Type 3 Corporate Psychopaths:
Q: What are three most common types of managers in large IT corporations:
A: Micromanagers, nanomanagers, and picomanagers
Softpanorama micromanagement humor collection
In modern IT corporation having an encounter with a micromanager is as inevitable as death and taxes. Micromanager is
probably the most popular subcategory of toxic managers or in less politically correct terms
a special type of corporate psychopath.
Micromanagers can especially visible in large corporation but they are especially nasty in software development environment,
may be due the complexity of the environment in which programmers operates. If we are talking about micromanagement we usually
assume significant level of incompetence. Extremely (or toxically) competent manager
usually does not produce such a strong allergic reaction although everything has its limits.
Note 1: Paranoid incompetent micromanagers (PIMM), who successfully combine tight
control of minute details/procedures used in performing assignments with compete incompetence are often called "control
freaks" (CF). This category of micromanagers represents really nasty beasts of IT jungles who tend to completely paralyze
their victims. They are completely different from PHB on Dilbert cartoons.
In this set of pages that include
we will mainly address this menace.
Note 2: Good advice about the topic is difficult to come by and depends on your concrete
situation: take any recommendations with a grain of salt.
Most PIMM are simultaneously workplace bullies, ruthless dictators like petty variant of
Mao or Stalin who based of particular circumstances try to twist political and social power to inflict psychological
abuse on a carefully chosen target. Paradoxically often this target is a mirror of micromanager: perfectionist, workaholic
with the only difference that he/she is a competent one.
Knowing how to deal with PIMM is a skill that is not easily acquired nor mastered, but is an essential requirement to
your survival and, often, to your physical and, especially, psychical health. Negative
health effects are usually typical consequence of the combination of a workaholic culture and chronic toxic stress
inflicted by control freaks: they are similar to combat stress.
In milder form micromanagement is rampant. According to some surveys nearly eight in 10 employees are victims of a micromanaging
boss. If we consider bulling as most typical behavior of PIMM then data suggest that:
- About one worker in six is bullied in any given year.
- A woman is the target in eight of every 10 cases.
- In six of 10 cases, a woman is the PIMM. I suspect that it might be seven out of
ten: this is an interesting side effect of affirmative action: road to hell is paved with good intentions...
It is easier to cope with PIMM and micromanagers by considering them as psychiatrist patients who somehow escaped treatment.
And the most sad fact is that there are so many of them and while men in extreme cases are probably nastier, this is a real
epidemics among female managers. Might be a side effect of affirmative action when instead of promoting best people corporations
are promoting incompetent and power hungry females because they need to meet quotas.
Viewing PIMM as psychiatric patients who managed to escape treatment helps first of all restore self-respect severely
damaged by control freaks. Like relationship in problem marriages micromanaging usually also indicates hidden personality
problems of a targeted individual: like all psychopaths PIMM has an acute eye on human weaknesses and intuitively know
how and when to exploit them. In other words expect that PIMM will try to exploit your individual weaknesses. They
also enjoy ambushes, when they confront unprepared victim with some accusation and if victim does not understand that
he/she is ambushed and forget to ask the discussion should be postponed, he will just be crushed by well prepared
attack. All this creates evil, toxic workplace.
The most common consequences are problems with health and burnout. Insomnia is probably the first warning sign of health
problems. Burnout is a natural and inevitable consequence of an uneasy relationship between employee and micromanagers;
it is worth repeating that micromanagement sucks the life out of workers. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
defines burnout as "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or
frustration." That's an apt description of the condition, and it explain why burnout is typical side effect of micromanagement.
Burnout is especially acute in programming and system administration when after jumping though a lot of useless hoops trying
to do the job despite micromanager people just give up.
Reducing the burnout from micromanagement is not just a matter of reducing the number of negatives.
Indeed, like in any
abusive authority-based relationship there is not a lot you can do about the negative
effects of micromanagement on you as an individual. Instead, it is often more useful to think about increasing the
number of positives, and of building the opposite of burnout, private safety niche and side interests and activities. Enrolling
in gym is probably the easiest and the most useful countermeasure. Buing a punch bag is probably the second. Enrolling into
social psychology course in your local community collage is the third. And so on. If you stay at work managed by a
micromanager the key to survival is minimizing your work hours (this is a toxic workplace; consider each hour as additional
exposure to the toxin) and separation of your work and private interests in such a way that your outside interest compensate
the negative aspects of daily work.
