A Paranoid Boss is a piece of work. To Paranoid Bosses, everything
and everybody is out to get them, including you. Working for a Paranoid
Boss can be a real treat. Anything you do, for whatever reason, is
an attempt to subvert your boss, or so he thinks. What can you do?
Very little. Paranoia is a sticky wicket. It exists largely in the paranoid’s
imagination, which is not a sector accessible to you or anybody else.
Paranoia can feed on itself and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Paranoid Boss spends his energy searching out and exposing the
conspiracy against him. Sometimes he actually finds one. But most of
the time, he has to invent one. Either way, the focus and leadership
that should have been committed to departmental objectives is wasted
and the whole operation goes in the tank—thus confirming the paranoid
boss’s contention that someone conspired to sabotage his operation.
He doesn’t need to have any evidence, only a failed operation.
That’s enough to feed the paranoia until next time.
Escaping the Paranoid Boss is not hard. If you can make him
believe you’re part of the conspiracy, he will do everything he can to
have you punished, which in most organizations will result in your
transfer because termination is such a litigious exposure these days
and everybody knows he’s paranoid anyway.
Although it’s ethically suspect, you might want to try coughing at
meetings. Your Paranoid Boss will immediately stop whatever he’s
doing and say, “What? What’s going on?” Look around the room and
say, “Nothing.” Approximately 90 seconds later, signal one of your
coconspirators to cough. Tap out Morse Code on the top of the conference
table and have one of your coconspirators tap back. When
your Paranoid Boss turns and asks, “What? What’s going on?” shrug
your shoulders. The more you deny his accusations the more he will
suspect you and work to have you removed from his department.
Times and circumstances change. For most professionals, the employment
landscape is nearly unrecognizable from what it was a few
years ago. Industry-wide fiscal setbacks, corporate cutbacks, and
downsizing often limit the options you once had to move easily and
freely around the organization. If escaping your paranoid boss is not as
easy as you had hoped, you can employ tactics to make the relationship
- Keep your activities in plain sight. It might not occur to you that a Paranoid Boss can see an innocent conversation by the coffee machine as a threat. Once again, use your imagination. These people don’t think like you. Stay one step ahead of your Paranoid Boss by intentionally avoiding the appearance of secret activity.
- Like the Machiavellian Boss, copy your Paranoid Boss on everything. Let him tell you when to stop. A constant flow of information serves two purposes. First, he will think, by its sheer volume, information is being disclosed more than withheld. Second, he will be sufficiently occupied with reading the information that he’ll have less time to ruminate about conspiracies.
- Spend more time with him. It’s hard for a Paranoid Boss to imagine you conspiring if you’re in his face. Imagination is a key term because that’s where the conspiracies exist—in his imagination. If creating a more copasetic work environment is your main objective, invite your Paranoid Boss to spend time with you and your coworkers.
- Share the knowledge. Use terms and phrases indicating that you not only share information freely with your Paranoid Boss, but also with the rest of the organization. Indicate in your correspondences how widely you distribute information. Come right out and say, “As I shared with [so-and-so]…” This will decrease his anxiety level, knowing that information shared over a larger population reduces the probability of a mass conspiracy.
- Share secrets. Disclose to your Paranoid Boss some of your inner thoughts, within reason. Demonstrating your trust for him will invite his trust in return. It’s hard to distrust someone who demonstrates trust in you. Paranoids are not completely hopeless. Sharing will also demonstrate a new way of being for a person who might adopt a new attitude around you, given enough encouragement.Be a genuine listener if he decides to share with you.
- Put on the uniform. Rather than herd out of the office for the company softball game, which your Paranoid Boss will interpret as a sure sign you’re all on your way to an underground meeting, put on your softball uniforms first.
Not that you can’t conspire against your Paranoid Boss
while dressed in softball uniforms, but it at least appears
that you’re doing something legitimate. And of course
invite him to come to the game. If he doesn’t, bring pictures
and a post game report to the office the following
Like any other personality disorder, you have no real control over
a Paranoid Boss. But you can do a great deal to influence the environment
in a positive way. That much power you do have. Deciding not
to intentionally do things to shape your environment the way you prefer
it to be will help bring about the environment you don’t want.
Inaction around the office is not innocuous.
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) Part9