Are You Working Under A Bad Boss? Here Are 5 Signs To Look Out For

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Have you ever been placed in an awkward position at work, the kind you wish you could just sleep away and forget about? 

Having a boss who takes advantage of their authority makes for a lot of sleepless nights for their staff. But how do you tell?

Here are 5 signs you are working for a boss that you don’t want to work with:

#1. Abuse of Power

“My boss slept with my colleague and sold the company’s information to the competitor.” — Aimee

When I first joined the company, I looked up highly to my sales director. He was a complete gentleman: Smart, intelligent and so full of charisma.

He was an exceptional salesman. 

I was a young enthusiastic woman who only wanted to learn from him. I used to follow him when he went to do sales pitches for our high profile clients in East Malaysia.

It happened when we were on one of our trips. 

As we checked in at the hotel, we discovered the secretary had made an incorrect booking for one room, instead of two. And the hotel was fully booked that day.

It was midnight and my boss offered a solution: Why not stay in the same room as there were two single beds anyway? 

It was an awkward offer which I declined immediately. 

I told him I had friends nearby whom I could ask for a place to crash for a night.

The following week, as I was back at the office, I told my colleague Meela about the incident, somewhat jokingly.

But later, Meela came to me and told me in private that it happened to her, too.

Where once might have been an accident, a second time can only mean it was planned.

They had slept together.

Afterwards, he made it clear to her that he wasn’t looking for any emotional relationship. They mutually agreed for a no-strings-attached relationship.

I was impressed with Meela at the way she handled things.

“I liked him. He said he liked me too, but he is married.”

They maintained their secret affair for quite some time. 

Apart from that, I found out another shocking story about him.

I was working on a bid proposal when he asked me to make an amendment and put a much higher mark-up on the initial price we were bidding. 

With the price pushed way above the market rate, it seemed like he wanted us to lose on purpose.

Of course, we didn’t get the job.

A month later, my boss resigned to venture out to do his own business. 

We found out later that he had started a business with the company’s main competitor – one we regarded as our nemesis. 

My charming, gentlemanly, and capable boss had been the mole in the company all along, backstabbing us and selling information about the company for his own benefit. It’s a shame. 

However, his business didn’t last long. A year had passed, and we haven’t heard about him since.

#2. Bribery

“I was bribed by my boss to do appraisal reports.” — Yi Ching

Yi Ching (not her real name) was a fresh grad who had just started working in a reputable oil & gas company. This is her story from her point of view:

The company I worked at had a very strict policy on appraisal time they’d invested a big chunk of their work culture into the appraisal system.

Despite that, I remembered how the system failed. 

That day, my boss called me for a quick discussion in his room and gave me an assignment: Review and compile everyone’s appraisals. 

“Oh, and also, can you do the writeup for my appraisal summary?” He asked, in a tone that wasn’t a question.

I wasn’t sure if that was allowed, so I asked him if it was legal for me to do it on his behalf. He assured me that it was okay, because he had just assigned me as the department planner. 

Before I could think of anything else to say, he gave me his username and password and asked me to log in. 

According to him, I was to review the appraisal forms, take the key points from his subordinates’ report, and include them in his appraisal, based on his staff report submitted online.

Basically, I was to do the entire write-up for his appraisal, and the worst part was having to write it as if it were all his achievements.

And guess what? He gave me bracelets in return for the completed favour. What a cheapskate!

Later, I discovered that when he was at the regional office, he used to employ this one staff member who would do his appraisal write-ups and submit monthly reports to the management.

He took great care of this staff member – even bribing her with lavish handbags from designer brands like Coach, Kate Spade and Aigner. 

#3. Favoritism

“My lady boss favours young men for high-profile assignments.” — Mia 

Mia (not her real name) has been with her current company for nearly five years. This is her story, from her point of view:

Despite having amassed years of experience at my job, I had difficulty getting high-profile assignments as the most senior staff member in her department.

My newly-appointed immediate superior, a lady boss, had a tendency to assign high-profile tasks to the young and fresh male staff.