I believe that you can often somewhat loosen the grip of PIMM a bit. There is a classic
story about the pilot who endured several years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Nearly starved and frequently beaten by
his captors, the pilot stunned interviewers when he said he had so much to be grateful for in the time he was held. For
him, the hunger and beatings weren't the biggest problems. The hardest part of imprisonment was complete isolation in a
cramped and dirty room. The pilot told about a female rat that found her way into his lonely cell. He felt blessed by her
companionship and the opportunity to witness, over time, the birth and mother's care of three litters of babies. The rat
was his only contact with another living being for a long time-and its presence was a gift, he said, that gave him strength
and the ability to endure extreme stress and hardship.
That pilot's story exemplifies some really important concepts for dealing with stress and burnout. First you need to
distinguish between things which he wanted (better conditions, more and better food, freedom) and minimum conditions that
needed to survive and preserve sanity (contact with another living being).
The research by Dr. Karen Ballard , a program development and evaluation specialist
at the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service, showed that Vietnam POWs either died quickly or
"they not only survived imprisonment, but, in many cases, did remarkably well when they returned home." What distinguished
the survivors? "The awareness that they had choices," Ballard says. "They may not have had a lot of choices-they may not
have had very good choices. But they had the capacity to evaluate their own resources and select the best available choices
for their situations. They couldn't control all of their circumstances, but they chose to control what they could."
Ballard says trying to figure out what those choices are is the first step away from the path that leads to chronic,
toxic stress and burnout. She recommends an "honest" self-inventory to identify what's causing the stress. "Write it down.
Think about what makes you angry, unhappy, sad-what makes you not want to go to work," she advises. "Make an exhaustive
list. This is a critical step to gaining control. Work on it for days if you need to." While the main reason is clear
it is a particular control freak, modes of his attacks and circumstances under which he attack you need to be identified.
A the same time I would like to warn that "Control freak" is one of those terms for which the meaning is starting to
get distorted and became a nasty little clutch:
- 68% of employees with a female boss consider her to be a control freak.
- 57% of employees with a male boss consider him to be a control freak.
Usually psychopath constitute around `1% of human population. Even if we assume that in management position the concentration
is 10 times higher due to natural selection still that gives us 10% as an estimate.
At the same time each control freak like each psychopath is different and combination of qualities that make them tick
are somewhat different too. For example I saw control freak that give no attention of time control at all but was
tremendously concerned with the creating useless detailed procedures for each minor step (documentation or procedural freak).
What was funny that for this type of corporate psychopath the final result of the project did not mean much as long as everything
was "proceduralized" to death.
Please note that most control freaks are total "gatekeepers" and try to isolate subordinates from all independent streams
of information. Expect to be cut from vital meeting, expect withholding viral information, expect that bits of information
the will be communicated are comply twisted and distorted. Try to create your independent network so that you get at least
something not so distorted. But some PIMMs are selective and actually can encourage some outside communication that doe
not harm them.
A control freak (PIMM) tries to control every little detail but they are not super humans and their attention span is
limited: they usually bog themselves down to the extent they lose a bigger picture. If more than five people report to control
freak it is logically to assume that he/she operates in chronic overload mode. Yes, they still try to control every little
detail they assign to you, instead of giving you the job and leaving you to do it. But you can try to
escape their deadly embrace by feeding them wrong or not-relevant information, by perusing parallel projects on your
own, by structuring communication to avoid
unnecessary conflicts and other means.
The worst type is very process-oriented, the type that usually bog you down in useless documentation. But
the question to ask is whether they can read it ? Can probably you fool then by resubmitting old documents with slight modification.
Can you fool them by submitting completely bogus or not relevant documents. Those are questions that you should always ask.
There is another aspect of control freaks that deserved to be mentioned in this introductory page without going into too
much detail that are provided elsewhere: for control freak
Excel spreadsheet from a tool suddenly become instrument of torture. But is not it nice to counter this tendency by leaning
programmability aspects of Excel and generating large useless tables using macros and VBA (of course by you should never
tell that control freak that this is a generated spreadsheet; he/she should assumed that you diligently types this crap
into each and every cell). I once managed to generated a huge table from raw data using Perl script and export from comma
delimited format. The table that would take me a week to do manually was done in 15 minutes. Plus 30 minutes for polishing
titles, subnotes and line. Generally drawing PIMM in spam -- ocean of superficial, redundant or useless information is quite
effective strategy if you master the capabilities of MS Office to the extent you can write all sorts of macros.
