8 Bad Bosses in TV and Film History Who Need HR Training

bad boss stannis baratheon mobile
Stannis Baratheon is a certified bad boss. Can confirm. / HBO

We spend so much of our lives working, it’s important to have a positive workplace environment—and a good boss can make all the difference. A bad boss, on the other hand, not only makes it harder for us to do our jobs, but that person can take a very real toll on our mental health. Toxic, domineering superiors comprised the whole premise of the Horrible Bosses movies, where disgruntled employees plot to get their revenge. Here are eight more malevolent managers who really should be getting a call from HR.

1. Miranda Priestly // ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

Perhaps the most famous example of the intimidating boss in all pop culture, the titular devil in this movie inspires fear and admiration wherever she goes. Alternative readings of the film might say that the real villains are the heroine’s friends and boyfriend for failing to understand the importance of her career, and there’s certainly a case to be made that Miranda Priestly was only able to achieve such success as a woman by developing a formidable persona. But the way she screws over Nigel in order to protect her own interests is proof that not only is she a scary presence in the office, she’s also the kind of leader that can’t be trusted.

2. Stannis Baratheon // ‘Game of Thrones’

The question of how and if you should express your religious beliefs in the workplace is a thorny issue, but when you go ahead and start burning people at the stake to satisfy the Lord of Light, you’ve gone too far. We first meet Stannis when he is sacrificing his subordinates after they failed to convert, and while he does exhibit some good leadership qualities in his quest to become King of the Seven Kingdoms, including recognizing Ser Davos’s contributions, ultimately he is too easily led by Melisandre, to the point of killing his own daughter. Stannis is the genre equivalent of that boss who changes his entire vision for the company after watching a single TED Talk.

3. Christian DeVille // ‘Corporate’

I mean, “Devil” is literally there in his name. On top of being the morally bankrupt, possibly sociopathic CEO of a malevolent corporation, DeVille is also the kind of psychological terrorist whose reactions in any given scenario can never be predicted. Maybe he’ll love your idea, maybe you’ll need to clean out your desk, and maybe your loved ones will never see you again.  

4. Thanos // ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ & ‘Endgame’

All I’m saying is, if your two lieutenants are your daughters and you still can’t count on having your team’s loyalty, you’ve got a leadership problem. There’s also a bit of a cult of personality going on in the Black Order (Maw talks about Thanos like he’s a mix of Jesus and Steve Jobs), which doesn’t feel particularly healthy. And don’t even get me started on how Thanos orders a ground-strike against his own troops in the climactic battle in Endgame. Instead of focusing so much energy on acquiring the Infinity Stones, maybe he should have picked up a book on people management.

5. Tony Soprano // ‘Sopranos’

You could argue that all mob bosses are, by definition, bad. But on a number of occasions, Tony would do terrible things not for the sake of the gang, but spurred by his own emotions. He murdered Ralph Cifaretto over the fate of a racehorse and then made the decision to kill his nephew Christopher after a car accident rather than get him medical attention.

6. Rick Otis // ‘Set It Up’

This romantic comedy is a spiritual successor to The Devil Wears Prada, wherein two stressed out interns play matchmaker with their overbearing bosses so they’ll loosen up. While both Rick and Kirsten seem equally domineering at first, it’s later revealed that Kirsten is only pushing her subordinate so hard because she sees potential in her, and the film ends with the two of them beginning a mentor/mentee relationship. Rick, on the other hand, is just a cheating ass who takes out his temper tantrums on other people’s property.

7. Dr. Cox // ‘Scrubs’

While not without his redeeming traits (he’s an incredibly good doctor), Perry Cox also exhibits a ton of gross conduct, which would land him in front of a disciplinary committee in 2019. He goes out of his way to torment his protégé J.D., referring to him constantly by girls’ names—a mix of toxic masculinity and homophobia. He also calls Elliot “Barbie” in a somewhat sexist attempt to belittle her, and he openly mocks Laverne’s religious beliefs.

8. Malcolm Tucker // ‘The Thick of It’

Peter Capaldi’s maestro performance in this political satire might have launched a couple of explicit catchphrases, but it wouldn’t be half as entertaining if you had to actually work for the guy. Foul-mouthed and even fouler-tempered with absolutely zero concept of personal boundaries, Tucker is a walking ball of rage who flies off the handle at the slightest provocation and treats his poor underlings like dirt.

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