Last summer, a client requested insight into dealing with a sociopath as a boss. In response, I wrote a series of Brainzooming posts on handling bad behavior in an organizational setting, including from a corporate sociopath and horrible boss.
One of the most important pieces of advice for working with a sociopath as a boss is to minimize one-off conversations and avoid decisions during them.
Well, quite frankly, a corporate sociopath won't hesitate to tell you one thing, then say or do something completely different later. If you don't have a witness or some way to hold the corporate sociopath to the decision, it's your word against theirs. And in business, at least to my point of view, you NEVER want to be in a situation where it's you and a horrible boss squaring off on a matter of opinion about what was said or done.
I was intrigued to see this weekend's Dilbert comic strip depict avoiding one-off conversations with a sociopath in the organization. Even though it's a comic strip (albeit a dark one), Dilbert plays the situation completely correctly in asking his co-worker, Alice (who has some bad behavior issues of her own), to witness the conversation with Larry the sociopath. When someone else is around, Larry masks his true personality and harmful perspective.
It's intriguing that the client who inspired the original Brainzooming post has crafted a pretty intriguing scenario to gain distance from the corporate sociopath in the real-life situation. Without providing too many details that could compromise identities, it looks like understanding a weak spot for the boss has allowed our client to create a non-traditional working arrangement. The intent is to minimize the potential negative impact this particular corporate sociopath can create. It's not a fail-safe approach, but it definitely creates more options for my client to react in a positive and self-protected way. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
If you have a sociopath as a boss, I'll repeat a discussion thread that appeared in the original comments: get out of the situation if you have ANY opportunity to do so. Life is too short to deal with bad behavior in an organizational setting daily.
If you can't get out, however, I'd encourage you to go back and look the Brainzooming post and use it to prepare your survival strategy. - Mike Brown
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