There are any number of difficult bosses, some geniuses and others who hold their position based on circumstances (luck) and connections. Some of the smartest ones include Larry Ellison of Oracle,  Barry Diller of IAC, and Jack Welch of GE – and then there are the others like Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap and Eddie Lampert who apparently believe they are destined for greatness as they destroy iconic companies. 

Is your boss a crazy-maker and is there a limit to crazy?

  1. Demonstrates a sense of entitlement, expecting special treatment and believing the rules do not apply to them. Using a sports analogy, they were born on third-base and were batted home by another player – but tell the world they hit a home run and stole home plate. 
  2. Guided more by feelings and believes that they are always the smartest person in the room and can “wing it” in any situation.
  3. Manipulates presence and perception to ensure that they are the center of attention. Nothing appears too outrageous at the moment, and they often display a lack of shame, remorse, or concern over their actions. 
  4. Associates with other movers and shakers at prestigious events to validate their position on the totem pole.
  5. Hyper-vigilant and quick to respond to any perceived or real slight with disproportionate, and often inappropriate, forcefulness. 
  6. Often arrogant or authoritarian by both presence and position, but can be personally pleasant, charismatic, engaging, and manipulative on demand. People who are not personally useful or who do not advance the agenda are transparent to the point of being ignored.
  7. Demands unquestioning personal loyalty and obedience, but it is often a one-way path. Requires an excessive level of admiration and stroking when boasting of their achievements or publicity.
  8. Takes undue credit for all achievements but is quick to assign blame to others. Refused to recognize or acknowledge the brilliance or hard work of others that underpin their success. Feels free to insult, undercut, or lambaste employees, opponents, or reported who “don’t get it.” 
  9. Creates conflict to prevent challenges and chaos to mask a lack of knowledge or competence
  10. Is known as a hard-charger, damn the torpedoes, full ahead. Responds with anger, and possibly rage, when denied action, access, or acknowledgment. 
  11. Lack of attention span and ability to retain critical information. Often providing conflicting responses depending on the audience and the time of day. Their opinion can be heavily influenced by the last person to leave the room. 
  12. Publicity hound – almost as if achievements do not truly exist until they are recognized and acknowledged by others.
  13. Communication is often a one-way affair where a series of dictates are issued. Everyone around them, including family, are LLEs (Lower-Level Employees).
  14. Attempts to shift all personal expenses to the organization. 
  15. Uses and cultivates totemic symbols, lavish and ornate trappings, aircraft, cars, collectibles.
  16. Maintains an obligatory “I’m so great and powerful wall” of pictures, covers, and framed articles. 
  17. Is often described by employees who use psychological words such as narcissistic, compulsive, impulsive, schizoid, and paranoid. 

There is little you can do to function adequately in the presence of a crazy-making boss. Sometimes it is worth the pain and suffering if you can jump ahead of others in your career path. Other times it is more important to preserve your physical and mental health by seeking employment elsewhere.

Take a few moments and think about your boss and potential benefits and adverse consequences of remaining under their control. 

Am I Next? Toxic Bosses: Is there a limit to crazy?


Am I Next? All F'ed Up?

Our bodies are continually assessing both our internal and external environment for threats. Anything which is unknown and potentially harmful. 

In the case of internal events, our bodies seek "stasis," a state of equilibrium or to return to whatever our bodies consider as "normal" for our particular condition. When out of stasis, a body often reacts with symptoms like fever, rash, or pain. 

In the case of external events, our minds engage in "pattern matching" and "extrapolation" to determine if the event or encounter is likely to be harmful. We match what we are observing through our senses and assess whether or not it deserves attention or should be ignored.

Individual responses to perceived threats are a function of conditioning, perception, and training. Among these reactions are the "F" words.

  • Flight - we try to distance ourselves from the threat by fleeing.
  • Fight - we try to combat the threat by engaging the threat and battling it to some resolution.
  • Freeze - we are overwhelmed with the event and freeze in place, doing nothing, and remaining as quiet and insignificant as possible.

Beyond these three classic responses that are well discussed in the medical literature, we find additional responses that are not so well known.

  • Fogging -- where individual elements cannot be readily distinguished, and everything appears to be hazy and indistinct. 
  • Flooding -- where we are overwhelmed with numerous and often conflicting sensations and thoughts.  
  • Fawning -- where we try to resolve issues by being docile, humble, or by exaggerated flattery.
  • Fatigue -- where conditions become overwhelming, and we use sleep as an escape from our immediate troublesome state.

So how does this help us?

One of the keys to overcoming stress, anxiety, and panic is mindfulness. Placing yourself in a neutral, non-judgemental position and observing events as they are happening and consciously knowing the range of response options. In the case of actual danger, your body may invoke your body's unconscious, involuntary, and evolutionary responses; the classic three: flight, fight, or freeze.

However, in less threatening circumstances, especially those at work, just knowing the range of bodily responses means we can better recognize events and our symptoms in time to take appropriate action.