bad boss

Posted: October 14, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


I like Jimmy Johns’ sandwiches, but I will never eat them after what I learned today. Why? They treat their employees badly. Raw Story reports (based on a story from Huffington Post) that every employee who works for the company signs a non-compete agreement that would prevent them from working for an sandwich maker for two years. I’ve written about non-compete agreements before. Once upon a time they were a tool used to keep key performers from jumping to competitors. Those employees usually received some kind of compensation that would let them wait out the term of the agreement. Now companies like Jimmy Johns are using non-compete agreements to make it difficult for employees to leave their job. That’s wrong. I will never at Jimmy Johns again

Posted: September 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


Bill Simmons was recently suspended by ESPN for comments he made about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Whatever you think about Simmons, Goodell, or any of the players recently suspended by the NFL, here’s the thing to remember: Doing or saying something that hurts your employer’s reputation can lead to being terminated. The same is true of another type of speech: social media. Many people have taken to Facebook or Twitter to be critical of their employer or supervisor. In many states, such action is grounds for dismissal. Be careful before you do something that can put your income at risk.

One more word about Bill Simmons. I often find him funny and sometimes insightful. He is also a good businessman. If ESPN decides to get rid of him, he will have other opportunities. We should all follow his example. Have a Plan B for your career and build a reputation that will make other employers want to hire us.

Posted: April 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

Clearly Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a racist fool. He’s also an ungrateful employer, a bad boss. During a taped exchange with his girlfriend (I’d now assume former girlfriend), Sterling says,

“You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”

Sterling shows no sense that the players who have worked for him over the decades that he’s owned his team have contributed to his wealth. Instead, he uses words like support and give, almost as if he should not have to pay the employees that bring fans to the arena. It’s not pay or compensation. He describes his employees as receiving gifts. Maybe he thinks he’s Santa Claus.

Even beyond his racism, Donald Sterling is an ungrateful jerk.

Posted: April 12, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients is in his late 20s. He’s been a Program Manager for the last 18 months. When I ran into him recently, he told me that he wants to leave his current job but can’t because he hasn’t been there two years. I asked him, “What’s the difference between a year and a half and two years?” For a company looking for a manager with 1-3 years’ experience, he fits the qualifications. He’s not looking to move up in his career at this point. Why not make a lateral move? Why does my client want to move? His boss is not supportive, and there is some chance he could be fired or demoted. Now is the time for him to move.

Posted: March 28, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

One of the biggest challenges facing working people is wage cuts. For many sales people, most of their annual income is based on commissions. I met with a client today whom I’ve known for more than 10 years. He has always exceeded sales quota. In his current role he is both a manager and a sales representative. To save money, his employer is changing compensation. The current rate for commissions is 4.5% of sales. As of July that rate will be cut to 3.2%. When he took the job six years ago, the commission was 6.5%. This is not the first time his commissions have been cut.


When my client confronted his boss about the situation, the boss told him that the company was increasing his account base and that he could make as much or even more if he worked harder. These words were a deep insult to my client. In his time with the company, he has always exceeded sales goals and often has been ranked #1 in his region. Now he’s being asked to do more just to keep pace. Instead, he’s doing the smart thing: Looking for a new employer who will treat him fairly.

Posted: December 24, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a story about how a bad boss turns good.  Scrooge is a small business owner who abuses and insult his employee, Bob Cratchit.  He only cares about money.  After being visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge is a changed man who “keeps Christmas in his heart” every day.  At the end of the story, the bad boss becomes a best friend, giving Cratchit a raise and treating his boy Tiny Tim as his own son.

Stories in the real world don’t normally have such a happy ending.  Bad bosses stay bad, and companies that put money before people lay people off days before Christmas.  A few weeks ago I saw a client who had worked for the same company for 30 years.  He was laid off because his salary was too high.  Another client who worked for the same company for 20 years was laid off so a member of the owner’s family could take his place.  So much for loyalty.  Over 6,000 employees at Dominick’s stores in Chicago are being laid off a few days after Christmas, so a Wall Street investment firm can pump up the value of the store’s parent company, Safeway.

