Finding a decent job in fictionland ain't always easy. From working at the Burger Fool to having a Soul-Sucking Retail Job, to working in the higher rungs of the corporate ladder, all employees have to deal with a boss. This being fictionland, a lot of bosses tend to be mean, if not outright evil, and may fire you for any provocation. But not all bosses are bad: some treat their employees pleasantly and encourage a more healthy workplace environment...
Except for the employees they, for whatever reason, just can't stand. They may not necessarily be bad workers, and may in fact be the best they have, but their boss just won't give them a break. They're the one who gets yelled at in meetings, or threatened with being fired, or given the most undesirable jobs. They show up each day just to be treated poorly for often little to no reason. They're the boss's unfavorite.
This will be Played for Laughs in more comedic work, often with the boss targeting the employee for no reason while being outright kind to everyone else. However, in more serious works, this is bound to be treated much darkly, perhaps as a story of workplace bullying with some other employees joining in as well. However it's portrayed, though, what stays consistent is that this one employee is just given the short end of the stick. In either scenario, the employee usually doesn't deserve it, but in other cases it can be justified if the employee is incompetent or otherwise a trouble-maker. In cases the boss has Sympathetic P.O.V., the employee may be equally impudent or unhelpful to them, maybe even warring for their role in charge, but for whatever reason can not be fired or disciplined, leaving petty vents of hatred all the boss has against this insufferable dead weight. In some cases they may even be The Alleged Boss, just this guy is the only one infuriating enough to make them assert their authority for once.
Though the title and description refers to the character as an employee, technically any character who is singled out for abuse by a boss character would count; so long as the bullying authority is the one who gives them a job, and the authority figure doesn't target anyone else nearly as much, it's this trope. This boss may not necessarily have to be nice to their other employees, either- just lopsidedly awful to this one.
Subtrope of Jerkass to One, compare The Unfavorite for the family version, as well as Butt-Monkey, which may overlap. If the employee provoked their abuse through their own bad attitude, this trope likely serves to show they were Bullying the Dragon.
- Played With in a print ad for VisiCalc spreadsheet software tells the story of a sales manager whose "star" salesman consistently pulled in the most revenue, until VisiCalc showed this man was milking mostly house accounts rather than luring in fresh clients, and his sales were mostly low-margin items made in bulk. "The raw sales total said "star." The breakdown said "dog." The photo in this ad shows a salesman award with its head chopped off.
- In Aggretsuko, Director Ton regularly singles out Retsuko for special abuse, because she managed to get him reported to his boss.
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate is definitely this to Klaus. It's well established that there's a lot of other personnel in the Sanezenin Manor, and Klaus doesn't treat them with George Jetson Job Security (let alone the extreme "dead or fired, I want you out" treatment Hayate gets).
- Kobayashi's boss in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid would often hoist all his work on her and yell at her for the slightest mistake despite her being the most competent person in their department due to his outdated views about women in the workplace. She got him fired by recording his rants and sending them to the company president.
- In early points Pokémon: The Series, the Terrible Trio of Jessie, James and Meowth are such to Giovanni of the Team Rocket criminal organisation. Both he and a large amount of other members of the organisation grew to loathe the trio's constant failures making them a laughing stock, with Giovanni only keeping them to trek other regions because poor exposure is better than no exposure. Amusingly by the end of their run in Sinnoh, they'd become such washouts that Giovanni had forgotten all about them, allowing them to gain more favourable terms with him since then by exaggerating their accomplishments and roles in taking down rival criminal syndicates.
- Superman: While Perry White is short-tempered and demanding in general, Jimmy Olsen especially attracts his wrath on the regular. Sometimes this is justified by Jimmy suffering from Acquired Situational Narcissism and needing someone to take him down a peg, but other aspects for which Perry yells at him (such as his habit of calling Perry "Chief") seem less legitimate.
- Julius Dithers has special ire for Blondie's husband, Dagwood. While Dithers is grumpy and impatient to most of his employees, Dagwood has received tirades, been physically kicked, and once thrown out an office window.
- Naturally ultimately used for gags in Dilbert:
- The Pointy-Haired Boss is naturally true to his name, but usually unctuously tries to appeal and relate to his employees. His patience with Wally is often much lower however, for the justified reason that Wally has far less shrewdness about having zero work ethic.
- At one point the Pointy Haired Boss hires a Man Hating Supervisor, who expectedly makes clear the male employees are The Un-Favourite. This backfires as all the employees have such low self esteem to begin with that they treat her demeaning as a compliment, which she deems no fun.
