Bullying isn’t just for kids on Facebook or in middle school hallways. Bullying can extend into the workplace, and it can come from the worst possible place: Your boss.
Studies show that most people who are referred to as a “psycho boss” aren’t actually clinical psychopaths, but they are dirtbags–and they’re sneaky about it.
“The successful ones are very, very socially skilled,” industrial organizational psychologist Paul Babiak told NBC News. “They’re capable of disguising their behavior.” Meaning? Your psycho boss can get away with being a bully being she probably charms the pants off of everyone else. (It won’t work on me though, as I’m usually not wearing pants to begin with.)
Dr. Babiak discovered this phenomenon when he was called in to help out a particularly dysfunctional group. “(There was) a subset of the team that really loved this guy–idolized him,” Dr. Babiak said of the psycho boss in question, “and then there was another group of people who thought he was a snake.”
Chances are your boss isn’t an actual Patrick Bateman (only about four percent of bosses are), but he or she may just be a big jerk. How can you tell? Endless self-promotion, degradation of others, bullying and intimidation of underlings, for one.
So how do these bullies get promotions? Easy: They’re often not only skilled at masking their behavior, but they’re also likely to take credit for others’ work and to broadcast any of their own accomplishments. What’s more, the narcissistic qualities of actual psychopaths are often encouraged in the workplace–and the bigger the bully, the more likely he or she is to take risks that bring big rewards.
There is a bright side, though: Psychopaths and bullies usually don’t enjoy the limelight or the success it brings for too long, because those same big risks also bring big losses … and their successes are usually shortlived.
The moral of the story? If your boss is truly a psycho or a bully, know that it won’t last forever–especially if you have a good, honest HR department.
And if you think you’re a psychopath? Congrats! You can be an entrepreneur if you keep it in check. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to inform my exboyfriends that I’ll make an amazing manager someday.