A few weeks ago, we asked the Good.Co community to tell us about the worst job they’ve ever had. To be honest, we only expected to receive a small handful of stories – and nothing too shocking. Let’s just say – we underestimated just how bad bad jobs can get.
To our surprise, our inbox was absolutely flooded with workplace horror stories. From physically, emotionally and verbally abusive bosses to countless stories of sexual harassment – each story we’ve received has been worst than the next.
While reading through submissions, we noticed some interesting patterns and took the opportunity to pull some data. (Stories after the jump)
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Ready to read the horror stories? Here are 20 of the worst stories we received – check them out, then share your worst workplace story with us in the comments section!
1. The Devil
Wears Throws Prada
“I worked for a woman who could not remember my name. When she needed my attention, she would throw pens, pencils, highlighters, staplers and even cups out of her office to summon me.”
2. Toilet Paper: Definitely A Luxury
“I once worked at a film company so small and poor that I had to budget the petty cash (which only got refilled if my boss had $20 to the company name) between choosing to buy pens or toilet paper. Let’s just say I couldn’t afford to buy a full pack of either.”
3. I Hope They Serve Rice In Hell
“I worked for a boss from hell. He had crazy temper tantrums and even threw his lunch at an employee after the restaurant screwed up and gave him fried rice instead of white rice. It was the worst company I had ever worked at, and I am so glad his parent company fired him for not following their ethics! What comes around, goes around!”
4. A Grandiose Failure
“I worked for several years at a top insurance company leading digital and generating flawless results. The CMO moved on and was replaced by a guy with a grandiose vision that included hiring his own leaders. He hired a bunch of nitwits who fired some very good people (me included). Broke my heart because I loved the wonderful, passionate team that I’d assembled and now, a few years later, the grandiose vision has collapsed and my team has scattered to other companies. Still love and miss that team and sad to see the destruction his hubris brought upon those fine people.”
“I worked for a very small company (under 20 employees) and we were discussing a rebranding with senior leadership, something very exciting to be a part of. During one of our meetings, I was showing a presentation on the large monitor in the conference room. I had my hair in a pony tail that I guess was “bouncy”. I turned my head to look at the screen, and the next thing I know the CEO grabbed my ponytail and used it to move my head! Mortifying, infuriating, and as a woman, something that makes you feel value-less instead of valuable. I gave my notice a week after that meeting.”
6. Ultimate HR Fail
“I was in the middle of a lunch meeting with a really fantastic client — a professional sports team. We were sitting with the Vice President, and I was the only female at the table. My boss was talking about our corporate culture and policies, and turned to me and said, “If you have an HR problem, why don’t you come sit on my lap and tell me about it?” I was mortified, everyone awkwardly laughed, and I’ve never felt worse as a female employee.”
7. That’s ONE Way To Use An Inbox…
“I was a personal assistant and one of my shit-kicker jobs was to make my boss’ coffee everyday. He’d ask for it to be piping hot then when I gave it to him, piping hot, he would leave it sitting there for a good hour – untouched. Then when he decided to drink it, the coffee was cold and he would come to my desk, tell me it was cat piss and pour it into my inbox. Needless to say, we ended on bad terms.”
8. Sexual Harassment: Still Not OK, Even In Amsterdam
“I left a job at a reputable company to join a start up with one of my customers. I didn’t realize that he was – in his words – a “sociopath”. ‘Business trips’ to foreign countries were really just attempts to sleep with me. I know you’re thinking “lawsuit”, but this gem told me at the very beginning that “Lawsuits aren’t about who is right or who is wrong – they are about who has the most money to fight the longest.”
The final straw was a trip to Amsterdam for a “customer meeting” that turned out to be another attempt to get me “to stop fighting it and just spend the night.” I told him that “I would rather die” and escaped to my room. I woke up to a note under my door the next morning saying that he had left the country and I needed to seriously think about my decisions. I changed my flight and went back to the US that afternoon and never looked back. The kicker? He closed up shop and didn’t even send me a W-2 at tax time leaving me to clean up the mess with the IRS. Lesson learned.”
9. World’s Worst Boss
“My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer about 2 years ago. It was cause by smoking – my mistake for mentioning this to my boss. This week my mother went into surgery to remove the part of the lung that chemo and radiation had ruined. The day of her surgery he told me I couldn’t go because needed to be out of the office that day, but that the next day I could work from home and go see my mother, which I agreed to unhappily. I went into the office that morning to pick up a file or two I needed to complete my work from home, and the first thing he asked me was if my mother had a cigarette yet. How insensitive!”
10. The Nonprofit That’s Making The World A
Better Toxic Place
“Any bad job can zap your energy, but only dream jobs can crush your soul. While bad jobs frustrate and belittle, dream jobs keep their hooks in you. They come laced with toxic hope, teasing with the idea that this job just rocked your world like you originally hoped it would. The job that broke my heart was an unpaid internship at a non-profit that does exactly what I want to do with my life, what I went to grad school for. And this organization had a history of hiring their interns! It was my perfect opportunity to get into the non-profit world! But love always blinds you in the beginning.
