The Psychopathic Boss
Identifying and deciding what to do with a psychopathic boss.
Posted November 6, 2015
He rose to the top rapidly, mostly because he is so charming and knew who to play. She’s model beautiful and carries a demeanor of cool confidence. People want to immolate him. People are intimidated by her.
Regardless of gender the psychopathic boss is going to look good on the surface. He’ll look like whatever he needs to look like to get ahead. She will impress all of the right people and treat all of the wrong people with disdain. The psychopath wants to control, to toy with people, to amuse himself with the games he plays with the lives of others.
The psychopathic boss does the same exact thing. She picks out people whom she considers to be weak, stupid or otherwise “less than,” and she will go after those people like a flea on a dog. She will then toy with those people until they feel completely overwhelmed, and eventually, when she is done playing, she will fire her toy.
This boss will load down his victim with impossible tasks and sit back and watch as the victim squirms under the load. He will ask his victim to do unethical, even illegal things, and if the victim refuses to do those things, he will not fire the victim. Rather, he will just destroy one of the victim’s favorite and most rewarding projects—just because he can. Then he will sit back and watch the victim writhing in pain. When he is all done playing, then he will fire the victim.
In private conversations with the psychopathic boss, any potential victim will feel his blood run cold, as the boss’s conversations turn from charming to deadly. Sometimes the stakes are so high for the victim that his life is actually in danger. Most of the time, it is not that bad. Most of the time, the victim is simply scrambling to keep her job.
How did the psychopathic boss get this way? Well there are several theories ranging from nature to nurture. My theory is that it has to do with identity. Identity is formed in the earliest stage of life when the infant is too vulnerable to resist imprinting to the projections of primary caregivers and others. But it’s one thing to be a psychopath, it’s another to be a psychopathic boss—because in the hands of the psychopath, the power given to a boss becomes a weapon he can use on employees, coworkers, competitors or even, in rare cases, on his own bosses.
In fact, there is nothing and no one as malicious as a psychopath who has attained the level of power that is typically given to a CEO or Chairman of the Board for a corporation. That position feeds the need of the psychopath for power. Power convinces the psychopath that he can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants, because, well, because he can. But don’t assume that it is power that corrupts here. The corruption was already there before the psychopath obtained the power he will use as a toy.
What do you do when you encounter a psychopathic boss? There are options: You can quit the job immediately, upon your first intuitive flash that you are dealing with a psychopath. You can decide to fight, by turning him in to higher-ups, standing your ground, suing for hostile work environment or other such tactics—as long as you are willing to understand that the battle is going to get at least metaphorically bloody. You can kiss up and pretend that you really like this woman, hoping that she won’t ever figure out that you are playing. You should know, however, that the psychopath may see your obsequious behavior as a form of weakness and decide to come after you. Finally, you can freeze—you can just stand there and shiver and quake holding on for dear life to the fence, never really deciding what to do. But again, you should know that this can be seen by the psychopathic boss as weakness and you may be targeted next.
Whatever you decide will make a difference for you in your life. The gift in having to deal with a psychopathic boss is that you come to know more about who you are. After having fought with or escaped the wrath of a psychopathic boss you know more about your own ethics, your own values, your own strengths and your own vulnerabilities. Many a successful entrepreneur has had to deal with a previous psychopathic boss—and some will even tell you that it made them take the leap to start their own business, taking with them all the lessons they learned by having to deal with a psychopathic boss.
Nor is getting fired the worst thing that can happen here, for one thing that can be done at this point, with the appropriate legal grounds, is to carry your case to a litigator. But getting fired by a psychopathic boss also gives one a grounded and keen sense of what is true and what is false in the world. Now, instead of kissing up and ducking, running an impossible load of work and working in a hostile work environment, one may decide that life is too short for such and move into a job or career that offers more joy and less job.
If you have a psychopathic boss, it is time to get real with your life. What do you really want to be doing with your time, energy, and talents? Do you want to fight this or is it time to cut your losses and go? Whatever you decide you may now and forever know that you can no longer afford to be naïve when it comes to choosing the right company. This is, after all, your life.