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Beleaguered Boss

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"Fuck... ALL Y'ALL! Do you have any idea what it's been like trying to lead you people!? You ignore all of my strategies, you adamantly refuse to work together, and then you blame me FOR ALL OF YOUR PROBLEMS!"
Heathcliff, Sword Art Online Abridged

Life is tough for the Beleaguered Assistant. But if there's one thing worse than working for incompetent, sociopathic or outright evil characters, it's being in charge of them.

The Beleaguered Boss would really prefer if their employees had more than a few brain cells to rub together. Instead, they have to put up with lazy oafs, reckless fools, and/or just plain stupid people that, at best, slow things down, or at worst put the entire operation in jeopardy. It's akin to trying to herd cats. Expect said boss to do a Face Palm of frustration, say "I Need a Freaking Drink", explode upon hitting their Rage Breaking Point, or similar.

Reasons for not quitting the job vary. Maybe the boss fears getting into a worse situation than this. Maybe they actually keep the crazy/lazy/stupid employees safe just by being present. Maybe the employees are actually really bad replacements and boss has to scramble to keep business running while being hamstrung by the bad replacements. Whatever the reason, expect a lot of complaining and feeling like the Only Sane Man among lunatics.

Subtrope of The Alleged Boss. See also Surrounded by Idiots, We ARE Struggling Together, and Only Sane Employee. Enraged by Idiocy may ensue.

