I wanted to turn around and say, “Oh, really? And just how exactly do you know this? Are you clinically trained to diagnose mental illness?” But of course, someone’s medical credentials aren’t the point. The point is, humans crave linguistic shortcuts—a “code word” for what people do that’s “crazy”.
We love to toss the word “psycho” about when referring to our boss or co-workers, but the reality is, very few people actually exhibit true psychotic (or, alternately, sociopathic) behavior. It’s estimated that about 1% of the general population fit the standard description of “psychotic” or “sociopath”. Definitions and assessments vary, but typical behaviors include: restlessness, a hugely inflated ego, a sense of invincibility and a near complete lack of empathy and social conscience. Sound like anyone you know at work? According to one researcher it’s possible that up to 4% of major corporate CEOs would score high enough on an often-used standardized psychological assessment to be considered sociopathic.
So is your boss a true psycho or just a jerk? Any behaviors that are completely outlandish—excessive narcissism, refusing to listen to warnings of failure for themselves or the company, or a person who clearly delights in harming other people (and feels absolutely no remorse in doing so)— those are dangerous behaviors, and ones that won’t change. Find a new job as soon as you can.
If, on the other hand, you have a boss that generally acts like a spoiled willful child but is able to show genuine remorse (“Sorry I tore you up in the meeting, I had a bad day”), then he or she is a jerk, not a psycho. You probably will still want to consider finding a new role in your company, but you probably won’t need to fear for your personal safety, other than the occasional flying whiteboard marker from a tantrum-prone manager.
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