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Annika Bergsten worked her first-ever job at a local diner in a small Northeast Kansas town. Over her four years there, she started out as a host and then moved into serving. It was a difficult experience. She says sometimes felt afraid to even look at her boss out of worry she’d be lashed out at. Going to college, and then getting a job where “they treated me like a human,” helped her realize how bad her boss truly could be.

It’s a small town. Everyone knows everybody. Everyone knows everything about everybody. So, my boss at the restaurant was like, “We’re a family. We’re all best friends. If you ever need a place to stay, you could come to my house. If you ever need food to eat, I’m here for you.”

But it meant that you have to share your entire personal life story to your boss to get time off. It meant that I used to work 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and just eat a bite in between taking care of tables. I never got to sit down.

Most of the time, she was super sweet, but she just randomly switched and would just become malicious. We would, a lot of the time, just make stuff up to get the boss to go home. The minute she would be like, “I just have so much to do at home,” or, “Oh, I forgot to feed my cat,” we’d say, “Oh, no worries, go do that, we’re fine here. It’s super slow.”

When my father had a very, very serious medical issue, all of that family stuff was thrown out the door—because it was inconvenient for her. Someone had agreed to work for me. But my boss still refused.

She wrote a very aggressive and rude Facebook post about me on the business’ Facebook page. She knew what she was saying was untruthful. 

That Facebook post had a picture of my paycheck with my personal information crossed out. And it was for like 20-something dollars, because at the time, we got paid $2.25 an hour. We kept all of our tips, too. And so she used it to say, “Hey, look at this girl, she’s complaining about how she works all the time. She actually doesn’t work. As you can see here, she’s just being lazy and making excuses and she’s just ruining my business.” Just terrible stuff like that. The paycheck that she had posted was actually my last paycheck. So, it wasn’t like a full payroll. It’s like 20-something dollars, and usually mine were around $50, even with that $2.25 minimum wage.

She never explicitly said my name, but everyone knew it was about me.

There’s also another employee involved in the same exact situation. It kind of happened to us together. Her husband found the Facebook post and deleted it. He called my co-workers’ parents and apologized to them for his wife’s actions. But I never received any kind of apology. I was never reached out to or anything.

After that there was an anonymous typed-out letter sent to the restaurant for my boss. I found out about this through friends who were still working there. The letter was basically saying: You’re a terrible person, you treat your employees wrongfully, you need to get things together. And it was kind of threatening her, too, like: If you don’t, then I’m going to do something. It was kind of a wake-up call for her. My friend said that after she received that letter she calmed down a little bit.

I believe that she believes that I mailed that letter, which I absolutely did not. To this day, no one knows who sent that letter, or who it was, and nothing happened after that.

So I quit the job.

It was so bad that after I quit that job, I got a job at the Walmart in town, and that was the job that taught me: Wow, my last job was absolutely terrible. They were like: “Take a lunch break.” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I get a lunch break?” At Walmart, if you request off for work, you will get it off.

I currently go to the University of Kansas, and I work at a restaurant here. It’s great. I’m serving again, which I didn’t want to do after my first job traumatized me. But I realized that not all restaurants are that bad.

This story is part of our Bad Bosses project, a reported collection of accounts from workers about their terrible bosses and the system that creates them. You can read more about the entire project and find every story here. Annotations—highlighted throughout—can be clicked for further context and comment from other parties. Got your own bad boss story? Send us an email.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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