Saying what a Masochistic Boss wants to hear,—”You’re a piece of slime…”—is not exactly appropriate and could come back to haunt you if overheard. Unfortunately, complimenting masochists only annoys them, and they usually respond by doing something particularly despicable to set the record straight.
As the name implies, masochists have developed a belief that they should be punished…must be punished. Who knows why? The important thing is that they will suck everyone within their sphere of influence into their sick behavior. Their need to be punished is so intense that they will punish themselves if nobody else will. In extreme cases,
nobody else can do it well enough to be trusted.
Masochistic Bosses attract codependents like flies to a Sunday picnic. The codependents try like crazy to fill up the black hole in the masochist’s soul, which is impossible. Yet, the Herculean effort continues day-in and day-out. The codependents shovel affirmations down the masochist’s throat for all they’re worth and the masochist vomits them all back up. Masochistic Bosses are not idiots in the classical sense. But they’re about as uplifting as a boat anchor.
Departments run by Masochistic Bosses are easy to spot. For starters, nothing ever gets done except for the occasional 911 call. Getting something accomplished might mean a reduction in pain and misery, so that’s out. Masochistic Bosses make sure their departments fail so upper management will deal out punishment.
The best way to deal with a Masochistic Boss is to get out. There is no way these people will ever feel good about themselves. Neither will they ever allow you to accomplish anything that might make them look or feel good. When you accomplish something that makes you look or feel good, your Masochistic Boss is likely to say, “Oh, swell. Good for yo-o-o-ou. I suppose you’re going to get promoted now and knock me off the management ladder. Well, go ahead. Do what makes you happy.” It makes you want to take your accomplishment, wad it up, and throw it in the trash. Except that your Masochistic Boss will probably have already put the trashcan over his head and will be beating it against a wall.
Once again, the secret to surviving and thriving in a Masochistic Boss’s department begins with attitude, followed by language and behavior. You must learn to be positive without smiling. In fact, being positive in a masochist’s world means getting the focus off his pain as often as possible.
- Frame your comments in the context of avoiding problems. If you have a proposal you want to advance, say, “This will assure we’re in compliance with the organization’s parameters without drawing any undue attention our way.” Your Masochistic Boss will hear in your comment an absence of reward and appreciation, which to him is the next best thing to actual punishment.
- Point out possible down-side outcomes. Saying, “This could result in some negative consequences that we’ll have to deal with,” can be a perfectly honest and truthful statement.
- Your Masochistic Boss will hear the possible negatives, while your fellow team members will simply take it as a heads up.
- Don’t engage your Masochistic Boss’s negative conversation.
- Listen respectfully, but don’t pick up the negativity.
- You don’t want any more negative energy around you than necessary. He wants to wallow in it. You can strike a compromise of sorts by being attentive when it’s appropriate and steering clear whenever you can.
- Acknowledge what can happen. Your Masochistic Boss will tell you repeatedly what bad things are likely to happen in any given scenario or initiative. Note for future reference what he is most afraid of, to hear him tell it, and point out up front the possibility that his specific fears could be realized. Then offer that it might turn out another way by the luck of the draw.
- Include but don’t invite. Copy your Masochistic Boss on all e-mails and announcements of activities that you cook up with your coworkers, but don’t specifically invite him.
- Issue a blanket invitation. The last thing you want to do is act as if you’re cheering him up. Don’t specifically exclude him either.
- Give him a virtual hug. Physical contact is rarely appropriate in office settings, but a well-timed nod of the head, sigh, or shrug of the shoulders can have a similar effect.
- A virtual hug for your Masochistic Boss is a nonverbal way to say, “I know you’re under an immense amount of pressure that you don’t deserve and I’m powerless to help you.”
I rarely advise quitting, but, as W.C. Fields said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then give up. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” Or words to that effect. The best way to deal with a Masochistic Boss is to get out. There is no way these people will ever
feel good about themselves. Neither will they ever allow you to accomplish
anything that might make them look or feel good. My advice: Get out before you injure yourself on a booby trap he has set around the office for himself. Get out that is, unless you’re a sadist. Then you can play with the masochist the way a cat plays with a defenseless mouse.
HOW TO WORK FOR AN IDIOT SURVIVE & THRIVE… WITHOUT KILLING YOUR Boss Cap II: Chapter 2: Will the Real Idiot Please Stand Up? (By John Hoover) Part 7