Compare Authority in Name Only, the Nerd Nanny, the Cloudcuckoolander's Minder, and Sane Boss, Psycho Henchmen. Often overlaps with Da Chief (especially when the Cowboy Cop and Mayor Pain are involved), Mildly Military, The Chains of Commanding or Military Maverick. Godwin's Law of Facial Hair can go with this when it comes to mocking Hitler or any other authoritarian.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chihoukishi Hans No Junan: Hans is the lord of a backwater province in a Medieval European Fantasy where Japanese people with stupidly-overpowered abilities keep popping up for unknown reasons. He has to make sure their powers don't get them noticed by his superiors or by other countries, but unfortunately, there's more than one Idiot Hero on the team and they all have a bad case of New Powers as the Plot Demands, each flashier and more destructive than the last. Appropriately enough, the title translates to "The suffering of local knight Hans".
  • In KonoSuba, Kazuma is the team leader of his incompetent party and Unwanted Harem that are made up of three sociopathic girls all with Crippling Overspecialization and take turns at being The Load. They endlessly annoy him and there are many instances he'd be happy to be rid of them.
  • Gate: Pina is overjoyed at having managed to negotiate a peace settlement with the JSDF that's unbelievably generous to the Empire, mostly wanting information and the return of prisoners instead of ruinous reparations. Then she learns that her Amazon Brigade ran into Itami, captured him and beat the crap out of him on the way back (as there is no radio in the special area, Bozes and the knights thought they were still at war). As this incident could reignite a war the Empire cannot possibly win, Pina orders Bozes to sleep with Itami by way of apology (something aristocratic daughters are used to doing). Bozes enters Itami's room... but on finding him having a tea party with the demihuman maids, opts to slap him instead. On seeing Itami even more roughed up than before, Pina understandably decides to join the delegation herself to prevent any more incidents.
  • Overlord (2012): Much of the drama/humor in the series comes from Ainz being a (relatively) good person, but all but 3 of his underlings are unapologetically evil and he's incapable of understanding that they simply can't relate to humans at all, other than as pawns to be sacrificed or obstacles to be removed (eventually, a single human works in Nazarick, and even then she's only left uneaten because Ainz made it known she was under his protection). Compounding the problem is that he still thinks as though he was a powerless salaryman while the Guardians can't be persuaded that he isn't the godlike and omniscient evil lich he roleplayed as, and he feels guilty about changing the behavior of characters created by his former guildmates.
    • At the start of the series, Ainz makes an offhand comment about taking over the world, which the Guardians take as a direct order and start acting on. When he finally finds out what they've been up to (in Season 3), he decides to make the best of it and eventually creates a kingdom where people of all races can live in peace and tolerance.
    • Ainz assigns Lupusregina to keep watch over Carne village. She doesn't bother to report things like giant monsters leading armies near the village, because who cares if a bunch of humans (including, unbeknownst to her, those Ainz had plans for) get wiped out? Ainz has to make it clear she is to defend the important people in the village for her to do so (and even then she'd gladly watch them die screaming, something the village goblins are quick to pick up on).
    • Ainz's every attempt at being a Benevolent Boss (paying the underlings, giving them days off...) ends in failure because they consider it an honor if not a religious duty to serve him. He ends up having to install a rota for the maids because otherwise they all try to attend to him every single day.
    • Yuri the head maid brings Solution before Ainz for stealing something from Ainz. After Yuri takes it on herself to try and beat Solution to death, twice, Ainz finally gets Yuri to understand he just wants Solution to explain herself (Solution was jealous of an ordinary slime being used to scrub Ainz's skeleton clean and hid the slime because she wanted that job herself). Both leave alive, astounded at Ainz's boundless forgiveness and benevolence.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: The Knight Commander of Selig doesn't even get a chance to introduce himself he's so busy trying (and failing) to keep his gadfly second in command in line, then he ends up forced to take on a pair of young twin noblemen he knows are plotting something and lying to him and it doesn't help that most of his garrison tends to tread the second prince as just one of the guys and are also a bit too casual with the heir of the local earl.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix:
    • In Asterix and the Goths, Asterix and Obelix pull a Mugged for Disguise on two Roman soldiers (who think they're the invading Goths). When news gets around that the Goths are disguised as legionaries, they start arresting each other for the reward (and since the Gauls have since gone back to their own clothes, aren't bothered by the Romans either). The Roman general understandably has a breakdown. In the original French, his name was Nenpeuplus, phonetically meaning "can't take it anymore".
    • Asterix the Legionary: The Roman decurion Nefarius Purpus finds out that his Mildly Military squad (made entirely of non-Romans) have better things to do than follow his orders when there's drinking, gambling, and sightseeing to be done. Even worse, he gets punished for it when the entirety of the 1st legion, 3rd cohort, 2nd maniple, 1st century wanders by Caesar's tent in twos and threes and identify themselves.
      Nefarius Purpus: So there you are! Things are going to be a bit different around here! This is a military camp! There's got to be discipline here! They've got a guardroom here! And I know someone who...
      Military Police: Officer in command of the detachment of the 1st legion, 3rd cohort, 2nd maniple, 1st century?
      Nefarius Purpus: That's right!
      Military Police: Right! We arrest you in the name of Julius Caesar, who doesn't like being interrupted when he's talking! It's the guardroom for you!
  • In Runaways, Alex is the Only Sane Man on a team that includes a Dumb Jock, a Soapbox Sadie, a temperamental airhead, and a Cute Bruiser. Subverted in that he intentionally built the team this way; they were supposed to die fighting their own evil parents so that he and his parents would reap all the benefits of the Doomsday Plot for themselves.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: Superpositioning coordinates? That was not your job! Richards wants a stress test on the gate walling, to make sure that it doesn't flex on the given coordinates! If you need more men, call Fury and get more men! And quickly, the project must be finished for yesterday, or that Gah Lak Tus will kill us all! God, don't you see that you're all working on a crime against science?
    • The Ultimates: Nick Fury needs all superhuman people ready for the fight against the Chitauri in Micronesia, but no luck: Captain America went AWOL and he's already beating Pym to a pulp for his wifebeating episode.

    Comic Strips 
  • The rare Dilbert strips that are sympathetic of the Pointed-Haired Boss will depict him as such. They usually end up reminding the audience his workers are slackers, violence prone or trying their hardest to game the system. His superiors being intentionally more evil or tight-fisted doesn't help matter either.
  • Madam & Eve: Gwen "Madam" Anderson is a mild example, as her servant Eve Sisulu balances her capable housekeeping skills with a steady dose of quiet sass and attitude.

