How to work effectively with a difficult boss


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    Key Books

    How to Work for an Idiot: Survive & Thrive-- Without Killing Your Boss

    Gray Matters : The Workplace Survival Guide

    How to Manage Your Boss: Developing the Perfect Working Relationship

    Paranoid Personality Disorder

    "Fear of exposure is reminiscent of Paranoid Personality Disorder, a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. An inability to trust, doubts about others' loyalty, distortion and fabrication, misinterpretation, and bearing grudges unnecessarily are hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological jealousy, instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the need to control others, and the gathering of trivial or circumstantial "evidence" to support their jealous beliefs also feature."

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    Comments: [add a comment]

    User: ladyfreedom1
    Date: 5/23/2004 8:14:00 AM

    My boss is truly paranoid. She always thinks her employees are 'out to get her' or 'out to make her fire them'. She tells people to do things 'her way' then when they do and it turns out wrong, she insists she never told them to do that in the first place. It gets so bad that some have brought in small tape recorders to tape her instructions but she fires them when she finds out she is being taped.

    User: kmsridhar
    Date: 9/29/2004 5:33:00 AM

    I guess i am in a similar situation. Easiest way is to be in different to there behaviour. It might affect once career .. but in any case if you are working for a paranoid then I guess you know your prospects. What I mean by indifference is 1. Do not respond to there annoying activities.Since you know she is going to be contradicting there is nothing to get suprised about. 2.Avoid her suggestions as smartly as possible ... let feel like a boss but as far as possible avoid her suggestions in a smart manner. 3. In meeting she is talkin about her ideas .. just imagine the most beautiful women you have seen and that should glitter your face and make you boss also happy. After the meeting just take the crux of the meeting. Btw the good news is that paranoid to a extend that effects the environment does not exist long. 1 yr -2 yr .. then i guess it meets its fate ( the clinic ). I hope you like my sugestions . Let me knw if it works any better than before at cheers

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/21/2005 9:02:00 AM

    My "manager" uses the divide and conquer method to alienate people in his department, and then target one person in particular who becomes the "scapegoat" for the department, so that when the heat is on him from his superior, he can easily point a finger at that target and blame that person for the problems in the department. He engages in gossip with other departments in order to spread the rumor that a particular employee is not performing or that the quality of his/her work is below standard even whent the evidence speaks against it. As a result, he has created an atmosphere of distrust, suspicion, lack of teamwork, and disharmony. Basically, he is out to cover his own ass and is ready to sacrifice someone to do so. I am that person. I don't know what to do. I went to the HR Department with him and expressed my concerns. My manager then divulged the information he gatherered from that meeting with the big Boss. Is this illegal? I thought all conversations that take place in an HR office, especially in a federally and state subsidized agency, are confidential. Am I wrong? what should I do?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/12/2005 12:32:00 AM

    You're not alone. I work for an IT consulting company. A group of us provide application support at a client site. The guy I report to (and who works for the same company) is passive-aggressive and a master at playing the victim. He uses the divide and conquer approach to keep everyone busy fighting so they won't notice that he does nothing all day. It took me two years to realize what was going on! This guy has mastered the "mr. nice guy" act. His response to requests is to a)gossip (about the rest of his team, including their salaries!), b)whine, c) complain, and if you're still around listening, d) tell you just not to do the work. Then when it's time to be accountable to the client for deadlines not met, he hides. He doesn't give reviews because he doesn't like doing it. He has his pets. They take time-off whenever they feel like it and do next to nothing and absolutely love him. The rest of us must work around them. I went to HR too. All I wanted was more resources (doable but he won't do it) and a review. It does no good. This is because work environments in which bullies thrive are usually poisoned. The wrong people are empowered. Those same people are not made accountable. And the rest are too afraid for their jobs to make waves. Although I like the job and have a great relationship with the client, I've come to realize that it's an impossible situation. My recommendation to you is to withdraw from the battle. Let him think he won. Let him think whatever he wants. Whatever you do, show no fear, anger or emotion of any kind when you interact with him (my problem was I could never keep my mouth shut..I'm finally learning!). He may look for another target, or get scared. Work hard, keep your thoughts to yourself, and start job hunting. Identify allies to use as references, and get the hell out! Sara

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/24/2005 5:32:00 AM

    have one just like her. my boss is the queen of denial. she is an over educated idiot, and still can't use the education she has in application.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/25/2005 11:48:00 AM

    I worked for someone like that. In the begining it was all nice but she was constantly asking questions feeling me out. She almost always got insensed when she saw that I could succeed where she had not. I would always keep myself busy and offering to do extra if needed. That was my downfall. I tried to keep to myself and not blurt out what I had wanted to say but instead took the high road and said, Oh, okay I'll try it that way. I advice to you. There is nothing that can be said or done. Just know that if that person is a supervisor position you either live with the day to day stress and wait for the axe or quit. Telling the boss nover works if he is under her spell.

