How to Spot a Bad Boss


My Old Boss. All Day. Everyday.

Being a junior, I was desperate for any position that could contribute to that 5-year experience you’re required to have post entering your desired field. So desperate, I was willing to forego absurd and hardly even legal work rules like “no meat allowed in the workplace” (true story).

Maybe working for insufferable managers at my first start-up has made me weary to pursue these up-and-coming companies who ironically enough, are willing to take chances on candidates with little to no experience.  These workplaces like to lure you in on the condition that you don’t mind a “chill” work environment and a boss that’s so-to-speak your “friend” or “like family”.

These words have quickly become red flags as I’ve come to interpret them to mean the exact opposite.

All the free pizza and birthday cake parties in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that these guys were far from “chill”. They relied heavily on micromanaging styles. Oftentimes I would feel a pair of eyes linger on my screen, and I wasn’t wrong. The moment I used the office communicator to speak to a coworker, my employer would ask nonchalant: “Hey Lauren. What do you need so-and-so for? Next time, just ask me instead. You can ask me anything.”

A lot of information was being withheld from their employees and when we sought to do our own research on why we were doing the things we were doing, our employer would immediately re-direct our attention to something else, preferably menial tasking. For example, our employers would advertise a product claiming  x percent of proceeds would be donated towards a targeted cause. But if the products weren’t converting, they would nix the idea entirely. God forbid you ask about the specifics because then you’ll have entered a whole new discussion, where the boss says “I feel like your questioning my ethics.” Which frankly, I was. But I really  didn’t feel it were necessary to have a “heart to heart” with my boss. All I wanted was a direct answer – where were these proceeds going to and how much? Not once did I ask about his personal opinions on charity but I heard no end to his illogical spiel.

Asking too many questions had its repercussions like being assigned to do the same task repeatedly throughout the day, or being bombarded with messages about how our ads were “bad”. I should also mention, they had very limited vocabulary. Many employees left bad/truthful reviews online effectively tarnishing the company’s reputation. So of course, the remaining employees were called into meetings to clear the air. These meetings sounded a lot like this:

Employer: “This isn’t a sweatshop (their words for verbatim) but we need our workers to understand that as one of Canada’s leading e-commerce companies, we need to work hard. We don’t want you to be using your phones, you should expect somedays you will be packaging in the warehouse with Aunty (their mother, whom everyone was told to call “Aunty”). We tell everyone this the day they get interviewed (false.)”

Essentially, the meetings were a threat to our income. To say the least, the job was a nightmare but taught me plenty. For every impressionable job seeker out there, beware of an employer who forcibly tries to befriend you as a manipulation tactic. Look for someplace professional.