I once had a boss that I would nominate as “The Worst Boss in the World.” Perhaps some of you have had terrible bosses that you think are the worst; if you haven’t, then consider yourself fortunate and blessed. A terrible boss can make your life miserable, create huge personal stress and anxieties, and totally ruin one’s disposition and outlook on life.

Back in the 1970s, I was trying to “find my passion in work.” I had graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering but realized I was not happy in this field of work. While I was soul-searching, meditating, and praying about what I should do with my life, in order to earn some money in the meantime, I applied for a job with the City of Los Angeles. The position was for a junior engineer and I was called in for an interview.

A man (who was to become my future terrible boss) asked me a series of questions about engineering that I could not answer. After a brief time, I left and thought to myself, “After this poor interview, I can chuck this job goodbye.” A few days later, to my utter surprise, I was offered the position by the city! 

On my first day on the job, one of the other engineers showed me around and introduced me to the job. He was a pleasant fellow and we spent several hours walking around City Hall and Parker Center and he showed me the kind of work a mechanical engineer would do. At one point, I asked him, “What is it like to work in this department?” and his reply was “Picture yourself in a Nazi concentration camp.” I soon realized he was not joking nor exaggerating!

I told him I was surprised I was hired because I had performed so poorly during my interview and he told me that’s because no one else wanted the job due to the notorious reputation of the boss. I was too naïve and lackadaisical to even bother to investigate this and was kicking myself – but then again, I knew I was not going to stay long. My plan was to quit as soon as I “found my passion” so I would endure the horrible boss for a short while — just until I passed my probation period.

As a junior engineer, I was supposed to get training but the boss provided no training except criticism. He was not accessible for questions, nor was I allowed to converse with or ask questions of my colleagues. I observed his insecurities and petty efforts to put others down and elevate himself, leading to cruel behavior towards my colleagues and making them suffer humiliation. I pitied them because they had families to feed and mortgages to pay and could not simply quit their jobs. 

The boss once threw my engineering manuals onto the floor because he thought my desk did not look neat. He was a short man and when he did this, I stood glaring down at him nose to nose. I was actually hoping he would strike me in the face so I could try to get him fired. Even now, 50 years later, I wish I had the presence of mind to confront him and threaten to report him to his supervisor, but regrettably I didn’t do it.

I kept waiting for the day I could quit the job and leave. My boss was so horrible my blood pressure shot up by 40 points and got me rejected when I reported for the Army draft physical! 

Finally, I left the city and ended the worst 18 months of my life — and then began the best time of my life as a social worker in Little Tokyo, which in fact turned out to be my life’s passion!


Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near Downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. I once had a boss that was tyrannical. I left the company for better pastures and swore to myself I would not work for tyrants anymore. He went through many secretaries that could not tolerate his behavior. I later found out that this person had a brain tumor that eventually killed him. It is likely that this tumor caused his belligerent behavior.