Talk Back: Office Horror Stories

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In the article "Why Your Boss May Start Sweating The Small Stuff" TIME writer Julie Rawe examined how more companies are training managers to be more sensitive to their employees' feelings. Here is a selection of what readers cited as their biggest pet peeves about their boss or workplace.

From a food sales rep in Chicago:

Beyond the checking of the BlackBerry—how about my boss writing emails during my annual review! I stopped talking and he looked up at me like I was dumb for not continuing. He starts waving his hand, gesturing, while telling me urgently to "Go on." What is that about? Not to mention his phone-answering. During a meeting he was sitting in on, with one of my biggest customers, he picked up the phone and made a call!

But the last, and just most annoying, of all, he will walk into my tiny cubicle, not paying attention to what I am doing—oftentimes when I am on the phone, mid-sentence with a customer—and whack me on the arm to get my attention!

From a government lab technician in Indiana:

My boss eats lunch with certain subordinates and tells them confidential information about other subordinates.

From a supervisor at a California sports venue:

One of the employees that I supervise was reprimanded by me, then later again by our boss. Since I had already handled the situation, I asked our boss how she learned of his misdeed. She said not to worry about it. This happened a few more times. One day, I passed by her office to find her listening on an intercom. She had bugged our offices. Morale plummeted immediately and took another hit when our union did nothing.

From a lawyer in Washington, DC:

After finishing law school, I accepted a position at an AMLAW 100 law firm as a litigator. I hated the experience. While the microinequities seemed innocent (e.g., asking me to get the coffee and/or make copies or introducing me by the wrong name to opposing counsel during a conference call), I quickly grew tired of it all. I quit after only 11 months. During my exit interview, the HR manager commented, "And to think of all the money we spent on recruiting..." (Recruiting lawyers, especially from top-tier law schools, is unbelievably expensive!) I absolutely love my new job! Glad to be gone...

From an industrial-products entrepreneur:

Your article struck a painful chord. I worked with two partners for over 30 years. They had started the company together—but with my help—before I was able to join them on a full-time basis 3 years later. Together, we built a struggling business into a $33 million success.

On the day we finally sold the company and were walking out the door, the two of them stopped, turned to one another, and hugged. These were guys I'd worked, sweated, planned, laughed and cried with for over three decades. They were good guys. And on every other occasion, they acted as if I were a full partner. But in that precise moment, I knew where I had always stood.

Lonely? Three years later, the feeling still hasn't left. The power of small signals? You'd better believe it.

From a corporate communications director in Louisville, Ky.:

To approach my boss with even a simple question is to be subjected to incredible rudeness, unmistakable signals that what I need to discuss just doesn't matter—at all. During such encounters, he sighs, loudly and often; gets a slack-jawed, glaze-eyed expression just 15 to 20 seconds into the conversation; makes sounds like "ughh, ughh" to seem engaged; and asks no questions, but inevitably lets you know the "meeting" is over by either picking up documents to read or turning completely around to read e-mails on his PC ... Ironic how such "micro" inequities have such a HUGE demoralizing effect on employee morale. I always trudge away from his desk totally disgusted.

From a training manager in Frisco, Tex.:

I worked with a manager who tunes most people out after fifteen words. His rationalization is that everyone should be able to get their point across in 15 words or less—or else it's not worth the time to listen. Complex multi-million dollar projects were decided by summaries of summaries.

This is the same person who never answers his phone before 9:30 a.m. because he hates having to listen to all the "whiny people-crap excuses" the slacker employees come up with.

From a technical writer in Paris:

I had an appointment with my boss to do my annual review. He had allocated an hour for it. Before the meeting, I was to do a self-assessment, which I did. During the meeting, we were to discuss the self-assessment and he was to add his comments.

He arrived 20 minutes late for the review. During our discussion, he took three telephone calls and allowed us to be interrupted twice by colleagues who had "urgent" or "important" matters to discuss with him. We never finished the review, and he never signed off on it. HR never got after him to sign off on the review, either.

Although I did get a raise, I was not made to feel that I was a valued member of the team.

From a software course developer in Dallas:

When my boss is here, there's a tension that permeates everything. Your breath catches in your chest and just sticks there for the entire day—no heartburn or reflux medicine can remove the feeling! The man never recognizes anyone for a job well done, yet he never yells at anyone for screwing up. He rarely ever cracks a smile or laughs, but he doesn't yell. It's almost like he's a robot, an automaton that lives to sit in his office and go over minute details of things people will never see or read. He's not married, doesn't have any children, and he has no interest in knowing the names of anyone's spouses or children. I'm not sure if there's anything called "positive personality-in-a-can" but if there was, he would be the first person I would recommend use it!