    Fan Works 
  • Sword Art Online Abridged:
    • Heathcliff is the leader of the most powerful guild in the game. Unfortunately, most players are extremely representative of the worst stereotypes of MMO players (the protagonist included), causing him no end of headaches. Their idiocy plays a part in his Villainous Breakdown, although Kirito points out that someone who plays a multiplayer game with permanent invulnerability has no place criticizing others dying stupid deaths.
      Heathcliff: Christ, it's like herding cats with you people!
    • Diabel, the leader of the first guild made a valiant attempt at defeating a boss by calling out instructions to the other players. Unfortunately, most of them didn't care, didn't know what "flanking" means, or were playing Bejeweled. And one is a cat.

    Films — Animation 
  • Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods: The Roman centurion keeps trying to convince his troops that the Gauls are out of magic potion, but they've been beaten by the Gauls too often for them to believe it. When they finally come to him for orders he's since Stopped Caring (helped by the fact that they've gone on strike to demand things like being ordered politely and better living conditions than the slaves who built the titular luxury condominiums). The fact that he's played by Alexandre Astier means Kaamelott viewers feel right at home.
  • Mulan: Shang is in charge of getting the new recruits into shape, over the course of "Let's Get Down To Business", better known as "I'll Make A Man Out Of You". While his efforts go unrewarded at first, the recruits finally shape up once Mulan (the least competent of them all) succeeds in getting an arrow down from a pole, inspiring them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army: The head of the BPRD is doing his best to keep the Bureau's existence (and the rest of The Masquerade) a secret from the public, and is constantly thwarted by Hellboy's grasp of public relations:
    Tom Manning: "Undercover." Can't he get the meaning of the word? I mean, we are still government-funded, we are still a secret, although a dirty secret, if you ask me. Officially, we-do-not-exist. So, you see, that's the problem when we get these.
    [shows Abe a series of photos]
    Tom Manning: Subway... highway... ah, park.
    [holds up one, showing Hellboy giving a "peace" sign with his stone hand]
    Tom Manning: And he posed for this one, and gave an autograph. I suppress each photo, cell phone videos, they cost me a fortune, and then they show up on YouTube... God, I hate YouTube!
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Star-Lord is The Leader and Team Dad of the titular Guardians. Aside from Gamora who is the most sensible, their ranks are made up of a kleptomanic talking raccoon, a Blood Knight with no common sense, and a sentient tree lost in his own world.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet:
    • Arthur initially refuses to return to Kaamelott to avoid dealing with the dumbasses (who, if anything, have gotten worse over the years) that want him back on the throne. When it's suggested he train the Burgunds (who are even less skilled), he emphatically refuses but changes his mind later once he figures out how to get to them to learn.
    Arthur: I didn't use to train morons. Well, yes, I did, but not this bad.
    • The Burgunds were treated as comically inept warriors in the series, and the film shows just how bad they are. Their sieges fail because they're incapable of getting their siege engines to turn the right way or even aim them properly, with the Burgund king yelling ineffectually at them from the top of a siege tower. Once Arthur starts organizing them via musical signals that manage to attack Kaamelott.
    • Lancelot is saddled with just as many incompetents as Arthur was, but he contributes to the kingdom's downfall just as much since he keeps the coffers and garrisons drained to hunt for Arthur (and collect taxes to pay for said manhunt). The only competent people in his court are the Saxon mercenaries led by Horsa, and he's a Dragon with an Agenda.

