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Mean Boss or a Psychopath? Here’s How to Tell

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Unfortunately, horrible bosses exist. Whether you’ve been lucky in avoiding them or not, chances are you’ll come across one at some point. So, how can you tell if they’re just mean or psychotic?

Despite the underlying urge to convince yourself that labeling your boss as a psychopath is childish, there is real truth behind certain aspects of his or her behavior that can truly put them into such a drastic category. And as far-fetched as it sounds, paying attention to all their actions and observing their day-to-day behavior will lend a hand in your assessment as to whether you need to seek assistance in dealing with them.

The difficult part however, is being able to distinguish between someone who is mean and someone who has a severe personality imbalance. Because let’s face it, no one wants to report a superior by claiming mental instability, when in truth he or she is simply unhappy, frustrated and/or unfulfilled. So how can you tell the difference?

An article published on, provides detailed information on some serious warning signs. Several are listed below along with some useful tips quoted directly from the piece.

mean boss

© Flickr user gorriti

Signs Your Boss is a Psychopath

  • Lacks Empathy

    Psychopathic bosses often exhibit an extreme lack of empathy. They’re unable to put themselves in your shoes and imagine how a situation might affect you.

  • Manipulation

    They will attempt to confuse you, maybe even making you feel as if you’re crazy. They distort the truth and may resort to lying if it serves their end

  • Arrogance

    Psychopaths tend to think they are special and deserve better treatment than others.

  • Irresponsibility

    They might habitually shirk responsibility and look for others to take the blame when something goes wrong.

  • Disregard for Rules

    Psychopaths don’t really care about rules, especially when they are in a position of authority.

  • Impulsiveness

    If your boss makes significant decisions without giving them much thought, this could be a red flag. You might think your boss flying by the seat of his pants is just a sign of creativity, but his impulsive nature could be a deeper problem.

Thinking about the red flags above in conjunction with individual(s) in your workplace is certainly scary. But the truth is, if you’re suffering on a daily basis due to a volatile, problematic boss, then intervention may be necessary. By observing their behavior, you’ll have a better understanding of how to cope and take appropriate action.

3 Ways to Resolve The Problem

  • Talk to your boss – It’s always a good idea to first discuss your issues with the person directly. But do so cautiously. According to therapist Ce Anderson, your vulnerability could end up hurting you:

    It is important to separate your emotional brain from your rational brain and use what we call your wise mind. Your boss is not moved by tears nor emotional appeals and will likely view you as weak and easy prey

  • Document the behavior – If actions continually occur, it’s always good to have record of them to provide to outside sources such as Human Resources. The last thing you want to be subjected to is a “he said, she said” situation where it’s your word against theirs. However, once again take caution. According to Robby Slaughter, a principal with AccelaWork, bringing negative attention to a boss that is annoying rather than psychotic can have lasting effects on your job with the company. He’s quoted in the article:

    If your boss is irritable, disorganized, carefree, distracted, or plain annoying, don’t call HR. Work through the issues yourself. But [antisocial personality disorder] is a serious diagnosis. If you’re concerned that might be a possibility, get help.

  • Leave – Your mental and physical well-being is and should be of utmost importance. If you’re contending with stresses, anxieties, worries and simple acts of meanness on a consistent basis, you should consider a new working environment entirely.

Hopefully your boss and all your colleagues are mentally healthy and stable. But there are people who are antisocial out there—so keep watch!

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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