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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

The Boss From Hell

Published January 22, 2008 12:52 PM by Glen McDaniel

We have all at some time or the other had a "boss from hell." I for one have had my share. In one company I worked for executives who seemed to try to outdo each other for toughness and would even brag about, and recount how successful they were, at driving employees from the company.

To think someone could be proud of that. "Not on my watch," one vice president was fond of saying as she explained how she humiliated someone.

Several studies have shown many employees give as much importance to their relationship with the boss as they do with a spouse or close friend. That means a rocky relationship with the boss can cause untold stress, low productivity, lead to clinical depression and contribute to absenteeism and the like.

In an article in Psychology Today, Brad Gilbreath of Indiana University indicated his studies show a well paying job, a rewarding job or even good relationships with coworkers cannot completely compensate for a bad relationship with a boss from hell.

Gilbreath and others say a bad boss is the No. 1 reason for staff turnover.

Bosses identified as noncaring and abusive almost always have their own take on employee behavior, work ethic and  turnover. For example, they almost universally absolve themselves of responsibility for employees' departure.

I have heard:

  • "They weren't the right fit."
  • "They didn't want to work or change or conform."
  • "It's just the nature of the  business that we're in."
  • "I can't believe they wanted more money, a different schedule, etc."

Tell us your accounts of your experiences with a boss from hell; you can be anonymous if you like. Or you can use the "a friend of mine" literary license to protect the innocent. 

I am also interested in hearing from bosses who think they have been unfairly called the boss from hell or who otherwise think employees slack off too much and expect to be coddled by bosses. I would like to hear from both sides.


We must work for the same company. Last year I made 68.000 That might not be much for some people but it was to me. I worked in a office setting with all the same things going on.It was hard for me to pull away because I only have a high School education. I worked my way to the top over the years. I knew I would never fine another job. My point is I know what you are talking about. I the state would secretly put someone in out office they would close us down.


Nancy Kane, Lead supervisor July 4, 2008 3:11 PM
Evansville IN

From my experiences at the Microbiology lab of Duke Medical Center and as a generalist 1st shift traveling CLS in Lafayette, IN, I know there are health care facilities out there who appreciate, recognize, and are proud of the hard work accomplished every day by their dedicated and conscientious laboratory professionals.  These laboratories are definitely not managed by "bosses from hell!"  

A vitally important part of reversing the shortage of clinical laboratory personnel is INCREASED MORALE in their workplaces, which leads to long-term retention of the above-mentioned talented, enthusiastic professionals.

I recently read a post in ASCP's e-Policy news that includes a link to a web page at which health care facilities can nominate themselves as one of the "Best Places to Work in Health Care" between now and June 20, 2008.  I strongly encourage all the clinical laboratories out there whose supervisors are polar opposites of the proverbial "boss from hell" to register at

I definitely believe younger clinical laboratory professionals like myself, who are an integral part of health care's future (especially when all the 50-somethings retire) will look at these types of sites in the near future when deciding where to apply for jobs.  High-morale work places that prioritize job satisfaction of employees as well as excellence in providing health care services may decrease "job-hopping" (as the old-fashioned mentality describes working at more than one facility in two years) among the newer members of our proud medical laboratory work force.

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Medical Staffing Network May 16, 2008 11:00 AM
Danville VA

At the level I trauma center in Winston Salem, NC where I graduated from MT school and somehow "survived" three months working in the transfusion services department, the Blood Bank assistant manager position has been posted on their web page of available jobs since January of this year!

Anyone near this area who has heard about how miserable it can be working for the current supervisor of this department should not be surprised at all that this position has been vacant for four months.  I suspect that since the woman was 60 in 2004 when I worked for her, she's just biding her time until retirement.  

As a result, she may have no interest whatsoever in prioritizing teamwork and making the work flow in the extremely busy blood bank more orderly.  These improvements would greatly contribute to increased efficiency, higher morale, and job satisfaction for those working in her department.

