Good Boss, Bad Boss

We’ve all had them: managers and bosses who will forever hold a special place in our memories. Some were dedicated, encouraging mentors, from whom we learned so much about how to succeed on the job, in our future careers, and even in life in general. And then there are those OTHER bosses we Chicks will never forget…

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

Hmm…so hard to choose. Actually, the good bosses are easy. (I’ve had exactly two of them.) At my first publishing job I worked for four crazed editors, including one who moonlighted as a romance writer. She handed me a celebrity bio of Richard Gere for my first edit project. I worked really hard on the opening chapter, rewriting it in perfect grammar, and I was sooo proud of myself. Imagine my shock when she started erasing all the red pencil marks so fast and furiously that you could hear her twenty-plus bangle bracelets jangling all the way down the hall. I protested that the original version read like a trashy magazine. “That’s the whole point,” she said. “No one likes perfect grammar.” Lesson learned.

And the bad bosses?  There was the one who couldn’t stand the occasional clink of my one bangle bracelet from eight doors down. And another who yelled at me for using her office when she was at a spa and I had to give my own desk up for the publisher’s temp. Because, you know, what if I’d snooped? Who did I think I was? Then there was the guy who threw a typewriter out an open NYC office window (not mad at ME—just some overly-demanding author). But the booby prize goes to the boss from my brief foray into the financial world, as an office manager.  (I had two little kids at home and was desperate to make actual money.) He pulled me aside and said he needed a favor that wasn’t part of my job description. Could “we” please start wearing higher heels, more makeup, and “dress up a little more” so “we” could impress new clients by serving them catered lunches in the executive conference room? I almost broke my newly-be-pearled neck crossing those marble floors carrying china platters on a silver tray. “We” soon decided no amount of money was worth playing 80s-Corporate-Barbie, and “we” ran straight back to publishing for good in those sky-high heels.

 Ellen Byron


For me, a good boss is any boss who’ll give me a job in television. But I  have one bad boss who stands head and shoulders above all other bad bosses I’ve had.

A few years after graduating college, I got a job as an assistant to the assistant to the Executive Director of the Dramatists Guild (Yes, that was my actual title.) It was a great position for a twentysomething transitioning from acting to playwriting. I got to meet and work with theatrical legends like Edward Albee, Mary Rodgers, Lanford Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, who were only a few of the iconic DG board members. That was the fantastic part of the job. The less fantastic part was working for the ED himself, who was basically an it-rhymes-with-stick. I’ll just share one anecdote that will tell you everything you need to know about him.

I used to suffer from terrible cramps. Like the kind that made you feel faint and double over with pain. He called me into the office one day to take a letter – he’d sent me to do a speed writing class, sidebar, I still sometimes use a few things I remember from it – anyway, in the middle of dictating, he noticed I looked sick and asked what was wrong. (Most likely fearing it might be something he could catch.) I was honest and told him I had bad cramps. To which he replied, “As long as women menstruate, they’ll never be equal.”

That is a direct quote. And I bet you’re not surprised that I remember it verbatim.

Vickie Fee

vickieMost of my jobs were working at newspapers. But I did a short stint working in corporate communications. The president of the company, who I would’ve thought had better things to do, micro-managed the communications department. To be clear, we weren’t producing sales copy and advertising, this was all inter-company communications. He made us rewrite copy for newsletters, reports and such multiple times. Sometimes, I swear, I think we kept changing it until we ended up back at the original wording. He also wanted everything justified text (not justified left and jagged right like the copy in this post, but justified left and right). Justified text means sometimes you have odd spacing between words. He would go ballistic over any spaces, so we spent all our time adjusting the tracking. It was nuts. But the most nerve-wracking thing was that he would randomly call us individually. I’d pick up my phone and one of his personal secretaries (he had three) would say, “Hold the line for President Wah Wah.” Then came the Inquisition. And the yelling. I lived in fear of answering my phone.

Kellye Garrett


In 2011, I moved back to New Jersey with absolutely zero job prospects. The intention was to transition into technical writing since it paid well, but that was easier said than done (Spoiler Alert: It took me a year to get an entry level tech writing job and I literally lasted three months before I left do to marketing.) So I took a lot of temp jobs, one of which was handing out flyers for MetroPCS. It was my first time having a job where folks were going through the motions. Everyone from my “boss” to fellow “team members” did not care. My “boss” would give the cool jobs to his friends and have the rest of us trying to hand out flyers in 20 degree weather. (Spoiler Alert: We would hand out just enough for a few pics then throw the rest in the garbage. Sorry trees who died in vain.) He’d also literally wait until like 1 in the morning to tell you where you were working the next day. Needless to say, it was mess. I don’t miss it at all.