Another common characteristic, as pointed out by numerous posts here, is a lack of a clear vision of the end goal of
a project. The problem with PIMMs is that they can abruptly change direction in the middle of the project, usually
several times, and almost always reversing themselves at least once. Yes
I admit that this is like spitting in your face but again there are nice countermeasures here: one the most drastic is by
leading PIMM to a solution that has destructive value for the company. This is a dangerous move but if documented properly
and presented to HR it can lead to demotion of the PIMM and, of course, you. In this case you of course are sacrificing
yourself so at this time you better have an alternative job offer (which surprisingly, due to general hostility to PIMM,
often can be found within the organization). This strategy can be called
Ivan Susanin" strategy:
In 1612 there were many Polish detachments still roaming Russia, however. They supported
Sigismund III Vasa, who
refused to accept defeat and still laid claim to the Russian throne. One of these discovered the news and sent troops
to Kostroma to find and kill the young tsar.
It is said that they did not know the road to Domnino very well, so they started to ask the locals for directions.
In a wood near the village they met a logger, Ivan Susanin, who promised to take them via a "shortcut" through a forest
directly to the Ipatiev Monastery,
where Mikhail apparently was hiding. The enemies followed him and were never heard from again. It is presumed that Susanin
led them so deep into the forest into semi-frozen swaps that they could not find a way out, and they perished in the
bitter February cold.
Susanin's grandson, who Susanin secretly sent ahead via a different route, warned Mikhail Romanov, and the monks
concealed him from further Polish raids. Mikhail was crowned tsar and ruled Russia for 32 years, founding the
The other less dramatic move is to navigate PIMM to the project that despite being not the best choice for the
organization has some interesting technologies or is so complex that you will have considerable freedom to study something
interesting. Killing PIMM with complexity is actually a pretty useful general strategy that capitalize on the level of overload
they subject themselves. And the nicest thing is that he will consider this project his own choice and as such would be
inclined to provide you some training, consultant help, etc. The downsize here is the necessity to learn some monster useless
system, but still it can be useful on your resume.
There are always two needed for a tango and often some problems that we experience with control freak are actually to
a certain extent are problem with ourselves. Ironically, targets of PIMM tend to be high
achievers, perfectionists and workaholics themselves. Often PIMM try to mask their own insecurities by striking out
similar soils much like shark is attracted by blood.
Also it is important to understand that any attempt to correct the bad behavior of the PIMM
will be perceived as a personal threat to his/her self-esteem. Paradoxically many PIMM self-justify their obnoxious
behavior as mentoring. Perceiving a threat the PIMM might take steps to have you terminated to regain
It's all about honest self-awareness and recognizing that you do have choices. Individuals who burn out under the PIMM
are often the ones who are in jobs that don't play to their personal styles and preferences and who cannot quickly find
alternative source of supporting self-esteem. Their strengths are not rewarded. They are constantly battling an environment
that just doesn't suit them. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
All the self-awareness in the world will not change control freak, it just identify the way it behaves. It's important
to analyze whom you're dealing with in
order to make choices about how to respond to them in ways that minimize your own stress. It's easy to take their behaviors
personally, but most of the time it's not only about "them" its about both of you. It's about them.
At the same time self-adaptation has its limit and countermoves discussed in the bottom line is best summed up in the
Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
|God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
One common strategy of PIMM is to increase his/her power by surrounding themselves with staff members who accept
their personality and work style: patsies. Weak passive employees often can benefit from PIMM and provide support
in return. That further isolates you in the group, especially if the group is small.
But in any case max out possibilities to be out of the office. Lower your productivity and switch a large part of your
energy on documenting everything. And remember that this is not your fault. Actually PIMM sacrifice the health, morale
and productivity of the organization for their own emotional comfort. Their actions speak more loudly than any administrative
memo. PIMM-led organization tend to shrink and become stagnant and out of touch with reality. Expect them to
be natural victims of outsourcing.
PIMM excels in burning high archiver by putting them in tar pit of unnecessary documentation, boring and repetitive assignments,
etc. If you're a risk taker you're going to experience a tremendous amount of stress in your job. find you won pet
projects and pursue them or try to obtains relevant to your work certification.
