Monday Hustle: Sociopaths In The Boardroom

Monday Hustle: Sociopaths In The Boardroom

I had to leave my old job. I couldn’t take it anymore. My mental health was hanging by a thread and every day when the alarm blared out at 6.30am, the thought of going to work was agonising. It wasn’t that I hated what I did, it was facing one particular person every single day: my boss. 

It starts out how every story starts with any type of relationship with a sociopathic narcissist. When she first became our boss 18 months earlier, she was the epitome of what you want a boss to be; she was nice and compassionate, she looked out for the team and pulled us together, and she made sure that the team had a laugh as well as producing great work for the company. Turns out she was a great actress, too.

The company started to falter when the whole management team up and left the company, and being an in-house marketing team, we were full to the brim with crisis management and PR control. Once the new management team were in place, we had to start fresh. My boss’s tactic? Lick the arsehole of the new managing director. This is normal, you would say, but the lengths to which she would idolise the new MD was beyond ridiculous, even by the definition of a loyal staff member. As the tasks got increasingly ridiculous and we were pushed even harder to do jobs that weren't ours to do, suddenly the picture become clear. She was using the new MD and her close position to him to gain power and climb the ladder within the entire company, not just our team. This is where things took a turn for the worse. 

As she tried to claw her way to the top and become the MD’s number two, her weaknesses started to show, and as they did, so did her true colours. She started bullying one member of the team and made her feel stupid, which in turn knocked her confidence. When this member started threatening to get HR involved, suddenly I became the weakling of the team and fell prey to her manipulation. She would project her problems onto me and guilt our team into helping her; she would engage in nonsensical conversations that didn’t logically make sense, and the phrase ‘do it because I told you to’ came up frequently. She gaslighted me - as well as others - to make us believe that she didn’t say certain things when she put out her orders, therefore putting the blame on us when things went wrong. She also threw actual strops like a five year-old would when things went wrong or didn’t go her way, and had no qualms crying and swearing in front of anyone that would listen to her complain about insignificant details. This woman shouldn't have been entitled to such a managerial role, nor did she play the part of manager well at all, to the point where other staff members overheard the way she spoke to us as a team and individually put in formal complaints about her. HR refused to take them seriously, because my boss had every important person in the company wrapped around her little finger. She could strategise a full-on war between two people and leave absolutely no trace of her involvement whatsoever.

Unfortunately this experience is very common, especially in larger companies that have been around for a long time and a culture has already been well and truly established. ‘Horrible bosses' are commonality within the confides of HR offices; these types of people calculate every possible step you could take, and make sure that you will not win. It’s a catch 22: you stay and get bullied, move to another team and the rumour mill goes into overtime, or leave and get a bad reference.

I left for my own well-being. I even completely moved counties; I had no ties to where I was living so, luckily for me, I had that freedom. As for the reference, my mentor gave one instead so that I didn’t even have to approach my boss. Giving my four weeks notice was the happiest day of my career. 

If by complete fate, I came across a book authored by a self-proclaimed sociopathic narcissist only weeks after I left my previous job and the shackles of my boss. Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas has been a huge eye-opener for an empathetic type like me. As someone who has always attracted sociopaths and narcissists alike, this book helped me understand the inner workings of a high-functioning and non-criminal sociopath who will walk among us everyday, yes, even those who manage us and the companies that we work for. I highly recommend this book for anyone who suspects sociopaths in the workplace - it may even help you find work-arounds and understand the game-playing a bit better (so you can win it).

Only last week, I was talking with a colleague who I've kept in touch with from my previous firm, and she said how my old boss had been slating my work since my departure. Funny how, in a goodbye email, my boss wrote about her gratitude for having me on her team, my promising future and the incredible work I've done. Knowing that in my absence, she found her way of dealing with losing a member of her team by badmouthing, didn't bother me though; I'd risen above the pettiness of it all, forgiven and forgotten, and let my mental health fully recover again.

If you have to leave a company because you're being bullied by your boss, or as a matter of fact ANYONE in your workplace, know that it's not your fault. You are not the reason they behave in the way that they do; you have done nothing wrong. You are allowed human emotion and should not be belittled because they have none. If your HR team can't solve the issue (as they should always be approached first) then they are not on your side, and that's not an environment that you'd want to work in anyway. You deserve to work somewhere that celebrates you, your skills and the work that you do.

You are a badass, no matter what some sociopath tells you.