Originally created 11/18/99

Disgruntled workers boss bash online



Hate your job? Think your boss is a turkey? Join the crowd at http://www.disgruntled.com, where each month 30,000 malcontents vent their work-place frustrations.

Founder-editor Daniel S. Levine thinks of his online magazine as catharsis for those who "think there's something wrong with them if they don't get total spiritual fulfillment from being a file clerk."

On the theory that most workers live lives of quiet desperation, he encourages them to e-mail their "tales of horror, disgust, frustration, liberation and revenge." His goal: to help them "get gruntled again."

Mr. Levine, a 38-year-old onetime newspaper and magazine business writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded Disgruntled.com as a voice for the minions who labor in silence under CEOs and other VIPs who get plenty of press.

The free magazine is a mix of news, features, satire and commentary on the darker side of the work world. Mr. Levine and guest contributors tackle serious issues, including harassment, discrimination, stagnant wages and hiring of temp workers in an era of soaring top-management salaries.

But the fun stuff is contributed by his readers, who are encouraged to rat on their companies, their supervisors and their co-workers -- but no names, please.

Those tapping into the Web site find articles under categories such as "Drowning in the Secretarial Pool" and "Dangerous Liaisons (Office Romances)." Then there's the Grunty Poll, which once asked readers to compare their bosses' IQs with those on a given list of well-known personalities. Forrest Gump matched up the most, with 37 percent, while HAL 9000, the brainy computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, scored zero.

Boss bashing is rampant. Among contributors' descriptions of their bosses: "The Hitler and Mussolini of motivational leadership," "Bozo," "a major league dirt bag," "a grouchy, lying, two-faced witch," "a regular Fruit Loop" and "a poster boy for the Jekyll and Hyde Academy of Jerks to Work for."

The turkey of all turkeys, in Mr. Levine's view, was a "real prince of a boss," a defense subcontractor who generously let his secretaries use his private bathroom -- where he had a hidden video camera "installed for his own jollies."

Celebrity contributors have included [as]Dilbert[xs] creator Scott Adams, the patron saint of disgruntled workers, who labored as a bank teller, a computer programmer, a financial analyst and an engineer before striking cartooning gold.

In an online Q&A, he was asked, "Do you feel guilty that you can control your own hours and do things your own way when Dilbert has to get up every morning and go to that same office?"

Deadpanned Mr. Adams, "No, he's my employee. Dammit, he can go to work and earn me some money." Disgruntled.com's kind of boss.

Disgruntled's useful crash courses for those hoping to become gruntled include "Learn to Be a Top Executive or Just Speak Like One." Among suggested useful phrases: "Our long-range plan may seem shortsighted, but you have to remember that it is focused on success in the near term."

Mr. Levine has found that a major worker complaint is that bosses "will call (employees) up at all hours with these ridiculous demands, with no thought that these people have a life outside of their work." A Chicago bookkeeper had to deliver a box of live lobsters to an executive party. A female worker complained that, to save money, her boss moved the company to his home, where her duties included cleaning his pet ferret's cage.

Getting even is a major theme. One worker took revenge on his manager by dialing a 900 number and leaving the phone off the hook for eight hours at $8.95 a minute. One mean-spirited group of workers pooled their money to buy suggestive lingerie from Frederick's of Hollywood, laundered it to take away the newness, packed it up with a "Dear John" note explaining that the lingerie brought back "painful memories" -- and had it delivered to their tyrannical supervisor's house when they knew his wife was home alone.

In Mr. Levine's view, the best revenge is getting a better job, "leaving the company scrambling to fill a much larger hole than they realized they'd ever have."