  • In "Bandits in Your Grocer's Freezer", Pete finds himself acting manager of the store after Dale is killed by the bandits living in the freezer aisle; leaving him to handle disinterested and lazy workers, upset customers, and said bandits.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • During his years with the Valhallan 12th Artillery Regiment, Cain was forever pulling Guardsmen out of Arbites cells for drunken brawling, indecent behavior and otherwise disturbing the peace. While most commissars wouldn't have hesitated in shooting the lot of them and inspiring discipline through fear, Cain always does his best to limit his discipline to prison, latrine duty and floggings so as to maintain his popularity with the men (as so many martinets end up dying heroic deaths suspiciously far away from the front line). As his reputation grows, this has the side effect of the troopers doing their job flawlessly while on duty: no one wants to be the one who disappointed Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium (he cites one man as preferring to take on a Carnifex with a broken chair leg rather than let Cain down).
    • Later, Cain gets assigned to the remnants of the 296th and 301st Valhallans hurriedly combined into a single one due to the catastrophic losses both suffered under the Tyranids. Not only did they have completely different specialties (planetary assault and garrison), one was made up entirely of women, leading to a Bar Brawl when one meathead declared he sure as hell wouldn't be eating from "some mincing tart's front parlour tea service", leading to several dead. Cain ends up combining the two into the Valhallan 597th (and threatening to make it the 48th penal legion), does what he can to foster good relations between both sides, and thereafter has the opposite problem of Inappropriately Close Comrades and the occasional lovechild.
    • According to Inquisitor Vail, while most Imperial Guard commissars operate at a regimental level, the commissars assigned to oversee the Planetary Defense Forces are often assigned to oversee the entirety of the PD Fs on multiple planets in a sector. As such it's not uncommon for them to spend most of their time traveling from one planet to another leaving the troops nominally in their jurisdiction blissfully unaware of their existence.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Downplayed in the case of Quidditch: While Wood takes the sport as Serious Business, organizing training sessions at dawn and keeps reminding his players between classes that the match is coming up, the team is sufficiently well-knit that it can be played for humor. Then in fifth year, Angelina Johnson becomes Captain and admits she might have been too hard on Wood (the fact that one of the teachers personally hates them and Ron is a very sub-par replacement for Wood at first doesn't make it easier).
    • When Harry takes over in his sixth year, he not only has to deal with the usual Slytherin attacks and sabotage, Ron's lack of self-confidence and dealing with Cormac, the backup Keeper who clearly thinks he should be Captain and often acts as though this is the case, accidentally costing Griffyndor a match when he was explaining to a Beater how to do their job and ended up knocking Harry out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Stone, the head of the board of education, is sometimes pulled into an embarrassing situation by the actions of the Madison High Gang. Other times he is merely annoyed. This is in spite of the fact that, although eccentric, principal Mr. Conklin and biology teacher Mr. Boynton are usually showed to quite intelligent. Miss Brooks is usually the Only Sane Woman, but is not herself immune from taking part in a Zany Scheme.
    • In "Living Statues", Walter Denton's miracle paint sticks Denton, Boynton, Brooks and Conklin to the furniture in MR. Conklin's office. Mr. Stone, after furiously denouncing them for lampooning his authority with a "grotesque tableau", gets his hand stuck to the telephone receiver.
    • "Vitamin E-12" sees Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton and Mr. Conklin desperate for money. They are each deceived by a confidence man into taking jobs manufacturing the titular (and phony) vitamin. Mr. Stone arrives to raid the place along with a police detective, shocked that people of their mentality could be so fooled.
    • "Bobbsey Twins in Stir": Another confidence man fools Miss Brooks' landlady Mrs. Davis into peddling phony tickets to the policeman's ball, proceeds going to charity. Miss Brooks, not knowing the tickets are phony, peddles the tickets at school. With the help of Bones Snodgrass, she makes copies in the school print shop when she runs short so as to keep up demand.
      Mr. Stone: I am informed that not only are these tickets forgeries, but they are forgeries of the original forgeries.
    • In "Hawkin's Travel Agency" (radio and television), Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton and Mr. Conklin all wear costumes to represent France, Mexico and Hawaii in order to convince Mr. Stone to join them on a (discount) trip to their preferred vacation destination. They also sing and perform songs to do so.
  • In Arrow, while the majority of the time Team Arrow is a well polished and disciplined team, Season 5 introduces the Team Arrow Recruits, who are much more of a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits than their predecessors and make things very difficult for Oliver.