    User: Karra
    Date: 11/3/2005 11:58:00 PM

    It sounds like your boss can’t stand to see you shine. In her mind, if you win, she loses. You’d have to play up to her and make yourself seem less competent and more stupid than her. Personally, I can’t bring myself to do it. But I’ve seen people thrive working for bosses like that, getting perks and boosts up the corporate ladder that never seem available to their hardworking “worker bee” colleagues. That might explain the abundance of idiot bosses. “Sara”

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/4/2005 9:32:00 AM

    I REALLY Need someone to help please.. PLEASE... I would like to know how to handle someone (a manager) not mine. See I work for an Architectural firm and I do electrical and this manager is over the Mechanical dept. Not me. but he sits behind me and stares , glares or stands at the end of his cube (which btw is 3 feet away) and holds a 8.5x11 sheet of paper and stares in my direction. Sometimes he doesn't hold anything just stares at the back of my head. Or sits in his chair and stares. He has followed me out of the office,to the printer , everying, he is looking now. ERR I have gave him dirty looks, wrote an email telling him to stop staring and cc'd my boss, and have gone to the head woman of the dept. She did tell me we are moving soon, by March , I requested to not sit by him because of it all but that is a while away. I have sat here almost a year, and it has really effected me personally. I now hate when anyone stares for any length of time. And i was told he is the type that when he knows he is bugging you, he will continue. He has no friends, a pot belly, and never been married.. so he irritates people.. along with pacing in his cube behind me for 8hrs.!! Help... please. email me at Anything would be appreciative. Should I quit? Elle

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/5/2005 11:03:00 AM

    I work for an IT consulting group and in this group, we have what is called a "Project Leader". Well, this one women was a PL for about 4-5 months, but then handed the position over to a guy because that position is a position that is filled for only about 4-5 months. SO, when she left, this guy took over, but not really. She still runs the show because she's friends with the main director of our group. I have to admit that I've been very gossipy about the whole situation because I find it hard to sit back and let these things happen without mentioning a word about it. I'm still at a loss about what I should do about it, but it seems that there is really nothing you can do about it. Life sucks sometimes.

    User: Karra
    Date: 11/8/2005 1:28:00 AM

    They say you can’t always change a situation, but you can always change your attitude. Well, I think that saying sucks!!! And I relate to you both. It’s frustrating to see people treated unfairly and be unable to do anything about it. But I think a lot of the time we get frustrated at work because we expect things to be fair and I’m starting to think maybe that’s just expecting too much. I work in a very open environment, without any walls, where people shout over the desks to each other when they feel like having a conversation. It’s always like a bus station at rush hour. And I really feel for you Elle! There is a guy who sits near me, about four feet away, who really bugs me. Not his fault. My problem. Yet still, there I am. The desks are positioned so that we can always see each other, and so eight hours a day this guy lives in my peripheral vision. What in the world is wrong with the people who plan these environments?!!! There should be a special cubicle hell for them....

    User: Karra
    Date: 11/8/2005 1:29:00 AM

    ...your guy, however, is a bully who is getting his kicks from tormenting you. Getting mad, giving him dirty looks, writing emails, reacting in any way is giving him exactly what he is after. He knows he has gotten under your skin and he will not stop. He is enjoying the power he has over you. What he is doing is called harassment and I’m surprised that your management is refusing to do anything about it. Perhaps they’ve just learned to live with the creep, and see him as an annoying but harmless pest. In my opinion what he’s doing is far from harmless. It’s hostile behavior and an attack on you. If you’re at the point where you feel you must quit due to the stress, you could try playing hardball. Go to your HR department and tell them that what this guy is doing is sexual harassment and you’re going to take the matter into your own hands if they don’t do something about it. That should get a speedy response. Bet he doesn’t behave like that with the guys. If, however, you’re able to hold out until March it may be easier just to tolerate him for another few months. Ignore him. Or smile and say hello, if you can stomach it. If you act as if you can stand him, it will spoil the fun for him, trust me. He sounds like a nutjob who probably has a crush on you and doesn’t know how else to show it.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/18/2005 8:02:00 PM

    Anonymous: You could have a friend of yours send this creep a box of See's candy with a very sappy card from a secret admirer, but have your friend put your boss' or the head woman's business card in it. That would take the pressure of you! Just a thought...

