Psycho boss

What do you do when the person you report to at work is out of control?  CyberShrink tackles several scenarios that can make the office feel like a warzone.

Q:  Psychotic Boss

We have a big problem in our office: we have all been working here for more than 4 years, so we're used to the problem - which does not make it any easier to stomach! We just want to try and understand it. The problem is this: our divisional manager is a 51-year-old woman who started going through menopause in 2008. This was when her "problems" began. She was once pleasant, but since then she has become a nightmare to deal with.

Every day we all walk on eggs in order to accommodate her mood-swings. She is vicious, spiteful and it's revolting working with her. She does not concern herself with proper work issues that need managing, but will hone in on personal issues based on pure spite that really should not concern her at all. She has been a heavy drinker for many years and is married with 2 children who have both left home within the last few years.
One moment the woman is hyperactive, laughing and over the top, and the next hour she can be on a spiteful bender to nail anyone within spitting distance.

I'm only touching on the tip of the iceberg here, but do you think this is bipolar, psychosis or is this normal behaviour for an alcoholic going through menopause? Please help! There are about 6 of us in the office who would walk out in a split second if it were an option because of this woman. We can't talk to the MD as they are friends (socially).

Expert:  Menopause is no excuse for her bad behaviour, and she should be seeking effective treatment for her moods and temper tantrums. And for her alcoholism.  

I doubt that this is bipolar disorder, too popular an excuse. Is there anyone who is in an HR capacity, who ought to be recognizing and dealing with this problem? Otherwise, maybe recording her tantrums and sending these to the boss might help. If the MD is much of a friend, (a) he should have noticed and recognised her problems and how they impact unfairly on others, and (b) he should want her to get help for them.

Q:  Boss is murdering me with her divorce

I am a dedicated worker. Do everything in my ability to do my job a well as possible. I even work late - at least a 60 to 80 hour week to try to help out, but after my boss began her divorce she screams and yells if the smallest thing is out of place. I am a graphic designer and my self-esteem and creativity is starting to wilt under her tyranny! Recently we moved offices to her house in order to save money to keep the company going - it helped a lot with the finances, but has done nothing for the staff.

She assured us that we would be working in the "new" office for the next 5 years at least, but a month later she started looking for a house in Pretoria and having stories about moving offices. At one moment she makes one feel obliged to support her and the next she will be lying or yelling. Is it wrong to feel misused?  Yes, I know I've probably given too many hours, but I thought it was for the benefit of the company. She treats all her employees like the y are not real people. Is it ok to feel like resigning on the spot? How do I confront her, and is it safe to confront a crazy person?  I don't know what to do any more. Help!

Expert:  It's very understandable that she is feeling stressed and irritable in this situation - but she is, of course, not in the least justified to transmit her stress and anger to others who are not at all to be blamed for it. It sounds very reasonable for you to feel misused, in the situation you describe. She doesn't sound crazy, but bad mannered, selfish, and perhaps really disturbed by whatever is happening in her private life Maybe start vigorously looking for another job where you will be treated better, and when you have it, tell her that you are leaving and why she has forced this on you. That may help her to reconsider how she is treating the others, too.

Q:  My Boss

My boss is the most moody person on earth. I am a lively and very active person. My boss has got a habit of being moody at least once a week and we share an office together. Today is one of those days and the tension in the office is so bad I even feel like crying for no apparent reason. How do I deal with his behaviour, I just hate this?
I asked several times to be given my own office, but he is the one denying its approval and I feel like just leaving and looking for a job somewhere else.

Expert:  Maybe his refusal to give you your own office proves the old saying that Misery loves company. Is there an HR person you could discuss this with? In this economy, it is wise to look for a better job and find it BEFORE leaving. Meanwhile, the best way to deal with his behaviour is to ignore it so far as you can - to treat it like a neighbour's false alarms on their wonky security system - a nuisance, but recognising that you are more disturbed by choosing to react to it, than by the noise itself.

Q:  I am struggling

I have been really struggling to control my moods the last few days.  My Obessesive Compulsive Personality Disorder boss is driving me beserk.

It started with having to analyse post! I'm a qualified bookeeper and have worked in senior positions for 15 years, helping to make major company decisions, and now it would seem as if the highlight of a normal day is to read and re-read addresses on postal items to him over the phone until I can cheerfully shove them down his throat.

Its funny that during my initial interview I did explain quite clearly who and what I am, that I need to have challenges, that I can manage perfectly well without being babysat, and that I'm more than capable of making decisions! His constant wanting to check everything is truly going to drive me mad, apart from making me feel totally incompetent.

I have also been begging him to sit down with me and have a chat for 2 blasted months and he is always to busy. What is staring to worry me though is my extreme level of frustration about this issue - am I fooling myself that I can manage being bipolar without medication or is his behaviour enough to drive a normal person mad?  If I could only talk to him about how I feel I would feel better.

Expert:  It sounds ominously as though your OCD boss is decompensating and unravelling.  But hey, you said at the interview that you need to have challenges, and he's providing you with one!

It is important that you recognise the extent of his psychopathology.  It probably has nothing whatever to do with whether you need babysitting or supervision, but with his overpowering need to babysit and supervise.

So don't let any of this make you feel inadequate - it's about what makes him feel secure, not about you.  And similarly, it doesn't say that you're managing your own problems badly - any normal person would be driven potty by such an obsessive. It is HIM who is fooling himself about being able to cope without meds.  How about, instead of begging him for a time when you can sit down, offer him a choice of two times, and ask him WHICH of those times would suit him best?

More info: 

Send your questions to Cybershrink

Visit the Healthy Mind centre

(Joanne Hart, Health24, October 2011)

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