Man-Hating Supervisor: I'm putting Alice in charge of the project... [turns to Wally] while Willy or Walter here can sip coffee until he grows into a fly!
[later Wally and Dilbert converse in the cubicles]
Wally: I don't understand why she's being so nice to me.
- Office Space: Lumbergh makes Milton move his desk three times a week and takes his stapler. When Milton is laid off, Lumbergh doesn't tell him; instead he cuts off his paycheck, moves him to the basement, and makes him hunt cockroaches.
- Ash vs. Evil Dead: Ash was this to Mr. Roper, his superior at Value Stop. While Roper was a Mean Boss in general, he had a particular dislike for Ash, a lazy goldbrick who's seniority mades him unfireable. When possessed by a Deadite, Roper retained enough of his old self to mock Ash as a "sad old failure" and admit he's always hated him.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Darryl, boss of Whitefeather and Associates, is perfectly cordial with everyone who works for him except for plucky new assistant Maya, to whom he tends to be harsh and mean. Later, it's explained that this is because Maya reminds him of himself, and he becomes nicer to her.
- Drake & Josh: Helen, Josh's boss at the Premier, is openly disrespectful and uncaring towards him. However, she loves Drake because of his short time as her employee, despite that he was lazy, irresponsible, and didn't quite care for working there. Even when she eventually lightens up a bit on Josh, she still openly doesn't care for him.
- Friends: Joanna, Rachel's boss at Bloomingdale's, actually loves Rachel as her assistant but, for some unexplained reason, can't stand another employee named Sophie and is always picking on her.
Rachel: The hiring committee is meeting people all day and...Joanna: Oh. Well, I wish I could say no, but you can't stay my assistant forever. Neither can you Sophie, but for different reasons.
- The Office (US): Michael, general manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin, treats all his subordinates like family - except for human resources representative Toby, whom he has an Irrational Hatred of (despite being one of the few genuinely nice characters in the office). According to Michael, it's because Toby works for Corporate, and is therefore not part of his "family" (adding that, being divorced, he's also not part of his own family).
- Parks and Recreation: Jerry is the Parks Department's resident Butt-Monkey, with everyone except Ben always ragging on him. Even hyper-kind do-gooders Leslie (who outranks everyone except the apathetic Ron) and Chris (who outranks everyone) put him down constantly.
- Scrubs: The chief of medicine Bob Kelso is very cruel to Ted, the pathetic lawyer of the hospital and often mistreats him For the Evulz. In the first two seasons he also treats Elliot this way, since he knows she's shy and insecure, he likes to torment her and undermine her self-esteem, until it becomes a plot point in the season 2 finale. Elliot grows out of it in later seasons (Ted doesn't), after she gains more confidence.
- Suits: Louis is not nice to any of his associates, but he likes to treat the awkwardly inept Harold as his personal Butt-Monkey. Not only he's verbally abusive towards him, he also makes Harold take care of his cat even though it is clearly evident that Harold is extremely allergic. After years of Harold working as his associate, Louis eventually fires him.
- In Flander's Company, although he's somewhat jealous of his supervillain employees' superpowers, Armand Trueman generally treats them fairly as long they don't slack on the job. As a result, he's particularly hostile toward Caleb, the resident Mad Scientist, because he's Brilliant, but Lazy and would spend most of his time next to the coffee machine. Armand thus yells at and belittles Caleb at every opportunity, and once goes in shock when he realizes Caleb has actually been working.
- True Jackson, VP: Mr. Madigan, the President of Mad Style, was a sweet and respectful boss who did his best to keep things running smoothly...except whenever Kopelman was around, as for an unexplained reason, he simply hated Kopelman. It was a Running Gag that every meeting would start with him yelling at Kopelman and often forcing him out of the meeting, despite the fact that Kopelman never so much as speaks, so the reason for this treatment is unknown.
- Mappy: While Goro is a Card-Carrying Villain, he treats the employees of Nyamco pretty well. The same can't be said for Mappy, who he frequently likes to single out because of their pasts as enemies. The Nyamco employee handbook specifically includes mocking Mappy's weight as one of the company's core tenets.
