Is Your “Boss from Hell” a Blessing in Disguise?

Let me tell you about my boss from hell.

His hand would snake out periodically, dive into his closely guarded briefcase, and extract a cookie, a piece of chocolate, or some other sweet snack which he would quietly munch regardless of others in the meeting room.

But that’s not why he was the boss from hell (BFH).

He employed a particular brand of psycho-terror on his subordinates, one that brought about health consequences—one physical collapse as well as another emotional breakdown—and did lasting harm.

His tools were coercion, sarcasm, and ridicule. First, he would argue his victim into a corner, then he would force a commitment, typically to accomplish some business goal—often a lofty one. When the team member subsequently achieved the goal, the BFH would tear the achievement apart by pointing out all the additional open items that this achievement engendered and asking why these were still not addressed, implying that the subordinate was stupid to not have thought about these items in the first place.

Nothing was ever good enough. Everything—even the greatest success—was fodder for criticism and abuse.

I was also not immune from his attacks. At one point he ridiculed me saying in effect, “You are like a donkey. We just keep loading things on your back and you just keep going along.” And, believe me, he did not mean this as praise.

What to do about the BFH?

Well, in my case, I left the company. Management tried to keep me. The unit president even invited me to his house and tried to cajole me, but I was sick and tired of the BFH and ready to move on anyway. So I activated the unpublished market as I then understood it, received a few nibbles, considered a few offers, and off I went.

Now The Barrett Group (TBG) has been helping clients solve their career issues for almost 34 years, so I asked our long-time Chief Consulting Officer Emeritus Dan Resendes about this BFH phenomenon to see if this was an isolated occurrence.

Here’s what he had to say:

In a recent survey, we found the vast majority of executives (80%) who are unhappily employed have been reactive versus proactive in maximizing their career potential. Additionally we found that most had failed to address the core issues related to their unhappiness, defaulting to just accumulating stress.

Certainly, one situation that causes a great deal of distress is working for “the boss from hell” with no relief in sight.

Many executives may feel embarrassed due to their inability to resolve the situation and need a career coach who can provide perspective on the root problem. Career coaches work collaboratively to develop appropriate strategies and the precise tactics to enable career success.

The last thing an executive should do is waste time and effort applying to endless jobs on the internet and getting nowhere or reaching out to 3rd party recruiters who treat them terribly or leave them feeling totally ignored.

The Barrett Group has more than three decades of success working with executive-level clients to either 1) resolve “boss from hell” issues and enable professional relationships grounded in mutual respect that yield career success or 2) swiftly disaffiliate, both internally or externally, to the advantage of our clients and the organizations for which they work.

Here is just one of many examples:

TBG assisted one client who was in charge of nuclear investigations within a world- renowned regulatory body but who somehow ended up reporting to his boss’ mistress. With our help the client was able to navigate within the organization, relocating to a boss whom the client not only respected but who supported and helped achieve the client’s career and financial goals. 

So apparently, I am not the only person to have experienced a boss from hell in the workplace, and, yes, there are strategies available to turn such situations around, or, if that’s the best option, to discover a better opportunity with another employer.

In my case, my BFH experience was definitely a blessing in disguise as it helped to propel me to a position of more responsibility and better remuneration. If you are an executive suffering from this or any other career-related stress, our team is ready and able to help you evaluate your options. Give us a call and get some relief!

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