She also gossiped to me about how the person who attempted to fill the assistant-manager position while I was there "probably had difficulty taking orders from a woman" simply because he happened to be a man.  Any reasonable person should consider these types of comments to be very unfair and unprofessional when coming from a manager to an employee.

This position was posted in the back of ADVANCE magazine either last year or the year before that, in addition to more than one posting on their web site during the last few years that I have noticed.  However, I'm not sure whether doing that now would result in a more successful outcome than it did back then.

Stephanie Mathis, Generalist - Medical Technologist, Medical Staffing Network April 28, 2008 7:28 AM
Danville VA

An in-depth description of my experiences with several variations of the "boss from hell" since becoming MT(ASCP) certified in July 2004 can be found underneath the "Work and Play" postings (see October 2007 archives).

After my first posting there, Glen commented that I have definitely "learned what not to do" and how not to treat other human beings as a supervisor.  I also successfully completed a course in Laboratory Management and Education during my Medical Technology program in Winston Salem, NC.  

Denise Harmening's text for this class contains a very interesting comparison between "bosses" (who create a negative "blame and shame" environment, leading to their employees basically feeling like they're serving time in prison every day when they arrive at work) and effective, motivational "managers" (who appreciate their employees - and trust that these people are there to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities and provide the highest possible quality care to their patients.)

I minored in psychology during my undergraduate studies, and have listened to the laboratory director at a hospital in West Virginia (in which I am working during my current traveling assignment) talk about how she tells her employees to "come to her about any concerns they may have."  This manager also explained that she becomes uncomfortable when some of them provide in-depth accounts of their personal difficulties outside of work to her.

I can definitely understand her feelings on the matter - and that of the lab manager who described her experiences with an individual who she believed suffered from at least one "severe mental disorder" in this posting.  

I would like to point out, though, that any one of us could be one family crisis, illness, divorce, etc., away from reaching a psychological "breaking point."  It is not a laboratory manager's responsibility to serve as his/her employees' personal counselor or therapist.   However, awareness/understanding of an employee's situation and continously motivating them to improve their job performance is more helpful and productive in the long run than judgment and condemnation of their reaction to situations outside of work over which they have no control.

Stephanie Mathis, Generalist - Medical Technologist, Medical Staffing Network March 6, 2008 7:14 AM
Danville VA

I feel that part of the problem stems from a lack of candidates willing to apply for the open supervisor positions.  It is a challenge few bench techs want to undertake, in contrast open bench positions are not as time consuming and expensive to fill.   Too often  poorly qualified candidates are awarded the supervisor position and given a substantially greater amount of tolerance for poor performance by upper management than the bench techs are given by their underperforming supervisor which can lead to considerable resentment by the bench tech. Also I have to agree that nepotism is the single worst trait that governs the choices of far too many supervisors (regardless of the field of employment)

Anonymous February 13, 2008 6:31 AM

I think the biggest source of friction is in the obvious nepotism that some managers use to manage their departments.  The rules are only enforced for some people, not all.  Over and over again, this sort of behavior is exhibited for all to see but may not be commented upon, because even though there is an open door policy, it doesn't really apply.  The open door is more like a closed glass door, it looks good but you still can't get through.  To complain about a boss that crosses the line is really workplace suicide because they will still be there tomorrow and the things that were a problem today will still be a problem tomorrow.  It's far easier to get rid of a bench tech than to offend a manager by suggesting that perhaps they should understand that managing really is 99% perception.  The equitable treatment of employees should be transparent.  If person A gets written up for a mistake than person B should recieve the same, regardless of the managers personal opinion of that person.  But, unfortunately, personal opinions are far more potent than fact.  Another unfortunate aspect is that if you are not in frequent contact with your manager, then his or her opinion is often formed on the back of other people's opinions who do have access.  Then you are judged via the scope of yet another persons lens before your manager ever gets the chance to form their own opinion.  

