Sad but true: there does seem to be a lot of crazy bosses out there. Last year, I gave a talk on neurotic leadership styles and how to overcome them. After the speech, I received dozens of confidential notes from members of the audience, relating their encounters with off-the-wall managers.
One man, a life-long employee with a major corporation, said he and his family physician thought that he was having a series of small heart attacks until referrals to a cardiologist and psychologist both confirmed that it wasn’t his heart. It was his boss.
Another writer attributed a large part of the insanity she was experiencing on the job to what she called “the new class of bosses”, small business owners who are, literally, driven crazy by the unexpected, unforeseen pressures of entrepreneurship. After 10 years working in small companies, she was now holding out for a position with a large corporation, refusing to become another “small business sadistic”.
Then there was an entire department of workers who had decided to get out from under a crazy boss. Each person had decided to get a transfer or a new employer by January. The last one to leave was going to attach a cassette recording of my speech to his resignation letter!
Not everybody who is facing a troublesome boss, however, is willing to make a grand exit. Three considerations in particular seem to give cause for pause:
- The boss may not give you a reference, so you can’t get hired somewhere else.
- Frequently changing jobs produces a checkerboard resume that can stymie your career. If you flee every bad boss you have, you might be changing jobs a lot.
- Sticking with a bad boss might be a chance to show your boss’s boss what a bright, strong team player you are.
What’s essential to understand, however, is the difference between a bad boss and a crazy boss.
Bad bosses irritate you. They forget or don’t even set priorities. They don’t give feedback or any other kind of information about what’s going on. They dump work rather than delegate it.
Crazy bosses frighten you. They tear up dollar bills in fits of anger over a lost order. They kick trash cans when they get a busy signal. They lie, turning suppliers against employees and employees against each other.
The behavior of bad bosses is inefficient and inappropriate. The behavior of crazy bosses is inefficient, inappropriate… and dangerous.
Victims of spouse abuse are urged to get out first, get counseling second. Victims of crazy bosses are also at risk. You need to protect your sanity and get out.