Is This the World's Worst Boss?
If you look back to your days as an employee and shiver in horror at the thought of that boss with a nasty penchant for shouty ALL CAPS emails, meeting showboating, or an unshakable insistence that the office air conditioning be turned up to refrigerator levels, then take comfort. You really haven't seen anything when it comes to bad bosses.
In a news story that confirms truth is often stranger than fiction, a Long Island woman was recently fired for donating her kidney to her critically ill boss. Yes, seriously. Debbie Stevens, a 47-year-old mom, was employed as an assistant to a woman named Jackie Brucia at a Long Island, New York, car dealership. Stevens subsequently moved away to Florida but ran into Brucia when she returned for a visit and learned Brucia was looking for a kidney donor, but that she had found a possible match. Stevens mentioned that if the donor fell through she'd be willing to give Brucia one of her kidneys. Brucia brushed aside the comment with a joke.
So far, so normal. But a little while later, after Stevens had returned to Long Island permanently, Brucia offered Stevens her old job back. Soon, she informed Stevens her potential donor was not going to work out, and Stevens made good on her offer, participating in a three-part kidney donation that resulted in surgery for Brucia. Unfortunately for Stevens, losing a kidney wasn't all she signed up for, as Gawker reports:
Stevens…developed a health problem following the surgery. Doctors had apparently struck a nerve, which caused Stevens pain, discomfort, and digestive problems. Still, she says she was forced to return to work before fully recovering.
Now suffering significant pain and struggling to do her job, Stevens had her problems multiplied by a less-than-supremely grateful Brucia, according to the NY Post (which also has a video interview with Stevens and pictures of Brucia):
When Stevens went home sick three days after her return, she said, Brucia actually called her from home to berate her. “She...said, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you at work?’ I told her I didn’t feel good,’’ Stevens told the Post. “She said, ‘You can’t come and go as you please. People are going to think you’re getting special treatment.’ ”
After Brucia returned to work, she’d yell at Stevens in front of co-workers over alleged mistakes, Stevens said. Stevens said that her office and overtime were eventually taken away and that she was demoted to a dealership 50 miles from her home in a high-crime neighborhood that co-workers jokingly called “Siberia.’’
Eventually, Stevens sought psychiatric help for the stress and had lawyers write a letter to her employer complaining about the situation. She was promptly fired. This week, she filed suit with the state Human Rights commission. If there's another side to this story, Brucia is staying mum except to publically thank Stevens for the kidney, though her husband called Stevens's claims "far from the truth." The dealership is also sticking by Brucia. A lawyer for the company told Fox News, "Atlantic Auto treated her appropriately and acted honorably and fairly at every turn. We expect to have this resolved favorably in the legal system."
What's the takeaway here? Besides that humans are sometimes deeply bizarre (and also, as Stevens proved, sometimes deeply kind), perhaps a reminder that however annoying your colleagues or however much you stress about your skills as a supervisor, there are far worse out there. But, supposing she's guilty of what she's been accused of, are there any worse than Jackie Brucia?
Have you ever heard of more horrific boss behavior than these allegations?
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.