    User: Karra
    Date: 11/29/2005 10:44:00 PM

    Hey, that's a pretty good idea.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 12/3/2005 4:57:00 PM

    You could buy a large mirror and stand it up between you and him, to make sort of a "room divider". Or you could attach a smaller mirror to a hat or sweater and arrange for it to be facing him when you are at your desk. If he's as "attractiveness challenged" as you say, he probably won't want to look at himself, either.

    User: Karra
    Date: 12/4/2005 10:39:00 PM

    Ha,ha.. how about using one of those funhouse mirrors?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 1/11/2006 3:55:00 PM

    I work with someone who I recently found out was baker acted several years ago. Her diagnosis was: delusional & suffering from fears which has no basis in reality. Exhibits confused behavior w/ paraniod ideation. ok, with that said, I work with her and she's making me crazy! She is mobile in the office, I sit in my cubby all day, she whistles and snaps her fingers, just cause she knows it's distracting to me. Ive asked her politly to stop the whisteling as it resounds in my earpiece, ive had to recently raise my voice to make her stop. She has been her about a year and steps on e eryones toes. She has to be a part in everyones convversations, she eavesdrops around corners, shes sneaky and back stabbing. PLEASE! I need advise, before I totally go off on her. How can I make her see that its an office & needs to respect everyones quiet/working surroundings w/o coming off like a bully. Oh, her baker act paper also stated w/ medication she should be ok? Great!! Medication??? Please, if anyone has any thoughts, I really need your help.

    User: Karra
    Date: 1/14/2006 1:12:00 PM

    If she's on medication she may not be able to change her behavior. She may feel that you're attacking her. Talk to your boss to se if you van get moved, use earplugs or headphones if it's an option. The problem with open environments is not everyone performs the same tasks, so you have people who need to focus and require silence while others may be required to engage in discussions etc. I hate open environments.. particularly when they are designed so the boss can keep everyone in view rather than for noise reduction. Open environments suck.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 1/25/2006 4:03:00 PM

    Thank you for your advise. I will definatly look into moving my office. (even the small closet will do! lol).

    User: Karra
    Date: 1/29/2006 4:31:00 PM

    You have a small closet? I am jealous!

    User: anonymous
    Date: 3/7/2006 12:41:00 PM

    User: anonymous
    Date: 3/13/2006 11:10:00 PM

    I don't understand how the people you have described get these positions of power. Don't they have bosses that observe their behavior and hold them accountable? Isn't there a way they can be reported anonymously?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 3/27/2006 8:30:00 PM

    People who care more about egos than about the company they work for are the ones who get the positions of power. It's not the quality or quantity that counts but how you serve it up. Frustrating for those of us who actually care about producing good quality work and hate to see unfair treatment, but maybe we are the problem and need to wake up to reality!

    User: anonymous
    Date: 3/28/2006 12:07:00 PM

    I am on this site because i have to do a report on Paranoid Personality disorder and if you have any information about this disorder please post any information weather you know some one that has it or if any one knows from there on experiences with it I don't need any names it is for my College prep Class that i am taking, and i was called on to research this disorder and there are many more were i could have had a couple more to research but one is enouph for me to handle right now..

    User: anonymous
    Date: 4/24/2006 10:08:00 AM

    Hooo doggy, am I glad I've found this site! I am a new college grad, now working full-time for a nonprofit. It's basically an internship with a subsistance stipend. Coming in, I could see the conditions would be difficult, but the experience I would gain seemed worth the challenge, initially. Now I find that my boss, the founder of the nonprofit, exhibits all of the "bad boss" characteristics listed on this site. I'm the scapegoat for things being behind. Last week, I received my first performance evaluation, which was a three-page "rant" of why she was angry at me. No mention of what I was doing well and could continue doing well-- just a loooong list of why she felt justified in attacking my character and demoting me. It feels like emotional abuse. (If it looks like abuse, smells like abuse, and sounds like abuse, well then...) I don't think I can fight this, or defend myself-- it's not a fair fight. My boss IS the nonprofit. Rather than get an ulcer over this, I think it's better that I quit. I am very disappointed and sad, because I care about this organization, and it is difficult to separate my feelings of guilt and self-blame from the workplace issues. I'll always ask: Could I have done better?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/1/2006 3:30:00 AM

