Career Management

Many of us have had to deal with a shocking boss at some stage in our careers. They appear first as wolves in sheep’s clothing, seeming lovely enough from the outset, not unlike most other professionals you shake hands with. Their manipulative, patronising, harsh and cutting attributes tend to creep up slowly, catching us by surprise.

There’s research to suggest 1 in 5 CEOs possess psychopathic tendencies, and this DailyMail article paints a sombre picture of the prevalence and ripple effects of these cunning individuals. What can you do when your company appoints an absolute shocker of a boss? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer and the answer might not be to get straight outta’ there. Here are some of our pointers on how you can handle the situation. (And remember – if you ever feel threatened or unsure, seek out some bespoke, professional advice.)

Check yourself

As a first port of call, take a step back from the situation and critically analyse them and the situation. Are they definitely in the wrong Are they definitely being unreasonable? Consider all external factors and your own performance, and make sure you are confident in your diagnosis of them as a terrible boss.

Document things

If you are getting spiteful emails sent, given unrealistic expectations or being treated harshly, try to document the occurrences as closely as you can. Keep emailand dated records of different incidents, in case you need to reference them and prove your claims down the track.

Try to understand them

Their job on paper might be to manage you, but actually it might be you who has to do a lot of that management. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective. Even if they are completely outlandish or inapproriate, understanding the ‘why’ behind their behaviours can help you deal with them in a calmer manner.

Minimise ammunition

Try to work out what irks them and do as much as you can to minimise triggers of their annoyance or anger. While no one likes to tip toe aorund on eggshells, you can attempt to take control of the situation by understanding the part you plan in the relationship and being the bigger person.

Try to not take it personally

Where possible, try removing your emotions from the situation. Realise that, if they are a psychopathic boss, the issue lies with them, not you; you’re just one of the people who has to try deal with them.

Stand up for yourself, respectfully

Don’t stand for bullying or inappropriate treatment. Speak up and look after yourself, and be sure to do so in a respectful, polite way. Be assertive if you need, but don’t let them siphon the confidence out of you.

Resist temptations to undermine them

Play clean. Trying to undermine them or make them look bad could seriously backfire on you. Don’t stoop to their level; instead, take professional steps to address your concerns.

Learn from them

If there’s one good thing that can come out of a situation where you have a horrible boss, it’s what you can learn from them. They can teach you to be more resilient, stand up for yourself, become more assertive – the list goes on. You might even be able to learn from their work ethic or drive to succeed.

Research and respond

Don’t be reactive when you find yourself faced with a shocking boss. Take calm, calculated steps at reducing the effect on yourself. If you decide that it’s best for you to move on, be sure to educate yourself as much as possible about the move you want to make, and avoid a complicated, messy breakup with your current company.

Finally, remember to put yourself first and remain in control. Good luck!

Related: How to Manage a Bad Manager.

Companies can also take a proactive approach to minimising toxic hires, by placing a larger emphasis on


About Phoebe Spinks

Editor of Undercover Recruiter & Senior Account Executive at Link Humans, a recruitment marketing agency.

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