However, 45 percent of US workers claim they have been bullied at some point in their careers — a particularly damaging experience if the tormentor holds a position of authority.
A bad boss, much like a bad teacher, can turn Sunday evenings into an anxiety-filled prelude to a week of stress. Almost everyone has had a bad boss at one time or another, but when does annoying behavior morph into something more serious, or potentially even illegal? And, most importantly, how do you cope?
True sociopath bosses are more than just bad bosses: They exhibit a set of characteristics that make them dangerous to work for, whether it’s creating tension in the office with inappropriate comments and behavior or exhibiting bizarre and over-the-top work habits. These bosses can literally make you ill, causing absenteeism as well as mental and physical health issues.
Sound like anyone you know?
Workplace bullies are usually larger-than-life characters who have a grandiose sense of self, operate dishonest practices that alienate staff and turn them against each other, creating a hostile work environment.
Many successful leaders are not particularly warm and fuzzy people, but if your boss combines dishonesty with an overdeveloped ego and a callous disregard for the welfare of subordinates, then you could well be in the company of a sociopath in the making.
A sociopath boss can make a person doubt themselves and believe that they are somehow the problem — like Noa Aziz’s boss in Tokyo, who took micromanagement to the next level by demanding to see half-hourly reports from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aziz is now a co-founder of job placement service Intern in Japan, but admits she is still frightened of her former boss, even 18 months later.
Some sociopath bosses take their manipulation tactics further and are actually guilty of harassment in the workplace. These transgressions can start innocently enough with a bad joke or an inappropriate comment. Wendy* (not her real name) had an experience with a man-bun-sporting boss devoid of boundaries: “He was always commenting on girls’ weight and looks and even made a joke about anal sex during a business lunch.”
Craig Grant, a director of marketing in West Des Moines, Iowa, experienced how this type of mentality can go further than simply a distasteful joke. His boss “enabled and encouraged sexual harassment in the office,” he said, by specifically choosing numbers for work cellphones that spelled out sexual words, and even threatened him with physical violence.
Some people simply survive a bad boss situation and then move on to a better company as soon as they possibly can. Shani Magosky, however, found her negative experience with a sexist and inappropriate boss actually motivated her to launch the Better Boss Project, which helps leaders become better bosses through coaching and consultation.
Sociopath bosses will often demand total allegiance and loyalty even when doing so hurts the company, product or other staff members. Like a dictatorship, all that matters to the sociopathic boss is control and their own position of authority.
If you are faced with an abusive supervisor who is potentially damaging to both your health and career, careful maneuvering may be required.
How To Escape The Clutches Of A Sociopath Boss
1. Don’t be a target.
Once you realize you are working for someone unpredictable and potentially dangerous, it’s wise to keep your head down and stay off their radar as much as possible while you consider your next move.
2. Record everything.
Make a note of any incident or inappropriate comment, including times and dates, who was present and exactly what transpired.
3. Start looking for a new job.
Although it’s admirable to try to fix the problem, especially if you like your job, sometimes the only option is to move on. As Magosky advises,
“While you can try to influence the relationship you have with a bad boss, you cannot change another person. The only thing you can control is your own reactions and behaviors.”
Start scoping out opportunities without overtly advertising that you are looking for a new job by putting out feelers to your contacts and starting to become more active in social media networks in your industry.
4. Manage your exit.
Management and leadership coach Kevin Judge, author of “How to Fix a Bad Boss,” reveals that employees looking to move on from a damaging supervisor need to carefully “create and manage a solid exit strategy.” This includes maintaining a high level of integrity, being the better person and, surprisingly, “positioning the employer for success.” Kevin explains that even though a bad boss can make life unbearable for their employees, they often need help too.
5. Never bad-mouth your boss.
As tempting as it may be to tell anyone and everyone all the crazy things your boss has said and done, it’s wise to keep quiet and stay professional, especially as business networks can be insular. Kevin Judge advises that you “leave gracefully, as a negative departure will follow you.”
Try stress reduction techniques.
Working for someone who is emotionally abusive is draining and potentially traumatizing. Shani suggests you “find coping mechanisms to get you through the tough days” like venting to friends and enjoying your free time away from work. It’s also important not to take undue criticism personally.
Deesha, a public relations specialist, puts the blame firmly where it belongs: “It wasn’t all my fault, the way my boss was treating me was a measure of her character, not mine.”
If you survive working for a sociopath boss, you should give yourself some credit. After all, whether in the schoolyard or the office, it shows great strength of character to have endured a bully and lived to tell the tale.
Content Originally Published By: Fiona Tapp @ New York Post