I’ve worked for all kinds of bosses. Tough bosses, kind bosses, quiet bosses, loud bosses, book-smart bosses, street-smart bosses, male bosses, female bosses, private sector bosses, public sector bosses, and now the most demanding, stressed out boss of all—myself…Then there was the time I worked for a psychopath.
Working for a psychopath might be the worst professional experience you can endure, but there is an upside belive it or not.
You’re going to learn a lot from the experience, and here are a few of the lessons I took from my brush with a psychopath:
Lesson #1: The cliché “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, is a cliché for a reason.
Psychopaths can be really charming and persuasive. They can tell you things that you know couldn’t possibly be true—and yet, they can find a way to make you believe. When the light of reality shines into the psychopath’s fantasy that you willingly took residence in, you might end up blaming yourself. You may ask yourself how you could have been that stupid, that naïve, or that blind to reality.
It helps to look around and realize that a lot of other people bought into the psychopath’s vision. The Manson Family became The Manson Family when other people believed a psychopath’s vision based on a message that should have sounded some alarm bells.
Granted, Manson’s was a message about being the leaders of the entire world after an apocalyptic race war, but I think it’s a useful analogy. The point is that if you realize you should have known better, don’t beat yourself up. Move forward, and “know better” the next time around
Lesson #2: You’ll learn to appreciate your past and future bosses who were not psychopaths.
All of the bosses that I considered harsh, overbearing, poor communicators, or micromanagers were immediately re-evaluated in the face of working for a psychopath. You rewrote my reports for no explicable reason? You called me at 8:00 at night when you knew I was with my family? You chastised me for leaving the office early when you knew I consistently stayed late?
Those sorts of things were mere flesh wounds when compared to life under a psychopath.
Re-evaluating past supervisors is actually a really beneficial exercise. Seeing someone in a different light allows you to learn lessons and gain insight you may have missed at the time.
Helping you learn from your past—one of the unintended benefits of working for a psychopath.
Lesson #3: You’ll learn how to be a better boss.
It’s great to find role models you want to emulate, but it’s just as valuable to see an example of what you don’t want to be—ever.
Lesson #4: You are stronger and more resilient than you thought.
During my life my parents experienced stints of unemployment that devastated my family, and when I was a kid, left us living in a tent and “shopping” for toys in a landfill. As a result my single biggest fear was becoming unemployed and being unable to support my family. That fear was the primary motivating factor in every career decision I ever made. I used that fear to rationalize every risk I didn’t take. I even wrote one of my early posts on LinkedIn on the advantages of fear as a motivator.
I was wrong.
The best thing my psychopath ever did for me was bring me as close to realizing that fear as I’ve ever come. What I saw wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. I realized that if at some point I just couldn’t take the daily psychopathic reality, I knew I could walk away and things would be okay.
And I eventually I did. Eventually my inner Andy Dufresne told that it was time to, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” I started my business and went and found one client, then another, and while we are still starting out, things are looking good.
My psychopath helped me realize that fear is a factor, but should never be a motivator.
I hope you never work for a psychopath.
But if you do, I hope you learn something along the way. Here is an interesting article that defines a psychopath in case your wondering…CLICK HERE
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