- Red vs. Blue: Grif is the least favorite subordinate of Sarge. Sarge singles him out for dangerous work, openly wishes for his death, and has tried to get him killed on various occasions.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, compared to the other villains he hires, Mr. Boss really has it out for The Toiletnator. It makes sense that he does, though, as The Toiletnator has by far the biggest failure record and the least capacity to read situations and figure out what's going on. It gets to where on the rare moments Toiletnator actually succeeds, Mr. Boss brushes him off assuming he's failed once again. Considering Mr. Boss hires villains on a freelance basis, it does seem strange that he'd continue to choose Toiletnator.
- George Jetson from Hanna-Barbera's Saturday morning cartoon series The Jetsons remains Cosmo G. Spacelys only employee to be visibly and audibly dismissed ("Jet-SSSOOOOOOONNN! You're fired!") constantly, for any damn reason Mr. Spacely could think of. George has also been made the guinea pig for an indestructible outfit (the outfit survived the rigorous tests, George not so much), shipped to Places Worse Than Death (Outer Moongolia, for example) and endured varying amounts of physical abuse from his Mean Boss.
- Danger Duck of the Loonatics Unleashed tends to crow like a Miles Gloriosus, and is often The Chew Toy among his teammates. Lexi Bunny has singed Duck's tailfeathers at least three times in irritation. Zadavia, "the Boss Lady" in Duck's parlance, has contacted Danger Duck for a dressing down in two (possibly three) episodes. Zadavia has softened this stance in season two, after Danger Duck freed her from captivity by her power-mad brother, Optimatus.
- In The Simpsons, Superintendent Chalmers is far harsher on Principal Skinner than on his other employees. For the most part, he's willing to put up with a lot (though he does have his limits, like physically abusing students or getting blackout drunk on the job), but he's shown to have very little patience for Skinner and his antics. In a couple of episodes it's even made clear that Chalmers has no problem whatsoever with Skinner getting killed by whatever mess he's in right now. It is implied from his first appearance to be because, while he can put up with incompetence, he loathes toadying, which Skinner takes to elaborate levels.
- Commander Feral from SWAT Kats has no respect for Enforcer pilot Chance Furlong. During a pursuit of Dark Kat, Feral sideswiped Furlong to take credit for the takedown; Dark Kat escaped during this distraction. Worse, Furlong's jet crashed into Enforcer headquarters, for which Feral blamed him. Furlong and his partner, Jake Clawson, were reassigned to the junkyard. Feral thereafter takes a dim view of The Starscream Lieutenant Steele. This attitude is completely justified as Steele wants Feral's position for the power but is too much of coward to do any of the actual work.
- While Megatron is often depicted as a Mean Boss in The Transformers G1 series, unlike most later depictions, his tirades to most of his subordinates are more subdued and he is implied to have some degree of care for them. He has much more minimal patience with Starscream however due to being, well, The Starscream, and is frequently willing to select him as a personal stress ball or as a guinea pig for his schemes. In Megatron's defence, his patience towards Starscream's own penchant for insults and back-stabs is relatively commendable for an Evil Overlord.
- Zordrak, being the Evil Overlord of The Dreamstone, is a Bad Boss in general to his whole Urpney army, who sought to execute previous unfavourites. In the first season, Urpgor gloats about his higher position to Sgt. Blob and his cadets, quite convinced they are next on Zordrak's hit list. After one incident too many with Urpgor's inventions, however, (and some implications of treacherous power seeking), Zordrak reveals that Urpgor is his unfavourite, and while he considers Blob at least halfway serviceable enough to keep around, the only reason he preserves Urpgor is because he is the only current resource for trying to get the Dreamstone. A recurring plot throughout the series is Urpgor sabotaging any alternative means Zordrak gains to do said job, knowing he would fire him on the spot if it succeeded and he was no longer needed.
- Mr. Krabs, the boss of SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward Tentacles, tends to favor the former in a fatherly way while antagonizing the latter on a regular basis. Which of them is portrayed as more sympathetic overall varies depending on the episode, but both Mr. Krabs and Squidward have good reasons to dislike each other; Mr. Krabs is a greedy taskmaster who pays both of his employees as little as possible and repeatedly forces them to go along with get-rich-quick schemes, while Squidward is lazy, insubordinate, and hostile to customers, but can't be fired because of his seniority (even when he wants to be). Interestingly enough, in the series debut, "Help Wanted," Mr. Krabs initially takes Squidward's advice to reject SpongeBob's job application by sending him on a Snipe Hunt, but after SpongeBob proves his worth and brings in a boatload of cash, Mr. Krabs hires him on the spot over Squidward's protests, which foreshadows their contentious relationship in the show proper.