    I have found out the hard way that "paranoid personality disorder" exists. For an employee whose Myer Briggs personality type labels them as loyal and honest, it's quite a kick in the guts to have to deal with a superior with the disorder. I don't like the word "boss" because that's how they like to see themselves. At the end of the day, the higher powers don't give a damn as long as they think this person is achieving results - (whilst back at the ranch its been you and your colleagues holding everything together.) Welcome to the real world! Do what I have done, get out of there as fast as you can and find another job. I have worked with some great bosses and have made a conscious decision to not allow myself be subjected to this treatment any longer.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/1/2006 3:36:00 AM

    Another thing, these people constantly blame their staff for their inability to step up to the plate.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/27/2006 1:09:00 PM

    To the GentlePerson who wrote on 5/1/2006 3:30:00 AM: I liked your beautiful post. I too, found Paranoid Personality the hard way. They are a different breed, recently somewhere in a web site I read something like this "whether we call them human", I certainly say NO!. Don't think I am full of hate, on the contrary, but simply getting a bit close to them and your life become a joke!.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/31/2006 11:12:00 PM

    Thanks To Everyone Here--I Now know the signs were there in that I was dealing with someone who feels betrayed and probably is acting out the "I'll get them before they get me". That's just childish behavior and it seems to fit her because she did tell me that she had come from a privileged family and she seems very concerned about some current personal relationship. I think she's a power monger and instead of cultivating a good relationship with her workers--uses them to get work that she probably should be doing herself. I must have been the proverbial GREENHORN, but I now know this is a bad person to work for and though I like working at my job, the nausea that I feel in my stomach is not a good thing for me at my age and I really want to find contentment.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/28/2006 10:42:00 AM

    I too have a paranoid boss. She has on a number of occasions exploded with accusations about how I am 'taking over' and 'not teaching her how to use the latest computer program'. Today she is having a micro-managing/paranoid day. It's been good for a while, but when she gets paranoid anyone in her way gets trampled. She'll complain how her feelings are always being hurt by others, and then she turns around and does the same thing to me. Although I love my job, I have had a really hard time dealing with this. I have tried every approach with her, and nothing I do earns her trust. It has a negative effect on me as I get very nervous and anxious when she's like this. I feel like I'm walking on egg shells. I have been in this position for a few years now, and she has consistently held me back from gaining new responsibilities. I'm sorry to read others share this experience, but your letters have helped me realize this she is never likely to change. I think it's time for a new job! Thanks :)

    User: anonymous
    Date: 5/1/2007 1:00:00 AM

    My boss is paranoid, I think, because of substance abuse. We work in remote situations so sometimes I don't see her for several weeks and we just do e-mail correspondence. The typical situation is I am carrying out the day to day business operations for her company and I won't here from her for several days. All of the sudden one evening at 3am I'll get a barrage of 40 e-mails from her. Many of them in all capital letters micromanaging what I think are insignificant details. Many times she doesn't even read all the e-mails and is misinformed about what has been accomplished, and tells me to do things that have been clearly accomplished days ago. I've been doing this job for 3 years now and I know it pretty well. I try to get away from CC'ing her on every piece of correspondence but the problem with that is something could get back to her incidentally and she will reprimand me for not keeping her in the loop. I manage a team of managers, and she does not trust these people. She is constantly thinking they are slacking off even when I know they are working hard. Yes sometimes they do need to be corrected but I am always working on positive ways to do this. I feel that by giving them some trust makes a big difference and they work much better. She however is very distrustful and sometimes gets angry when I cc them on new ideas; she gets angry that I have put an idea in their head and they will complain if it doesn't happen. We're talking about adults here! Anyway, she went to rehab recently and the sales figures were really great while I was in charge. While she was sober and congratulated me on "running the company better than she did". However now things are back to where they were before. There are good things about the job; I get a great deal of responsibility and pay is improving rapidly. I just wish we could both work together and cut the drama. Anyone have any good advice or comments?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 6/23/2007 10:53:00 AM