My supervisor spent my first three months on the job rebuffing my requests for conversations. Still, this is organization’s mission is what I want to do. I can’t emphasize that enough. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke up in meetings I wasn’t required to be in, and volunteered for jobs that an unpaid intern wouldn’t normally do.
This led to a project in a third world country that was incredible. When one of the staff resigned, I told them I wanted her job and asked how to be considered. My supervisor told me he had no idea I was interested in such endeavors and I needed to work harder to show them. I sat with my supervisor and altered my resume to his specifications in order to apply for that position. I followed all of their instructions and was rewarded with blank stares, mocking laughter, and shock that I was even trying. After 13 months, they eventually broke the silence with, “We’ve hired someone else, and she’s taking your desk”
There were days that no one talked to me or even knew I was there, not to mention the bullying that occurred. Eventually I found out they were just waiting for me to leave. So all of my dreams about hard work that lead to me changing the world were squashed by a paycheck with someone else’s name on it.”
11. Hiring Ethical Idealists… To Abuse, Of Course
A couple of years ago, I was offered the position of Director of Marketing. The manager had told me during my interview that they were seeking empathetic and ethical idealists, which describes me exactly. I believed that this very well could be my “dream” job. Right before the completion of my training, my supervisor sent me sexually harassing messages while he was drunk. Not only was I not interested and affronted, but as a happily married woman, my husband and I were both appalled. I filed a complaint with the manager. Rather than my supervisor being held accountable, I was blamed for having given my supervisor my phone number. When I mentioned that I had been asked to give management my phone number just in case of emergency situations, I was ignored.
I decided to stick with the training. I felt positively. I believed that perhaps I could help change the company and turn it into a better one. In fact, I had big ideas that would inspire and motivate everyone to commit themselves wholeheartedly into doing the best job while also being ethical. I believed that the zeal I expressed through my enthusiasm and excitement would be enough to get through to everyone.
Following the completion of my training, I was handed a hefty packet which included about 100 pages worth of contractual obligations that every single employee was asked to sign before going out in the field on their own. I was told to read through the whole entire packet before signing. I was horrified with what I was reading. The contract stated that:
1) If I ended my employment that I would need to pay $100 for every single time I work in the field in the future, for the rest of my life; and another $500 if it happened to be one of their former, current, and/or future clients.
2) They reserved the right to make me and my family members uninsurable for car, home and medical for my/their own selves/personal property if they so chose, since I would be driving a company car during working hours.
3) They reserved the right to have my drivers license revoked for the rest of my life if they so chose, since I would be driving a company car during working hours.
4) My heirs and/or the executors of my estate would be held to this contract, along with all of my descendants.
I was left with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth as I realized that my “dream job” was in fact, a scam. The disappointment was immense. Still, I thought that perhaps all of this was all just a misunderstanding. As such, I told the owner that I would need to have my lawyer go over the contract as it had been laid out in the contract stating that I should do so before signing. He feigned compliance with an air of condescension and a voice that bordered on syrupy. He told me to call my attorney and motioned with his arm in a sweeping gesture. Perhaps he didn’t think that I had an attorney. I dialed my attorney. She was busy and so I left a message with her secretary. After I disconnected the call, the manager grabbed the contract from me. He told me to leave and never come back.
12. A Soul (And Cow) Crushing Gig
In high school I worked in an animal rendering plant. They would render dead animals into high protein that went into chicken feed. The place looked like a music video for Black Sabbath – augers, dead animals, the works. It was a small operation of 4 people. The smell was strong. When my car broke down my friend regretted giving me a ride to work. Can you picture a dead cow the size of a Beetle car turned into mush in about 4 seconds? I worked that job from January til July… thought I was going to get killed by some of the heavy equipment falling on me.
13. The World’s Cheapest Bully
My job from hell started innocently enough. I answered a newspaper want ad for a receptionist position for a product manufacturer. Within a week of starting, he expected me to basically be the office manager, IT support, graphic and web designer, AND technical support for the products we made and expected me to know all of the items in the 300-page catalog – all for $10 an hour.
Then, I had a bad car accident. He threatened to hire someone else if I didn’t return in a month, so against my better judgement, I went back to work with severe chronic pain. Because I was not as speedy as I had been, he became a bigger bully and harassed me. Meanwhile, my co-worker (who had been hired to take some of the load off me way before the accident) was able to take two week vacations, get married, and go on a honeymoon. Each time she came back, she complained she couldn’t handle the work and it was passed back onto me.
I became severely depressed and unable to function. I went to see a psychiatrist and he made me apply for temporary disability so I could get some help. I told my boss that I needed some times off and he told me that everything would be fine and he’d help me out, that I should have come to him sooner. My very first day off on disability (which was the very next day), he sent me a terse letter saying I was fired. The next day, he started calling and texting, half the time trying to explain why he had to fire me and the other half begging me to come back to work. I never spoke to him again and I’m currently working on getting healthy and getting treated for my chronic pain from the car accident injuries, which includes multiple back and neck herniations, brain injury, fibromyalgia, injured arms and hands, depression and anxiety disorders. If this isn’t an epic work horror story, I don’t know what is!
