Worst Managers of All Time

Impatience, credit-taker, narcissistic, nit-picky, belittling, and visionless… These are all qualities that make a bad boss. From silver screen to the real world, here is a list of the worst managers of all time.

Frederick Winslow Taylor – Father of Scientific Management
Regarded as the father of scientific management, a form of management that analyzed workflows, Frederick Winslow Taylor was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. Though he was an intellectual leader of the Progressive Era and his ideas were highly influential and adopted, he took mirco-management and stringent leadership to the extreme. He stood over his workers with a stopwatch and a clipboard, timing their every movement and shouting, “work faster or be fired.”

Henry Frick – Carnegie Steel
A pioneer to the steel industry and CEO of Carnegie Steel, which was valued at $25 million in the late 1800s, Frick was a cutthroat anti-unionist who was once voted the most hated man in America. CNBC cited, “His response to a strike at one of his steel mills—which began after he attempted to lower wages—resulted in 16 deaths and is regarded as one of the most notorious incidents in U.S. labor history.” After the fact, Frick was shot three times and stabbed twice by an irate activist. Though he survived the stabbing, he will forever go down in history as a horrible boss.

Ken Lay – Enron
When it comes to bad CEOs, Lay was the complete package: dishonest, morally repugnant, and inept. Lay founded the multi-billion dollar energy company, Enron, which is now laid to rest as one of the worst PR crises of all time. Not only was Lay uninterested in the day-to-day tasks of running the business, but CNBC reported that Lay gave free rein to untrustworthy subordinates and signed off on transactions that were later uncovered to be a massive accounting fraud that would later bring down the corporation. Lay was convicted of fraud by the the Federal Court of Securities in 2006, and had he not died shortly thereafter would have served the rest of his life in prison.

Bill Lumberg – Office Space
William “Bill” Lumbergh is a fictional character from the late-90s film Office Space. Lumbergh is the division Vice President of a software company, Initech, and is hated by his employees for his mismatched priorities, micromanagement, and wrong priorities (pointless paperwork, moving desk spaces). Wikipedia he has been described as “the antithesis of the motivational management leadership ideal”

Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S. – Horrible Bosses
Sex-crazed Dr. Julia Harris is a dentist, and the boss of Dale in the Hollywood hit “Horrible Bosses.” She takes workplace sexual harassment to the extreme she harrasesses her subordinate, Dale, while patients are in the chair, and even goes as far to sabotage his relationship with by drugging him.

Michael Scott – The Office
Where do you start with the epically worst manager of all time, the Office’s Michael Scott. Michel vies for his employee’s friendship and time-after-time his managerial tasks fall by the wayside. Moreover, he is an HR nightmare. He habitually makes cringe-worthy sexual and racist comments.

This quote pretty much wraps up Michael Scott’s management style: “ Would I rather be feared or loved? Um, easy…both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Gordon Gekko – Wall Street
Wall Street, a 1990s classic film, shares the story of Bud Fox, a young and impressionable New York stockbroker desperate for success. As the story progresses, he is taken under the wing of his professional hero, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, who is a rich and unscrupulous corporate raider who would do anything to get to the top. Ethics are not a priority for him as he lies, cheats, and steals all for the “bottom line” and tries to take down everyone in the process.


So now that you’ve been enlightened with our pick of the worst managers of all time, it’s time to learn about what makes a good manager. A Management degree will explore these management principle:

  • Vision
  • Leadership vs. Management
  • Macromanages
  • Cooperative
  • Delegates work

More Resources:
MSNBC, “No Good Very Bad Bosses”