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

Having been self-employed for a number of years now, I have to say that my favorite boss is… me! I am completely in agreement with myself about how much work I should be taking on and what time I get in in the morning. I also allow myself to work in my pajamas and bring my cats to work, which is a short, 30-second commute down to the home office. My worst boss? Oh, where to start? There was the mall job where I worked alongside the store owner who expected 17-year-old me to take it every bit as seriously as he did. (Spoiler: I didn’t.) There was the gross, stringy-haired boss who made lewd comments in the office back before anyone knew what sexual harassment even was. And there was the bipolar ad-agency creative director (possibly also addicted to coke) who would love our work one minute and hate it the next — sometimes the very same work. Jeez, no wonder I chose to work for myself!

Cynthia Kuhn

cynthiaHave had some fantastic bosses–what they all had in common was a kind way of treating employees, a motivational style, and a great sense of humor. Also, you can tell when someone wants you to learn things that will not only benefit the work at hand but will also allow you to grow as a person. Deeply grateful for having had some terrific mentors!

As far as worst bosses go, I’m taking the fifth. 😇



Readers, did you have a boss who still looms large in your memory? Let us know in the comments below (no real names, please, to protect the guilty…er, innocent)!

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28 thoughts on “Good Boss, Bad Boss

  1. Great topic! My favorite boss was a Catholic School principal who stepped between two boys fighting in the cafeteria and gave them THE LOOK. End of fight. What courage! From that day forward I practiced THE LOOK in the mirror until I could freeze a misbehaving pre-teen in his tracks.

    And the worst bosses? I write academic murder mysteries; enough said! –Kate, writing as C. T. Collier

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ellen, you win! I would have been fired and/or arrested, as that man would have gotten my memo pad up side his head! What man in his right mind messes with a woman having cramps?? Geez Louise!
    By the way, you Chicks rock! Love your books!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Two best bosses. First was the one who was afraid to hire me straight out of college because my GPA was too high. She was afraid I had the book smarts, but couldn’t translate them to the real world. (spoiler, I proved her so wrong!). She was also the fun boss, because we had a mandatory meeting at P.T.s the night Chippendales were performing.

    My all time favorite boss was the man who had no problems saying straight out when I f’ed up. He could make me so sad when he told me that. But after, I would go back to my desk, think about it, and only one time he was wrong.

    My worst boss? Heck, too many. Probably my current boss. He says I’m an excellent worker, but he seems to have no faith in my abilities. I got a very prestigious award a few years ago, and I was the only recipient there without my boss. The worst thing done? We had an intern one summer, and he was asking for stuff to give her to do. I had a case file 6 inches thick that had to be copied twice to give to reviewers. I asked for her to do it. His response? “She’s too good to do something that menial”! So…. I, a GS-13, making too much $$$ to mention, had to spend an entire day making copies, because the INTERN was apparently “over-qualified”.

    And you chicks wonder why I am so insecure about me ever getting an agent, let alone published!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, man! What a jerk! It reminds me of Steve Carrell on “The Office” fawning over Ryan the intern! I vote for the Chippendales boss!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My “bad boss” started out as my “good boss.” She was incredible supportive…right up until it wasn’t (the company had hired another VP who clearly wanted me gone and she didn’t even try to fight for me).

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My favorite boss has turned into a friend I go see plays with. She really helped me learn a lot I was able to use at my future jobs, and she kept me around as a temp for a year and a half.

    My least favorite boss was the guy who yelled at people at least once a day. And he’d point fingers and wag them. But if you pointed a finger, he’d immediately tell you how much he hated it when someone did that. The company was just about as bad to work for. It was a temp to hire job, but I found something else before they hired me. On my last day, he said, “I wish I’d gotten more say into whether you stayed or not.” I said thank you, but inside I was thinking “You’ve had it since the day I started here.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I have to say, I thought I had written Marla C’s post up until she got to the bad bosses part. Maybe we’re really the same person; there aren’t too many Marlas out there. Everything she said about being self-employed is spot-on. Some people around here might even be under the impression I quit my job because I missed my cats too much during the day. I cannot confirm or deny. As for my pre-self-employment days, I’ve had more good bosses than bad ones. Or maybe I’m choosing to not remember those.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We should start a union: Self-Employed Marla’s of America? I think quitting your job to spend more time with your cats is a completely valid reason, BTW! (That’s why it’s in our union bylaws.) 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Loving all these stories! It’s amazing more bosses (fictional, of course) don’t find
    themselves bumped off in more murder mysteries.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Very entertaining reading–both the post (not what I wrote of course, but what you all wrote) and the comments!! There are so many story kernels in there too…maybe we should group-write a new cozy series: The Bad Boss Mysteries. The amateur sleuth is a temp and keeps getting horrible placements where crimes happen!

    Liked by 2 people

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