Most companies and bosses won’t change as Scrooge did.  They don’t care about the time of the year or the hardship of employees who are losing jobs.  All that matters is the bottom line.  Dickens imagines Scrooge as a man who has a conscience and is capable of change.  Sadly, too many large investors and corporate leaders in our time have not been visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future.  They have no feeling for others and think only about what they can gain.  Scrooge would pity them.

Posted: August 27, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I’ve been a Resume Writer for more than 10 years.  In that time, I’ve met very few clients who were offered and accepted a job without meeting their immediate supervisor.  However, in those rare cases when an applicant is hired in this manner, employment tends to be short term and ugly.

Most supervisors resent it when their boss makes a hiring decision without their input.  They see the new employee as an outsider, maybe even a threat.  In a recent case, one of my clients was written up two weeks after starting her job.  She asked her supervisor for help, but received no support.  A few weeks later, she tried to call her boss about a problem that needed immediate attention.  The call was never returned.  When she asked her boss about the situation, the answer was curt:  “You should have known what to do.”

Needless to say, my client did not last beyond a 90 day probation period.  What could she have done differently?  Ask to meet her supervisor before accepting the job.  As I said above, this situation is rare.  But you should be ready if you encounter it.  Always know who your supervisor will be.  If that person is not part of the interviewing process, ask to have an interview with the supervisor before accepting an offer.  If that request is denied, take it as a big red flag about the employer and how it operates.  Be very careful about choosing to work for this type of company.

Posted: April 24, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I always learn great lessons from my clients.  Today a client told me about a boss who was trying to intimidate him into signing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).  In most cases, PIPs lead to termination.  My client has been at his current job less than a year.  In that time, his unit has been recognized as the top performing unit in the nation.

When presented with the PIP, my client kept his cool.  He has more than 25 years experience in his industry.  He asked his District Manager why this step was being taken.  The District Manager gave a vague answer and asked him to sign the PIP.  My client then asked about how he was being evaluated and how he was evaluated by other employers.  Again, the District Manager did not address his point.  He said signing is not a big deal.  In reality, it is an admission of poor performance that can lead to termination.  My client knows this and refused to sign.

Then he did something very bold.  He offered two weeks notice.  At this point, the District Manager backed down and said they would discuss the matter later.  My client informed his boss that the issue was not personal.  He then put an exclamation mark on the affair by buying lunch for the person who was trying to set him up for termination.

For me, this client is a role model in knowing how to evaluate his own performance and having the courage to stand up for himself.  Could he be fired?  Of course.  However, signing the PIP would drag out the process and usually have the same result.  My client is not waiting to see what will happen next.  He has begun looking for a new job. The good news is that he can do so with a feeling of self-respect.  He did not let a bad boss bully him.

Posted: August 11, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients has been a sales representative with the same company for more than ten years.  He wants to leave his job because his boss is not treating him fairly.  That might sound like whining until you hear, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Over the last ten years, my client has built a strong book of business with several long term accounts.  40% of his book was given to a new sales representative, the company owner’s son-in-law.  While my client is confident that he can find new customers, there is no way his sales total for this year will equal last year, which means he will be taking a pay cut to give a family member a head start in his career.

Is this fair?  Of course not.  However, fair or unfair doesn’t matter.  A business owner in a privately run, non-union company can pretty much make up the rules.  A working person’s only option is to be ready to look for a new job.  It’s not easy to make a change, but it’s harder to lose self-respect – and income.

Posted: June 7, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

To be happy at your job, you need to know what kind of person you like to work for.  Some people want a hands-on supervisors who give clear directions.  Others prefer easy-going types who let their employees do things on their own.

Before you go on another job interview, take a few minutes to think about what you like and what you don’t like in a boss.  Make a list with two columns – plus and minus.  Think about all of the jobs you have held.  What did your former supervisors do that you liked?  What did they do that drove you crazy? 

Use this list after each interview to grade your potential employers.  If you take a job where you are not a fit with the boss, it’s a good bet that you will not be happy.  Think about this problem before you take the job.  If you need the job to pay your bills, take the job with the bad boss, but keep looking for a position with a supervisor that will work well with you.  Find a good boss, and you will have a good job.