14. See Also: Tiger Woods
For 2.5 years, I worked as a the only designer in a 20 person startup, maintaining an iOS app, website and blog for $30k under the going rate with promises of more money coming soon. One night, I was stuck in the office at 11pm working on an investor deck with my CEO over Skype. In true crazy CEO fashion, he waited last minute to go over any changes he wanted, and we were presenting to a huge VC firm. He was drinking wine during the call, and after 20-30 minutes I notice he started acting a little strange, and it only got worse. He started to randomly ask me inappropriate questions, like if I would jet off with him, and travel the world, and started randomly calling me “His Special Girl” and speaking incoherent sentences.
I tried to ignore this and get back on track. Then, he got up to take a call and I heard him say, “No baby. You should come over. No you’re more than that. Please come over. Baby no, you mean more to me than just a booty call. Come over.” I told him I should go and finish the presentation myself, and he said “Probably a good idea, I took an Ambien before this call and I should get to bed.”
…Yeah. So not only was he drunk, but also on Ambien, and I’m pretty sure he broke every sexual harassment law possible.
15. “A Million Girls Would Kill For This Job”
Glamour, elegance, and prestige all describe fashion, yet as an underling in the industry all I felt was abuse. Abuse didn’t come directly from anyone person; it was just the nature of the industry that had become institutionalized.
I started off working as a fashion design intern at a highly regarded fashion brand in LA. Even though it was an unpaid intern, I knew that I would learn lots from the industry. I worked closely with the design team and started to pickup things that paid employees where doing. Curious, I was poking around to get a sense of the pay range. To my surprise, learned that Design Associates were getting paid as much as a receptionist. This blew my mind. I knew that margins in manufacturing and fashion aren’t as great as in tech or healthcare. However, I thought it was rather ironic that the owners of the company would arrive nearly everyday in a stretch limo. This and a number of red flags left a bad taste in my mouth.
At the end of the summer a friend and I compared notes on our internships. She was with a well-known fashion brand in NYC. The culture at her company was a lot better than mine, however, the pay was still very low. So low that we mentally calculated that we would be losing money if we decided to work entry-level jobs at either places because the cost of living would not be supported by the estimated salaries. Finding a sugar daddy was certainly not an option for me.
Being severely underpaid for a highly competitive position, working long hours to prove yourself only to lose a promotion due to nepotism, and needing a sugar daddy for financial support are the reasons why I fell out of love with fashion.
16. The Boys Club
I was hired by a fast-growing company to be GM of their newest location. The company was owned by Italian businessmen, whom I met while training in one of their current locations. While I was there, they told me that I belonged in the kitchen because I’m a woman, and that I didn’t understand how things were because I’m not Italian. I was so shocked that I laughed at them and gave my notice the next day.
17. Passion: You’re Doing It Wrong
I nicknamed my direct boss “Satan’s Mistress”. After working this job for several months, I realized that I was truly in hell. One day, she began arguing with a coworker behind closed doors. After arguing for 30 minutes, she told him, “I love seeing you this upset, it means you’re passionate about working here!” I told him, “Passionate? I’m passionate enough to push her off the roof!”
After several six-day/70-hour weeks, I finally finagled a few days off and found a new job. The look on her face after reading my resignation letter was the best feeling in the world!
18. UNhappy Birthday To You
On my coworker’s birthday, I bought her a card and made the mistake of trying to get all 15 of my coworkers to sign it. I was told that birthdays “just aren’t done here”. Apparently an office poll was taken years ago, and everyone opted out of signing birthday cards.
…Cool, I work with a bunch of grouches.
19. Apparently Advil Cures All?
I changed departments at the company I worked for, which resulted in getting a new manager. He took me out for lunch to talk about the transition and when I communicated to him that the reason I telecommuted was because of a disability, he said to me (not kidding!) “So, what… you have to take Advil or Tylenol or something?” and refused my request for accommodations. I requested accommodations via the formal process and their recommendation was to allow me to telecommute to prevent my disability from getting worse, yet he refused again. In the end, I had to leave my position in the company, but the shitty manager and his boss (who also was also involved) got to stay.
20. He’s Blinded By His Own Douchiness…
I worked at a three person agency run by a man who was prone to making ridiculously ignorant comments. For example, one time a female competitor tried to pitch our main client. He became irate, and spent over an hour yelling about how the only reason this woman was successful is because she “shows up in her miniskirts, shoving her t*ts and blonde hair in her client’s faces”. However, his sexist comments weren’t even the worst of it.
Our #1 client was a nonprofit that worked with the blind. As we were working on a campaign to promote accessibility, he turned to me and said – in complete seriousness, “Man… blind people have it so f*cking easy!” and proceeded to go into a tangent about the many reasons why he felt blind people were “lucky”. …Needless to say, that was my cue to leave the agency.
*Note: Some stories have been lightly edited for length, clarity or to remove identifying details.
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What’s YOUR Story?
Does your story belong on this list? If you’ve had the job from hell or worked for the world’s worst boss, we want to hear your story – leave it in the comments section!