    I work for a paranoid personality type. This person has confided in me about imagined enemies and I've witnessed her plot to destroy people's creditability. The organization has lost many talented well qualified staff members because of her behavior. I was hired because she's a family friend, despite her knowing whether I was actually qualified for the job. I am not a crony and worked very hard to prove my ability in the short time of my employment. The ancillary staff are no more than paid spies in which I find disgusting. They feed into her paranoia by reporting what they have imagined or concocted about the professional staff members. They have no respect for us because of her abuse. She considers me loyal. I'm loyal to all because I'm a descent, well balanced person. However, she wants to control to whom I communicate. She's like a mad dictator. I am in the process job hunting outside of the organization. I have recently turned down a less rewarding position at a renowned organization. Because of my career, another opportunity will present itself. Should I abide by this psycho's request until I leave or keep my self respect. If I do the latter, she will destroy me professionally within the organization. Hoping another job comes quickly.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/3/2007 11:10:00 AM

    looking for help cooping with 2 psychopaths that keep coming back ,I now found a modus operandi that works: never invite them in never sit down to listen to them,when they are talking never make eyecontact,always act like you are preoccupied with more important and very merry prospects,always make them feel that they are the very very last thing on your mind at that particular moment, never answer any of their questions just say sorry better luck next time.You may have to repeat this prosedure a couple of times but it will work .

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/3/2007 11:38:00 AM

    for those of us working for or with a bully, do yourself this ultimate favour and get out ! There is but one life to live, and harmony is a great gift to give to yourselve.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 7/17/2007 7:49:00 PM

    i work with a man who is very paranoid that i am "out to get him"...he is starting to make my life hell at work by lying and blowing situations way out of normal proportion...he talks about how "evil" i am to the other co-workers and it all seems very immature coming from a 50 yr old retired police officer...its though he is sensitive to everything i say and do and therefore takes it all as something negative towards him....I have walked on "eggshells" around this man at work until recently when he had an "episode" and I finally lashed out at him....I can not leave this be because the owner of the business has now gotten involved.I feel as though I have to constantly defend myself whenever I am called out about a problem HE has......does anyone have any advice as to how to handle this WITHOUT quitting my job?

    User: anonymous
    Date: 11/2/2007 5:19:00 PM

    Not to paint a bleak picture, but I really don't think there is much that you, as an employee can do to "change" your bosses paranoid behavior. Maybe appeal to a hire authority if you can (if your boss has a supervisor above her/him or the HR department). But, that's about it. These neurotic behaviors can be so deep-rooted and tangled that it takes a professional therapist to sort them all out. You can try to act a certain way toward your boss thinking that it might change things, but your impact will probably be very minimal. The best advice I've heard on this board is to just find a new job. Good luck to all. I can definitely emphathize with all of you - I'm looking right now too.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 10/26/2008 11:35:00 PM

    You're not a therapist. I learned the hard way. Please, find another job! Save yourself from the sinking ship. Or if you can get into a training program, focus on completing it to get you to a higher level.

    User: anonymous
    Date: 12/19/2008 1:00:00 AM

    I am convinced my sister has this disorder and although I did "wrong" her 3 years ago and begged her forgiveness since then, she did not reciprocate. Instead, she leaves horrible, drunken messages on my answering service along with fabrications that she makes up in her head of future "betrayals". She keeps a very long, extensive list of records of wrongs spanning back 30 years, when I was a teenager,half of which I can't even recall because of the "pettiness" of the "act". She has left many messages that she never wants anything to do with me, but still continues to call and leave messages... I've come to the point of ignorance now. I am hoping that if I just don't take her calls, don't instigate any communication whatsoever, the "abuse" and the need for her to "refuel" her suspicions and anger will dissipate. In other words, cutting off all ties completely so her suspicions aren't "refueled"... I am completely at my wits end... please help

    User: sunnyd
    Date: 2/14/2009 3:20:00 PM

    This has been very enlightening! All my life I thought, and even called, my sister paranoid and after reading this I am convinced of it. I seem to be the one labeled enemy #1 in her mind. The last incident came about over my posting something on my space that had nothing to do with her but she accused me of scheming and plotting against her and talking about her. Even after I explained that it had nothing to do with her she cursed me, put me down and deleted me so I can not even defend my actions. Which from past experience would do no good anyway because she has decided that I am out to get her and it makes no difference what I say. She is ever vigilant and on constant guard to take something totally innocent and twist and turn things around to suit her accusations. She's insane as far as I'm concerned. We have a very large family and everyone sees her actions as I do but she has chosen me as her target so they say nothing because then her wrath would be on them too!

    User: alisha66
    Date: 11/15/2010 12:53:00 AM

    The personality disorders are chronic patterns of behavior that cause lasting problems with the work and the relationships. Paranoid personality disorder can result from negative childhood experiences fostered by a threatening domestic atmosphere. Childhood developmental factors and parenting behaviors that may contribute to the disorder.

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