We’ve all had terrible bosses. But chances are (hopefully) none of us have encountered the kind of managers that tend to grace the television screen. Throughout the years, some of TV’s greatest shows have offered up bosses that are everything from incompetent to murderous. We thought we’d take a look at the worst of the worst. Why? To encourage you not to be like them and to also provide some comfort in the idea that no matter how bad you think you are, you’re probably not this bad.
Michael Scott, The Office
It’s not that Michael Scott (Steve Carell) isn’t deep down a well-meaning softy. It’s that that’s exactly what makes the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin such a bad boss. Scott is a classic – if exaggerated – example of the manager who is more preoccupied with being well-liked and popular than focused on being a good boss. What’s more, his desperation to be cool and loved continually creates work interruptions or painfully awkward situations. If ever there was proof of the wisdom that a manager can’t be concerned with being their employees’ friends, it’s Michael Scott.
Don Draper, Mad Men
Don Draper (John Hamm) may be an immensely talented Marketing Creative Director, but he’s also an immensely terrible manager. He shows up late, leaves early, or just disappears in the middle of the day (often for some, um, “Afternoon Delight”). If he is present in the office, he’s a terror to his employees. He’s curt, abusive, critical and often just plain mean. To say nothing of the fact that he makes employees work late on their birthdays, steals their ideas, and leaves them generally discouraged and disgruntled. Frankly, it’s better for his copywriters when he isn’t in the office.
Mr. Burns, The Simpsons
Any man who wears a gorilla vest is generally not going to be someone who cares much about other living beings. Especially his employees. Sure enough, that’s pretty much why Mr. Burns (voiced by Harry Shearer) is one of TV’s worst bosses. The owner of Springfield’s Nuclear Power Plant is greed incarnate. He’s constantly putting his profits before the well-being of his workers – whose names he never even bothers to remember. Plus, he’s obviously terrible at assessing talent, because who would put Homer Simpson in charge of nuclear safety.
Malory Archer, Archer
Where to start? First, the head of the international spy agency puts Don Draper’s at-work drinking to complete shame. But that’s the least of it. Malory Archer (voiced by Jessica Walter) also does… um… inappropriate things in her office. She’s constantly insulting her employees in the most malicious ways imaginable. She uses her workers to conduct personal assignments on her behalf. But beyond that, she’s just plain incompetent, manipulative, and corrupt. The only thing she’s good at: encouraging cleanliness in the office to keep it free from ants.
Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation
Don’t get us wrong. We adore Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). He is both a great human being and TV character. But he’s still a pretty bad boss. He does nothing. No work. No calls, meetings, or assignments. What’s more he encourages others to do nothing. Sure that gives more autonomy to his employees (well, Leslie Knope). But a good manager should always be there to provide structure, guidance, and help. He does none of that. He may as well not be there. If he weren’t, it would also probably make his employees safer given he keeps a landmine on his desk.
Patty Hewes, Damages
Where to even begin with Patty Hewes (Glenn Close)? How about this: she tried to have one of her employees, Ellen (Rose Byrne), murdered. An employee, by the way, she only hired because she wanted to access one of Ellen’s friends for a case. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Patty might be a tremendous lawyer, but she’s also a boss who shamelessly uses her employees for her own end and plays warped mind games. She’s the typical archetype of the boss where you never know what you’re going to walk into when you step into their office. But you know it’s going to be bad.
Wilhelmina Slater, Ugly Betty
Compared to the others on this list, Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams) isn’t too mean to her employees. But that’s because most of her time and energy is expended on scheming her way up to the corporate ladder by screwing over her boss. That makes her a bad manager because she’s more focused on achieving success for herself, than doing anything to encourage the success of her employees. She does care about one worker at least – Marc (Michael Urie) – but only so she can exploit his dutiful worship of her to rope him into her scheming.
Bob Kelso, Scrubs
“It’s not my job to care,” says Scrubs’ Chief of Medicine, Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), and that’s pretty much something a good manager should never say. Dr. Kelso doesn’t care about his employees or patients. He’s that boss who cares only about the bottom line. Of course, staying afloat is important for any business. But if you’re managing your employees solely with your account book in mind, that’s just going to breed exactly the kind of disgruntled workers we see in Dr. Kelso’s hospital.
Professor Farnsworth, Futurama
There’s probably been no boss in TV history who has so consistently placed his workers in perpetual danger. As cheerful as his “Good news, everyone” job announcements may be, they’re always followed by an assignment detail that requires Planet Express to deliver packages to places that imperil the crew. Whether that takes the form of giant Amazonian warriors, intergalactic space wars, and general alien shenanigans.
George Bluth, Arrested Development
The patriarch of the Bluth family is a one-man “How Not To Be a Boss” guide. He is constantly hiring his own family, but never hiring (or promoting) the members of his kin who are actually qualified. Once he does turn his family members into employees, he rejects their great ideas in order to keep them in place and pits them against each other. Then there’s the fact that he had an affair with his assistant, stole money from his company, and roped his employees into “light treason” by building mini-mansions for Sadam Hussein. Short of murder, you can’t really beat “treason” as a major low in managerial skills.
Next Steps: You’re busy. We get it. So why not let us do some work for you? By signing up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter, you’ll receive hand-picked articles, How-Tos and videos covering the latest in small biz tools and trends. We’ll do the research while you spend your time where it counts: managing and growing your business.