Is Your Boss Just Difficult or a Psychopath?

If you’ve been working for awhile you’ve probably experienced at least one difficult boss.

As a career strategist and executive coach who works with professionals to improve their work situations and thrive business-woman
in the job they have or find a new one they’ll love, I hear plenty of comments about difficult bosses.  Like, some employees don’t get the direction they need from their boss.  Others complain because their “boss doesn’t show me how what I’m doing fits in with the organization.”  For some, their boss is unreasonable, or he or she takes all the credit for the work they do.  Some are upset because their boss doesn’t keep them in the loop, or get back to them so they can take the next step in getting their own work done.  Then there’s the feeling that the boss is setting you up for failure with all the work you have to do and so little time to do it.

These concerns are legitimate.  They deserve attention and with some well-thought out strategies and enhanced communications skills, some of these complaints can be resolved and you can establish a better working relationship with your boss.  But, they are mere irritants compared to working with what Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries in his recent Harvard Business Review blog article  entitled, Is Your Boss a Psychopath? calls a “Seductive Operational Bully (SOB)” or a psychopathic boss.

Kets de Vries mentions how effective a pathological boss can be at mastering the appearance of success all the while wreaking havoc on their employee’s sanity.  He states, “Lower-level employees are often on the receiving end of a boss’s psychopathic behavior … “  (I would amend that to say psychopathic bosses can affect you no matter what level you are in an organization.)

So what do you do if your boss exhibits some of the behaviors set out in this HBR blog article?

First, recognize the behaviors and realize you’re not crazy for picking up on them.  If you plan to stay put, get some well-thought out strategies from an expert to protect your own sanity and to handle the stress that comes from working with this type of person. Therapists are a great resource for learning how to deal with, understand, and survive working with or managing this type of a boss.  The most important thing is to admit, no matter how much you’d like to, you’re not going to be able to change them.

And my best tip yet … on your own or with the assistance of a career coach or mentor, start looking for a new job with a new boss where you’re far away from an abusive SOB and can be happy and thrive in your career.  You deserve it!

What’s your best tip for dealing with a difficult boss?