Saturday, June 27, 2009
Bad Bosses Turn Your Day Job Into A Nightmare
by Alain de Botton When being interviewed for a job there is rarely a chance at the end to address the issue that, more than any other, will determine our chances of finding happiness in our new position — namely, is my boss sane? The probability that a boss is well-adjusted is not as high as we might like. Many bosses manifest "paranoid-insecure" patterns of behavior, which make for mood swings, excessive suspicion, anger, inability to focus, over-obsession with status, and a diminished capacity for empathy. Sadly, these neuroses don't lead people to grow the proverbial horns and a long tail. The boss may look quite normal. For brief moments, especially with clients, he may even act as such. Nevertheless, to those who are in on the story, nothing can entirely disguise that one has placed oneself in the hands of well-dressed maniac. The first response of the recently hired employee is akin to a new bride who, only a few weeks after toasting her nuptials with 350 friends in a marquee reception with champagne and salmon en croute, is slapped hard across the face by her husband. The forgivable response is to hope and get the blusher out. The varieties of insanity available to bosses are no less great than those available to parents. There is the overdeveloped desire to be liked, which leads them to shirk candid and prompt explanations of difficulties and to go in for sentimental embraces, which end up causing infinitely more damage than the minor pain they sought to avoid. Then there is paranoia. How much damage is caused in this world by fragile egos. Whatever the dangers of bumptious overconfidence, they are nothing next to the ravages brought about by a fragile self-esteem. It is this that will cause explosions of rage, intemperate waspish e-mails and snide remarks. Outwardly we live in a free democracy. But it is in the remit of every insane boss to set up miniature autocratic kingdoms of suffering, unapparent to outside observers, who can see nothing aside from magazines politely lined up in the lobby area. To those cursed with one, the bad boss is an object of constant thought. One considers the byways of his psyche late into the night. One speculates about his childhood. One hopes for his conversion to humanity. Though it makes no sense, one might even harbor a belief that he might be listening to this and somehow be nudged thereby into turning over a new leaf.