A good manager gets as much empirical data on a person that they can, such as attendance, timeliness, turn-around times and workload stats BEFORE they let their personal opinions shade thier dealings with personnel.  Managers should be required to take courses on management and on dealing with people, especially difficult ones so that they can better relate and interact with those they are managing.  The other key to being a good manager in my opinion, is that they be able to to what they are asking their employee to do.  They should have to be able to compentently run the benches they manage.  


Just another MT in paradise

Anon Anon, Generalist - MT February 12, 2008 5:10 AM

Glen you hit the nail on the head with how important the relationship with the boss is for us bench techs. In many instances they seem to forget that humans are working not a piece of equipment. Many bosses do not see their job as helping and providing all the tools their employees may needs to perform their job, they dictate what is allowed to the employee and you better not ask for more, or you are guess what, a trouble maker. The worse thing that can happen is for an employee to get sick, or have personnel issues that they are not able to pretend are not having. It is an ironic twist that most of us get into a helping profession like the laboratory and yes even nursing and do not allow ourselves to be treated with the same dignity and respect we are expect to treat our patients with. We are not allowed recognize or mention the fact that humans are the ones taking care of our patients. The need of an employee to care for themselves is not a consideration in the equations of how to successfully run a healthcare business, other than lip service in some facilities. It is in many cases just inconvenient for the boss/company, and that is as far as our caring goes for our fellow “caregivers”. How the boss treats their employees does show, in a real sense how the company we work for, feels about the people that are doing the day-to-day caring of our patients. It does not look good, from my perspective, that this type of dynamic will change with management as long as there are workers that feel it is okay to be treated in such a manner, because it is just the way it is.  My favorite new saying these days is “If you do a good job, you will be rewarded with more work and no money”

Anonymous, MT February 10, 2008 11:10 AM

To say it simply, one that plays favorites

Wally February 2, 2008 8:00 AM

As a Supervisor, I had my life threatened after an employee was terminated for insubordination.  Several years later another employee threatened me after actually shouting explitives across the room for all to hear across the room.   In this day and age, I feel that all employees should be held accountable for their threatening behavior.  The only way to hold someone accountable for this type of behavior is to show them the door and tell them to find another place to work.  To my surprise, this employee was not terminated and is still terrorizing her fellow employees to this day.  

My advice to all who work with a fellow employee like this is not to tolerate this behavior even once.  Be sure to report to your supervisor immediately.  Hopefully, the people in charge will be able to spot a person with a severe Mental Disorder and direct them to the proper institution for help.  It is not easy to work with someone who is Mentally Deranged.  Unfortunately when this person should have been shown the door originally, she was transferred to another lab within the system instead.  This was a huge error in judgement on the part of the Lab Director.

I have learned what it takes to be a Supervisor and have a different point of view towards my superiors to this day.  I have to say that I have too much respect for them to even consider threatening their life.   As the previous comment stated, we were not trained in people skills when promoted to supervisor.  We learned by mistakes along the way.  Hopefully all can work together and forgive the supervisor who is overloaded and underappreciated.  All is takes is adult conversation and communication.    

Anonymous January 29, 2008 10:22 PM

As a manager for 30 years I think that  it is a two way street.

All employees no matter how they treat me will be treated with respect. Sometimes it is not the message but how it is delivered.

I respect a persons right to work and have all the tools necessary to perform their job.

They will be counseled or rewarded as the shoe fits. I can see an employee strengths or weakness and work with them to make them a better employee and to make their career more rewarding. I draw the line at insubordination and when an employee cannot learn the skills required or is a danger to patients. At that point I will no longer support them and will recommend termination.

I too have had bosses who have tried to tell me how to run my department and have second guessed me on counseling employees. I have an employees go to Human Resources to file complaints, employees not show up to work and employees go to a Lab Director and file complaints.

As a medical technologist we were not trained in management skills but like all other life skills we learn by our sucessess and mistakes. In the end I hope that I have made my lab a better place for employees and most importantly the patients who have benefited from our life's work.

Linda , Blood Bank - Manager, Temple January 25, 2008 10:08 AM
Philadelphia PA

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