Toxic bosses and trial periods

Bad bosses and nightmare workplaces

How many bad bosses are out there? I’m starting to wonder if they aren’t the majority rather than the exception, after two particularly bad apples in a row for T. Both seemed like great opportunities to start with, but the rot eventually became apparent. And both ended abruptly, thanks to the 90-day trial period rule brought in three years ago.

The slash and burn

An established industry name, it was talked up as a place with great potential where high achievers would be rewarded. While T was new to the industry, he quickly took to it; all the other team members said so and the big boss (as in, the one the company is named after) took note, publicly praising him.

A couple of months in, he and the other newbie got their marching orders. We don’t know about the other new guy, but T had never had any negative feedback at all, so this was completely unexpected. Being still within the 90-day period, the company didn’t have to give a reason for letting them go. (While it shouldn’t have any bearing on the matter at all, I’ll add that just before this, T injured his leg on a day off and wound up being off work for a week – hobbling around on crutches isn’t really conducive to the kind of job where you’re on your feet all day and interacting with customers. The week after was when he and the other guy got let go.)

In the following months, the company kept recruiting for entry level staff – and eventually, for an assistant manager. Thanks to the guys there who he’d kept in contact with, we learned that all the remaining staff quit in quick succession, and heard that managers got demoted due to the indeterminate firings they’d carried out.

Lesson learned: Unclear. Never sprain your ankle during the first 90 days?


The Jekyll/Hide boss

It was a small and new, growing company, almost all fresh staff, seemingly good prospects. However, a few weeks in it became clear there was little regard for customers (y’know, the lifeblood of any business), a lack of support and a temperamental boss. Out of the blue, he suddenly seemed to turn on T, and overnight T could do nothing right whatsoever – the badmouthing done behind his back to other staff was unbelieveable. Our best reading of this situation: a boss who picks out a golden boy to take under his wing, but if you fall out of his good graces at any point, you are OUT for good. He also treated other staff poorly, and the newest hire of all (newer than T) quit after just a couple of weeks. A few weeks and a lot of mental stress later, we decided T needed to follow suit – this was about 2 months in.

In this case, I suppose we benefited in that under the 90-day rules he could quit right away rather than giving 2 weeks’ notice – but the reason for quitting in the first place was a real fear that he was going to be pushed out (IMO, jumping is much preferable to being forced out). That’s how bad it was – how much the situation had deteriorated. Under these rules he could be let go at any time for no reason, as we already knew – no warnings or notice needed. If it wasn’t for that, we would have stuck it out until he found a new job.

Lesson learned: Unclear. Be nothing but an absolute doormat/yesman during the first 90 days?

I don’t have a problem with the 90-day rule; I absolutely understand the rationale for it. Theoretically nobody would abuse it as the cost/hassle of recruiting and training should be a huge deterrent. But as we all know, logic does not always reign supreme, even in the free market. (Hence why we badly need some legal standards around rental housing – case in point.) Especially in small companies with no HR – which are also the companies that most need this legislation – there’s so much potential for this kind of thing to happen unchecked. Oh, the irony.

The happiest way to spin this, of course, is to say it worked out and he’s well rid of them – better off out of those places. I’m really keen for him to temp until a genuinely good job comes along (a third short-term stint will look dire) and hopefully we are a bit better equipped to tell the difference.

Got any bad boss/nightmare workplace war stories?

4 thoughts on “Toxic bosses and trial periods

  • Reply Sense September 20, 2014 at 20:46

    You know my story! 🙂 That guy, my troublemaker who accused me of so many horrible things, asked for a hug the last time I saw him. It was at a leaving party at work for a former colleague so I couldn’t say no without looking completely grudge-y and bitter in front of all my current and past supervisors and coworkers. Very embarrassing.

    Sorry about T’s bad luck. That blows. Were the two jobs in the same industry? If so, maybe high turnover due to bad management is a common problem in that field?

    • Reply eemusings September 21, 2014 at 15:07

      Nope, pretty different fields! I would say the *culture* (or vibe) had similarities in both. Straight talkin’ and blokey. So, yeah.

  • Reply Revanche September 23, 2014 at 11:21

    I’d say that the vast majority of my bosses were terrible and/or toxic, or both.

    Honestly, T’s boss? Sounds very much like he uses the MO as one of my most toxic bosses: pick a favorite, act like they hung the moon but also expect certain unspoken things from them and for them to read your mind. The moment they “put a foot wrong”, which could be anything from having an opinion or disagreeing with their stupid, disastrous plans, or just generally acting professionally, turn on them. Let this include starting rumors about them, badmouthing them to their coworkers, undermining and isolating them as well as possible, and that’s just for a start.

    It can happen at any time, it’s just entirely in the deranged manager’s mind when it’s an appropriate time to exact punishment.

    Quite honestly, I STILL have not entirely healthy reactions from coping with that time and it was a long time ago. I was determined to stick it out for a certain period of time for personal reasons but it was bloody awful.

  • Reply dookie December 19, 2014 at 15:09

    Bad bosses happen to good people. After I left a company I’d been with for a while that was good but didn’t have the right opportunities for me to progress any further, I ended up with 3 crazy situations in a row before I finally landed on my feet again. You can’t help but think it’s you when things go south that much; I even made moves to leave the industry altogether because I thought maybe I just couldn’t hack it any more (it’s not a chick friendly industry), but I went for one last roll of the dice and luckily landed with a company where I really fit in. Super lucky, and now it’s been a few years the damage to my resume from that period is fading away rapidly. I wouldn’t say the experience was a valuable learning curve or any other grateful cliche, but I got through it. Looking back, I’d just say introspection is valuable to a point, but don’t take it too personally. Sometimes it really is them, not you.

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