Opinion: Bad bosses who abuse their employees keep people out of the workforce | Mary Duncan

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

*This is a work of nonfiction and opinion based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

I’ve had more than my fair share of terrible bosses.

That is the number one thing that is keeping me from applying to even more places than I already have in the past few months— the more I keep thinking about it and the more I keep getting closer to the workforce, the more I am reminded about my horrible bosses and how I said I’d never take crap from one again.

Not wanting to have a boss is keeping me from wanting to get a job, and it’s a barrier I need to break through because I need to move out of my parent’s house.

First, came bribery and blackmail.

I worked for my first terrible boss for six years, and looking back, I can’t believe that I allowed myself to keep being his go-fer for so long, because that is what I was.

My official title was “office manager” but really what it translated to was to do whatever my boss told me to do and more, even when those things started to become illegal.

You see, I knew he was stealing cash money from his own stores and not reporting it to the IRS.

When we just happened to get audited, he tried to make me lie to the IRS agents that came to our office to investigate him.

First, he told me he’d give me a bonus if I lied.

Then he told me not to expect a job for much longer if I didn’t say what he wanted me to say to them.

So, I told him to lay me off.

Give me a pink slip so I can go collect unemployment, or else I will tell the truth.

I got my unemployment.

I also had a nervous breakdown that put me in the hospital and then into an intensive outpatient program of therapy for months.


Because I was scared all bosses were going to be as bad as him.

Then came the shame and ridicule.

About six months later, I got a job as a waitress at a great restaurant that everyone in town loved. It was a busy place and I made great money and loved my coworkers and the regular customers that I waited on… I loved everything about that job, except for my boss, of course.

This boss would do things just to mess with you, like put an omelette on the line for me to pull for an order, and then he would take it away again.

“Where’s my omelette?” I asked him eleven.

“What omelette?”

“The one that was just right here.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, you didn’t have an omelette on your ticket.”

“Yes, I did, it’s right here,” I said, showing him the ticket.

I saw him slide the omelette onto the other side of the line while I looked down at my ticket.

“Oh, you mean this omelette?” he said. “Wake up, Mary!”

As if I were the one who caused that.

Another time, I was busy as hell making ice cream sundaes, which takes time away from every other waitressing obligation one has and is the number one cause of dropping the ball in restaurants everywhere, when one of my customers came to register to pay.

My boss was standing directly in front of the register, took the credit card and slip from their hand, and turned and shoved it in my face.

“Que?” I said, nearly in a panic trying to get my sundaes made while food was cooling on the line.

“Que? It’s a credit card, duhhhhh,” he said, waving it front of my face. “Come ring out your customer.”

I didn’t argue with him. I dropped what I was doing and rang my customer out.

I could hear my boss talking to another waitress behind me.

“Que? She asked me. What does she think I want when I’m waving a credit card in her face from her?

I sawhed, and a few minutes later made a comment I almost came to regret:

“I guess working as a team doesn’t apply to the management,” I said.

And I got written up and had two days taken away from me for “insubordination”, one of my least favorite words in the world.

Months went by with me taking his abuse until one day I quit.

Ever since then, I’ve been freelancing, or not freelancing.

Sliding by on savings, tax returns, paltry writing earnings and child support… afraid to get another job because I’m afraid to get another horrible boss.

No one should be afraid to go to work.

And yet here I am.

I’m afraid that no matter what job I am going to get, a horrible boss will come with it.

“Check the facts,” my therapist would say, and my mom says it, too:

Not all bosses are going to be terrible. There are good ones out there, you can’t go into this assuming that every boss you are ever going to have will be awful.

But based on my life experiences, I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise.

This is just another one of those areas in my life where fear is holding me back from something that I want and have to do.

At least, unlike with writing, this fear is legitimate.

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