There are psychos everywhere in business, judging by the responses to my post about my Psycho Boss. It certainly struck a nerve with a lot of you.
The picture is a lot more complicated and nuanced than my experience covered. What people have shared with me has many more layers and lots of different manifestations, all painful and damaging but to different degrees.
“Dick or dickhead? Neither or both?” asked Dr. Richard Claydon in a post prompted by mine (link in comments). Richard points to less serious level of behaviour that we frequently see in organisational settings, “that hopefully falls far short of the aggression, cruelty and lack of compassion of psychopaths, Machiavellians and narcissists.”
He points to the rich history or these terms, reflecting the fact that human behaviour has changed little over the centuries. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, but we shouldn’t tolerate it either. It could be the ‘entry level drug’ to more serious misbehaviour.
Others raised the issue of moral injury, ‘the lasting impact that is caused by performing, witnessing or failing to prevent an action that violates your own moral beliefs’, something that we experience in toxic cultures. This can lead to ‘moral burnout’, a more intense form of burnout that invariable leads to the victim feeling they have to leave the organisation. Some likened it to being in an abusive relationship.
In more extreme cases, it can lead to PTSD and we are all aware of where that can end up.
These are clearly serious effects and they are getting worse as the trend has been towards less humane and more toxic environments in the pursuit of shareholder returns, profits and efficiency. It’s the symptoms of a broken model that is now degrading itself and all those touched by it.
What we are seeing is wide-scale abuse which is harming people, society and planet on massive scale.
We must drag these issues out into the open and demand they are addressed. We must share our own experiences and give others permission to confront their own traumas. Too many people have experienced Psycho Bosses, have suffered moral injury and have seen or been subjected to psychopathic behaviour.
Injury at work used to be common, back in the days of dark, satanic mills. We stopped that on the grounds of morality, justice and civilisation. Now we must stop these unseen injuries of the soul that have become commonplace today or be judged to be depraved, unfair and uncivilised.
The need for us to turn towards more human-centric, purpose-led, stake-holder-driven organisations could not be clearer, nor it be more urgent.
Decrapify Work or Die. It’s not just a slogan, it’s an imperative.