  • Kaamelott: Most of the comedy comes from King Arthur trying his best to keep his knights on the quest for the Holy Grail and defend Britain from invaders. Unfortunately, he's Surrounded by Idiots above (the gods never give him a clear and precise definition of what the Grail is or even looks like, the Lady of the Lake keeps sending him on quests for useless junk), below (the peasants revolt every other week or take Sitcom Arch-Nemesis to livestock-poisoning levels), and at his level (the knights all have their own idea of what actually constitutes chivalrous behavior, and those who're actually competent in combat can be counted on one hand that's been in an industrial accident). There's no wonder he renounces the throne at the end of his arc in the series and initially refuses to come back in Kaamelott: Premier Volet.
    Arthur: Lord, I shall devote myself entirely to the noble quest with which You have honored me. But with the team of dumbasses I'm stuck with, we're not out of the brambles yet.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, the titular Legends are a team of B-List outcast superheroes and failed villains. They are initially led by the long-suffering Rip Hunter, who is Authority in Name Only, as no-one listens to his orders. After his departure, Sara Lance is put in charge, who while has more of a grip on leadership, she also has to deal with a lot of the Legends' antics.
  • Justified: Chief Deputy Marshall Art Mullen spends much of his time all but muttering 'What now?' as he tries to keep his deputy marshalls in line and out of trouble. When a social climbing Deputy Marshall comes around hinting that it might be time for Art to retire so he can take over Art's job, Art gives an epic description of what he's dealing with:
    Art Mullen: You came here about the job, right? You need to hear about this. I got a young kid here, decorated sniper in Iraq War, Army Ranger, I don't know how many kills he had. Always lookin' to kill somebody else. Probably got PTSD. Probably an alcoholic. Not a matter if that powder keg is gonna blow but when. I got a lady marshall here. Brought in two of the top fifteen fugitives to this office, but she's always tryin' to prove herself. I thought she was gonna be the one that would take this office over when I got ready to retire, but now she's left her husband so it's gonna be fun to monitor her emotional state over the next year, see if she can keep it together. Then I got a local boy, born in Harlan county, been investigated so many times internal affairs has got him on speed dial. Father's in prison for murderin' two people, including a state trooper, and his daddy killed somebody else last night in prison and I get to be the one to tell him about it!
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Captain Cragen had to put up with Benson and Stabler's complete lack of regard for procedure and constitutional rights. He's been suspended twice for his inability to properly supervise them.
  • On Leverage, Nate Ford leads a crew of thieves that are the best at what they do. But when they're not working they are a walking collection of personality disorders who have no respect for Nate's boundaries. Not only did they drag Nate back into a life of crime, they turned his apartment into their new headquarters against his will. Hardison has made it clear that he has all of Nate's passwords, and has used them.
  • Being in charge of a Muppet production, any Muppet production, is an easy road to a nervous breakdown. Due to cast of nuts that make up the Muppets, whoever's in charge has to navigate these off-the-wall personalities and egos and deal with the fact that the Muppets is a total Doom Magnet and Weirdness Magnet;
    • The Muppet Show, Kermit has it the most, but when Statler and Waldorf tried running the show, all of their best efforts were hamstrung by the usual insanity. They admitted that running the show as a lot harder than it looked.
    • Muppets Tonight: The only reason Clifford was put in charge was because he was busy talking to his girlfriend on the phone while everyone else fled the room.
  • NewsRadio: Boyish news director Dave Nelson of WNYX has to deal with an office full of squabbling misfits of varying degrees of ineptitude, ego, and disregard for authority, among them his girlfriend/would-be replacement Lisa and bombastic anchor Bill, along with Dave's own boss, Jimmy James, eccentric billionaire station owner. By the end of the series, when all his Midwestern idealism has been chipped away, all that's left is bitterness, snark, and lasting hatred of Wacky Guy reporter Matthew.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Many Imperial Guard commanders end up feeling like this if they have to work with other branches of Imperial armed forces. Space Marines expect ordinary Guardsmen to keep up with seven-foot-tall gene-tailored Super Soldiers in Power Armor and may refuse their aid based on perceived faults in the Guards' genetic purity, Sisters of Battle close in on the enemy with flamers and organize prayer meetings when not fighting, the Inquisition is liable to arrest, judge, and burn people as heretics... and that's not counting the Guardsmen who seem to think retreat in the face of Chaos, giant monsters, and aliens is a good idea (fortunately they have Commissars to deal with that).
    • Unless said Guardsmen are the Death Korps of Krieg, whose extreme Martyrdom Culture even compared to the rest of the Imperium means their Commissars spend a lot of time trying to stop them from hurling themselves into fights they have no chance of winning.
    • While fandom takes it up a pinch, any Chaos commander leading a force consisting of multiple Chaos Space Marine Legions, warbands, and daemons will run into this problem, because there exists a four-way rivalry between the Chaos gods where killing another god's champion (or even your own god's champion) is liable to get the killer rewarded by his patron god. That, and pretty much everyone involved is literally insane in one direction or the other. As such, commanders that can't get their troops in line by cracking dissident skulls will be relegated to this role, and even then it's usually not enough.

