COPING WITH THE BOSS FROM HELL

I recently received an email from a former student who reads our blog now and then. I  modified some details in the email to protect the individual’s identity, and have permission to share the story on the blog.

“Hey DrB. Give me some advice on coping with my crazy supervisor. She’s in her late 60s and all of us in her department are hoping every day that she’ll retire. She thinks she is god’s gift — I have never seen such an ego. She’s paranoid as hell, always sending out emails to someone and accusing them of trying to undercut her. Recently she told me, ‘Make sure you come to me; I don’t want to see you talking to (her supervisor) and bad mouthing me.’ She’s overweight and is beginning to harass everyone about losing weight. Yesterday she sent out an email telling us all about the weight program she has joined and suggested we all join her. She’s a germ phobe. The other day I handed her a report she wanted from me and she put it down on her desk and proceeded to lather up her hands with sanitizer. This woman is a walking case study, DrB. Any thoughts? We’re all scared to death and worried she can fire us and even ruin our careers. I remember enough from my psyc major to know that she’s not likely to change, right? Actually, she’ll probably get worse, right?”

She sounds a lot like J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI for decades, who struck fear into US Presidents! OCD about germs and weight, paranoia, narcissism. I would be walking on egg shells, too! I agree with you that she’s not likely to change and that her issues are likely to get worse as you said. I would assume she is watching all her workers quite closely, maybe even monitoring emails. So be vigilant and cautious. Like Hoover she may have a special file (enemies list) on each worker to use either to get you fired or to blackmail you into giving her unqualified support.

I don’t think I would disagree with anything you said. Her power, anger, internal insecurities, paranoia, narcissism, OCD tendencies and lord knows what else are toxic combinations. Those tendencies will likely expand and intensify. She will possibly go to any lengths to get her way and use you. So go the sycophant road and “kiss butt.” When she mentions the weight say how much your (spouse) has lost and that your whole family is more aware of their health. Be careful whom you talk to at work; assume that your emails are not private; keep a detailed log of all your work meetings, both with her and others. Watch your back, keep your head down, and keep detailed records.

It would be nice to do a job search, too, and get your resume’ out there. Of course, if vicious supervisor learns of it, you’re dead meat!

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