Due to their lack of experience, these young colleagues would turn to me for guidance. Not only does this takes up my time, I can’t even officially claim this as work.

These men received acknowledgement from the higher management for work that I taught them how to do  – so why wasn’t it assigned to me?

When I asked around, it seemed like most of my female colleagues had received similar treatment.

Their lady boss seemed to favour younger male staff so that she could spend more time with them, like going for meetings and having 1-on-1 discussions with them.

Of course, these high profile assignments led to good appraisal ratings for them, but left me with nothing to show for it except a sour taste in my mouth. 

#4. Manipulation

“My boss forces us to buy MLM products that his wife sells.” — Tai

Tai (not his real name)  also had a shady boss story about performance – with an MLM twist.

“My boss is a laid-back kinda guy who doesn’t take much interest in the department’s performance. His wife is a housewife who sells direct selling products online. “

The boss isn’t a go-getter, but more interested in being a salesperson for his wife’s MLM products on company time.

“She is probably one of the top sellers in Malaysia,” Tai revealed, recalling the several times his boss took leave to follow his wife for an incentive sales rewards trip overseas.

“I didn’t see it as a problem at first,” Tai said.  But things took a turn for the awkward when he submitted his claim forms to his boss. 

Around that time, Tai’s boss would casually remark that his wife’s online business needed some sales to meet the monthly target, and the sales pitch would come marching out, right on time. 

“Tai, you seem like a guy who’s under a lot of stress. Why don’t you try some of this amazing oil to de-stress?” His boss would say. Usually, Tai would ignore his boss’s remarks. 

Then his boss would take his own sweet time to review and approve the claim form.

But if Tai decided to buy something from his boss’s wife’s online sales business, the claims form would go through within 1-2 hours. 

“I always thought there was something very wrong about the whole thing, but I didn’t have solid grounds to make a formal complaint to HR,” Tai shrugged.

#5. Scamming

“My (ex) boss borrowed money from me and all of his subordinates and never paid us back.” — Faiz

One morning, Faiz (not his real name) came early to the office and thought of getting some breakfast before he started on his work.

He bumped into his boss, and invited him for a quick breakfast too. They went to the nearby mamak stall.

That was when things getting awkward. Over some teh tarik, his boss asked Faiz for a small loan of RM1000 in cash. 

“He explained that couldn’t access his bank account because it had been hacked, and the bank had froze his account. He promised to return the cash to him immediately after the issue was resolved,” Faiz recalled wryly.

After some time, Faiz asked for his money back.  But his boss ignored him.

“Looking at the lifestyle my boss was living, plus the latest iPhone he bought a few weeks after he borrowed money from me, I felt somewhat dissatisfied.” 

He finally blurted out about it to his colleagues over lunch. “Have you ever been asked to lend money to Adib (not his real name)?” 

That was the moment when Faiz and all the others found out that his boss didn’t just owe one of them money, but he owed money to almost all of his subordinates!

They also found out that he had been borrowing money from the other departments too.

“For a guy who who stayed in a duplex house, drove a BMW and enrolled two of his kids in an international school, he sure had no issues getting his lifestyle financed by everyone else.” 

Apparently, he had been borrowing money from his subordinates for years, with different sob stories told each time. 

And he never paid any of them back.

That was when Faiz and his six other colleagues made a formal report to the HR. His boss was found guilty of misconduct, and was fired from the company immediately. 

As for Faiz and his colleagues, they never saw hide nor hair of the money he owed them.

Watch out for shady bosses!

Truth is, there are a lot of shady bosses out there. Either they’ve been exposed or their deeds have been kept in silence by unwilling parties. 

Their styles and ways of exploiting the authority given to them could end up destroying the futures of not just their subordinates, but also the company. 

However, as an employee who works under these shady bosses, we can’t simply make decisions of our own and act upon it. We should know how to handle the situation in a way that is politically correct. 

For more stories about horror bosses, read Horror Boss Stories: Here Are Some Stories of the Worst Bosses in Malaysia and Horror Boss Stories: Malaysians Share Their Story with Us.

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