Written by Dotty Winters


Horrible bosses

Today is Employee Motivation Day. Dotty Winters marks the occasion by celebrating some of the worst management behaviours by fictional bosses.

Scandal's Olivia Pope

Scandal‘s Olivia Pope: great in a crisis, but would Dotty want to work for her? Photo: ABC.

Inhospitable working environment – Queen Elsa, Frozen

On average we spend 30-50 hours a week at work. For many of us this means spending time at an office or other work environment. Great employers understand that making your workplace safe and comfortable is important for all of us. The Health and Safety Executive tells us that:

Elsa: keep your coat on. Image: Disney.

Elsa: no hotdesking here. Image: Disney.

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature [for a workplace], but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:
• 16°C or
• 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.”

Step forward Frozen’s Elsa, who is not only a case study in bringing your home issues to work but also literally freezes all of her employee workplaces and does not give any fucks.

In fact, rather than reinvesting some of Arendelle’s considerable wealth (they have 8,000 salad plates – that’s just showing off) in appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, the palace procurement department have clearly cut some corners and bought all of the staff knock-off Salvation Army uniforms in place of appropriate workwear: what a dick move.

Exploiting junior staff – Cecil Palmer, Welcome to Night Vale

In an increasingly competitive work environment where you need experience in order to gain experience, work placements and internships have a role to play. However, internships are open to exploitation with unethical employers taking advantage of under- or unpaid junior staff.

Chief among the perpetrators is Cecil Gershwin Palmer, host of Night Vale Community Radio. Community radio is a worthy pursuit, and doubtless under considerable funding pressure, especially since a community uprising overthrew the previous corporate owners of the station.

Doubtless Cecil is a busy, and otherwise good man. However, while he gets distracted – by grassroots community activism, an ominous Glow Cloud (all hail), a floating cat and a luxuriously haired scientist – a steady stream of vulnerable interns meet a sticky end (most die, but one is even less lucky and ends up with a career in politics).

Not one of these hapless volunteers ends up with a decent reference or a glossy project portfolio to secure their future; not one of them secures a future. Shame on you Cecil.

“It is clear that whoever Postman Pat’s boss is, they are taking conflict avoidance to a whole new level.”

Favouritism – Gunther, Friends

It is important that managers are capable of being even-handed and fair in all their dealings with employees. Gunther, duty manager of Central Perk coffee shop consistently fails in this duty, utterly refusing to acknowledge that one of his employees never does any work and instead spends most of her time hogging the only comfy seats in the place with her privileged friends.

It’s clear that this favouritism is entirely driven by Gunther’s infatuation with his attractive employee but it’s equally clear that thinking with your penis isn’t a sustainable management practice, even if you run a popular venue in a high footfall area.

Avoiding difficult conversations – shadowy employer, Postman Pat

One of the real challenges of leading a high-performing team is the willingness to give effective feedback and, where necessary, have difficult conversations. It is clear that whoever Postman Pat’s boss is, they are taking conflict avoidance to a whole new level.

In the most recent series of the show, despite widespread austerity elsewhere, Pat’s employer has made significant capital investments in helicopters and other vehicles. Not only is this level of spending utterly at odds with a small rural footprint, it still fails to mask Pat’s consistent incompetence.

Has anyone ever checked Jess's qualifications? Image: Dreamworks.

Has anyone ever checked Jess’s qualifications? Image: Dreamworks.

Day by day, week by week, Pat fails to deliver even the most basic of duties. Storylines detail how he releases a delivery of bats from the zoo, fails to get the new church bell to the opening ceremony and fucks up all manner of community events, and yet not one episode details the performance management procedure that he should surely have been subject to by now.

Emotional blackmail – Olivia Pope, Scandal

Laying on a guilt trip is THE WORST. Selectively recruiting by saving people from impossible situations, leaving them so emotionally indebted and fragile that they’ll be forever loyal is worse than that. No amount of talking about ‘White Hats’ and saving the day makes up for unethical employment practice, especially when loyalty means cleaning up dead bodies, selling out your other half and getting tortured or deaded.

Don’t get me wrong, I bloody love Olivia Pope but it would take more than private health insurance, a vintage-wine based bonus system and pleasingly feminist undertones to make me take a job working for her.

Gordon Brittas: not going to win any medals. Photo: BBC.

Gordon Brittas: not going to win any medals. Photo: BBC.

Special mentions

Hat tips to Gordon Brittas (The Brittas Empire), Alan Partridge (I’m Alan Partridge), Basil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers) and Karen Walker (Will & Grace) for all-round incompetence and repeated breaches of the 2010 Equality Act, and to Dumbledore (Harry Potter), who has failed to understand the implications of either the Every Child Matters initiative or basic Safeguarding responsibilities.

Wondering how to motivate your employees for Employee Motivation Day? If you haven’t murdered, frozen, sexually harassed or guilt-tripped them, you’re already doing better than the dubious role models above. Perhaps just take some doughnuts in and let everyone wear jeans to the office.


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.