about five months), almost every time I'm in the office, he'll look over at my desk and deliberately knock over the radio. I still laugh every time. His understated sense of humor helps him have a great camaraderie with all of my co-workers.

He's the pun

The boss I had at my last job loved jokes more than anything in the world. Specifically, he liked puns. He told a joke at the beginning of every daily staff meeting to lighten the mood, and we always laughed more at him laughing at the joke than at the joke itself. When he told one that really tickled him, he'd laugh until he was breathless and cherry-red in the face. He was also a knee-slapper, which always made it funnier. The goal was to get him to laugh until he slapped his knee, so we employees would share the best pun-related jokes we could find. Some of my favorites from my time there include: "Why does Santa have three gardens? -- So he can ho ho ho" and "What do you call a fake noodle? -- An impasta!" Whenever someone would text him a joke, we'd suddenly hear "BAH HA HA HA!" coming from his office. It was a good working environment.

Full circle

In 1998, my boss helped me through some pretty challenging times by allowing me to work part-time for a period of almost half a year! I was ready to leave the university and she said, "No, I think we can work this out." During this time, she picked up a lot of my workload to make sure things were done. I got to keep my job, and I came back to work full-time when I was able. I gained an amazing respect for this woman, and although eventually I left the department, we remained close friends. Now, my dear friend who started out as my boss is in my care, as she suffers from Alzheimer's and never had children of her own. Life has a way of coming full circle. She was there when I needed her, and now I'm here for her because she needs me.

The Bad

How are you?

I had a boss (not at IU) who would lash out at her staff and then buy what I referred to as "guilt gifts." The best gift was the "guilty M&Ms" that she brought one afternoon after a unhappy morning of rantings.

One morning she was so disrespectful that colleagues in a different department told their boss about how she treated me. (They were in their offices and heard her speaking to me from behind a closed door.) The boss of the other department reported the behavior to his supervisor -- who happened to be my boss' supervisor. That led to her being nasty to me for getting her in trouble with her supervisor. (Keep in mind that I didn't go to her supervisor to complain about her behavior.)

One morning, she said "How are you?" I answered honestly: I'd had a flat tire that morning, so the day didn't start off great, and it didn't help that I was starting to get a cold. Her reply was possibly the favorite thing that she ever said to me: "You know, when people ask you how you are, they really don't care."

The stick

Many bosses operate with a "carrot and stick" approach: reward good behaviors with the "carrot" and punish bad behaviors with the "stick." My old boss simply used the stick. Everyone knew that if she came to your office, you were getting yelled at. On one occasion, a younger new employee had created problems the day before. When the boss entered her office the next morning, the new employee immediately started crying, knowing she was in trouble. This may have been a more dramatic reaction than typical, but the feeling was always the same for all of us.

The evil mastermind

While I was a working part-time on campus as a student, I had a boss who referred to my co-worker and me as her minions! As we all know from the movies, the purpose of the minions is to find the "biggest, baddest villain to serve," so we had a great time bringing humor into the workplace, always hinting at the fact that our boss was an evil mastermind.

Lipstick and a mask

I worked in a dental office that was privately owned. The dentist was very adamant that no one was allowed to take off work unless he was off -- which meant if you were sick, you came to work and wore a mask the whole day. There was a time that we had two dental assistants with the stomach flu who took turns in the bathroom all day in between working on patients. This dentist also "encouraged" that all of the women in the office (we were all women) wear lipstick and hairpieces. The lipstick was to make our teeth look whiter, and the hairpieces were just to make us look nicer (I guess). Needless to say, I didn't work with him for very long.

The Ugly

Let me read you the email I just sent you

In one of my previous positions at another college, I had an EXTREME micromanager for a boss. He always wanted to know where I was at all times. Anytime he sent me an email to share some information with me, he would then come to my office to ask me if I got his email, and he would then recite the entire email to me, as if I couldn't read!! There was one occasion when I was in the restroom when my boss had something he wanted to tell me, so he asked another co-worker to go into the restroom and let me know that he wanted to talk to me...really!!?? How inappropriate! And the worst part is, he didn't find anything wrong with that! This last incident really took the cake for me and was one of the reasons why I left that employer and looked for another job. I had found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I wasn't sharing the information yet, but I wanted to let my boss know because I would be needing time off once a month for doctor's appointments. So, I told my boss that I was pregnant -- AND that I wasn't sharing the information yet publicly so to please keep it confidential. Well, a few days later, some of my co-workers were coming up to me saying "congratulations"! I thought, how in the world did they find out?? I wasn't really showing, so it wasn't physically obvious. One of my co-workers told me that my boss told them in the break room during lunch. I was so angry! I immediately went to my boss and asked why he shared the information. His response was, "Well, everyone would find out anyway, so I didn't think it was a big deal." I was so angry and upset, and I almost filed a complaint against him. Needless to say, he was definitely not the right supervisor for me. I left that job a few months later and never saw him again!

Round and round

Before I came to IU, I worked in the human resources division at another place. The employment manager (my boss) was accused of sexual harassment by my co-worker. My boss was asked to resign, which he did. They immediately promoted my co-worker (the accuser) to be the new employment manager. However, the HR administrator didn't completely believe the story, so he left the accused open to rehire. Within two weeks, another division hired him at a higher salary. The new employment manager eventually left after being accused of having a relationship with a subordinate, which was against HR policy. However, four months later he was re-hired as HR manager. And who was the person who broke the news to me before it was publicly announced and no one else knew? The original manager who was accused of sexual harassment and forced to resign but was still being informed of hiring decisions within HR. And he was happy for his accuser even though he had flatly denied everything 12 months earlier. I swear I didn't make this up...

I should have known

I should have known he was a bad boss from the beginning....

  • When he called me on my family vacation over spring break to see if I was going to take the job he had offered to me the week before.
  • When he told me I was "nice to look at" after a meeting.
  • When he interrupted my class to ask me about a number and continued to carry on a conversation for five minutes.
  • When he lied to the board about something I had told him.
  • When he refused to take my letter of resignation and then refused to talk to me after I gave him my letter of resignation.
  • When he told people I was staying on in a different capacity (on the board).
  • When he told people he was disappointed I was leaving because we were "such good friends" (not even close to the truth, and creepy at that!).

Yeah, I should have know from the beginning, but it took me two years to figure out he was a BAD BOSS!!!

But I have an awesome one now at IU and couldn't be happier!

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