  • Twisted:
    • While technically subservient to the Sultan, Grand Vizier Jafar (or rather Ja'far) is the Only Sane Man running the Magic Kingdom, and his every plan to improve the kingdom is thwarted by the ignorant citizens who hate him on principle, the insane sultan and his Decadent Court, or the Sultan's actually Ja'far's irresponsible Bratty Teenage Daughter. He ends up having to try to prevent a war sparked by the Princess' self-centered behavior while accused of being a traitor by the sociopathic thief Aladdin.
    • While not exactly a paragon of sanity (he declares war on the Magic Kingdom both to avenge himself of the insult given by the Princess and thinks this will make her love him), Prince Achmed is completely unable to convince his army that he did not have sex with the Princess' tiger, no matter how often he explains it (they're under the impression he's making war on the kingdom solely to elope with the tiger).

    Video Games 
  • Bomb Club: Ian is the de facto leader of the titular club. He's also the only qualified engineer among the four, and has to rein in the other, overexcited bomb enthusiasts to make sure they don't do anything stupid, or evil, or both. His club member's cluelessness and recklessness with regards to the bombs often drive him up the wall.
  • Deep Rock Galactic: Mission Control doesn't have too many problems with the team when they're on duty, being polite and dutiful. Off-duty, however... handling a bunch of dwarves that are coming straight out of a stressful mission and looking to get drunk and have some R&R is a problem. He dishes out a lot of ineffectual threats at their jobs if they get up to shenanigans, and will rage at them through the intercom if they start kicking barrels where they don't belong, but can't really stop them since no one else dares delve into the caverns those four cover.
  • To prevent Twinking and powergaming, the Pokémon games have a mechanic where traded Pokémon only obey your orders up to a certain level (that increases with the Gym badges you've obtained), randomly wasting turns by goofing off, using a different move or going to sleep to show their contempt for you. This isn't entirely foolproof: if the Pokémon is strong enough, the battle just takes longer but still ends in one hit when it does obey.

    Web Animation 

  • Roy Greenhilt of The Order of the Stick has to contend with a cleric who needs to be told to Shut Up and Save Me!, a somewhat arrogant wizard, a kleptomaniac rogue, a ranger who's a violent sociopath (and his cat), and the prince of all Quirky Bards. You really feel for the guy (and his alignment is even given as "Beleaguered Good" in the adventure game based on the comic).

    Western Animation 
  • Action League NOW!: We have the Chief of the titular League, who is frequently exasperated and outraged by the immature and dimwitted superheroes. The episode "Grief For The Chief" in particular shows how much suffering the League has caused the Chief.
  • Regular Show provides us with Benson, the head keeper of the park, who has to deal with slackers Mordecai and Rigby on a regular basis, Muscle Man's constant pranking, and the others having their moments of Not So Above It All, with his boss Pops being a Cloudcuckoolander. It takes the constant threat of George Jetson Job Security to keep Mordecai and Rigby in line, and even then they constantly bring near-apocalyptic chaos to the park with their Weirdness Magnet luck. As a result, he is so constantly angry that the one time Pops orders Benson to rein in his anger or else he will be fired, Benson makes himself sick from all the pent-up rage... and when Pops tells him to let it out, the angry rant he unleashes comes along with a Super Saiyan-esque Super Mode.
  • In Teen Titans Go!, Robin is the team leader of the incompetent Teen Titans, though unlike most examples of this trope he's just as bad (if not worse) than the team he's leading. Several instances indicate the Titans hold little to no respect for him as leader and would be happy to replace him or usurp his leadership if given the chance.