If you plan to stay prepare to knuckle down and fight long hard battle. After all that's what man were created for. The
conflict between PIMM and victim has its own complex dialectic. You might temporarily recover some lost territory and find
some safer niche were it is more difficult to attack you. Like Russians with Napoleon you need to withdraw deep into
your own territory and, if you can, subject the enemy to the winter cold cutting information supply and replacing vital
information with spam (the word "replacing" is the key: quantity should not changed or should even increase).
In case you are very sensitive to critique expect that you like solders in the front line you might have some signs of
"post-traumatic stress syndrome" (PTSS) due to chronic stress. It is estimated that about
17% of returning war fighters have PTSS with clinical signs of anxiety and depression, compared with about 6% or 7%
of the general population. Important aspect of PTSS is the desire to withdraw from the world, and other people.
Don't do this. Fight it with physical activity, enroll in the gym, double the amount of time you spend outside. Enroll
into some volunteer help group.
at Work for how to deal with outburst and how to counterattack direct and ruthless exercise of power.
Outline of the more high level strategy of fighting PIMM now moved to
a separate page.
Knowledge certainly is power in this case. It is important to learn as much as one can about psychopaths - their traits
and characteristics, and how they operate.
Interview with Dr. Robert D. Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak
... Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. and Paul Babiak, Ph.D., authors of "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work" (available
ACFE Bookstore), have been studying psychopaths and their effects for years. Babiak is an industrial and organizational
psychologist and president of HRBackOffice, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in management development
and succession planning (www.HRBackOffice.com).
Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy and author of "Without Conscience: The Disturbing
World of the Psychopaths Among us," is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and
president of Darkstone Research Group, a forensic research and consulting firm (www.hare.org).
"Psychopaths invest energy in creating and maintaining a facade that facilitates their
careers," said Hare. "During the hiring process they convince decision makers
of their unique talents and abilities - albeit based upon lies and distortion. "
"Executives are always looking for the best and brightest ... but there are not that many from which to choose,"
Hare said. "As times goes on, the psychopath will continue to manage this positive reputation
for as long as it is useful to him or her. ... Executives view themselves as good judges of people, and
few want to be told that they were wrong about something as basic as honesty and integrity. This aspect of human nature
works in favor of the psychopath."
Hare will be a keynote speaker at the 19th Annual ACFE Fraud Conference & Exhibition in Boston in July. He spoke
to Fraud Magazine from his home in Vancouver, B.C., and Babiak from his home in Dutchess County, N.Y.
Do you believe that most fraudsters are psychopaths or do they just exhibit anti-social
Hare: There are many reasons why people engage in fraudulent behavior, some related to economic necessity,
cultural, social, and peer pressures, special circumstances, opportunities, and so forth. Many of these people are small-time
criminals just "doing their job," and their victims are relatively few in number. Much more problematic are fraudsters
whose activities reflect a virulent mix of personality traits and behaviors including grandiosity;
sense of entitlement; a propensity to lie, deceive, cheat, and manipulate; a lack of empathy and remorse;
an inability to develop deep emotional and social connections with others; and the view
that others are merely resources to be exploited - callously and without regret.
These white-collar psychopaths often are heavily involved in obscenely lucrative scams of every sort. They lead lavish
lifestyles while their victims lose their life savings, their dignity, and their health - a financial death penalty
as one law enforcement officer put it. The public and the courts have difficulty in appreciating the enormity of the
damage done by these social predators, and because their crimes often do not involve direct physical violence, they
may receive comparatively light fines and sentences, and early parole. The money obtained from their depredations is
seldom recovered, leaving the victims and the public bewildered and convinced that crime certainly does pay when committed
by those whose charm, egocentricity, and deception disguise a flabby conscience.
You've designed the "Psychopathy Checklist - Revised" (PCL-R), the standard tool for
diagnosing psychopathy. Can you briefly describe its methodology and how it differs from other forms of measurement?
Hare: The PCL-R is a 20-item clinical construct rating scale for the assessment of psychopathy in forensic
populations. Qualified professionals use interview and detailed file/collateral information to score each item on 3-point
scales (0, 1, 2) according to the extent to which an individual matches explicit criteria for the item. The resulting
total scores can vary from 0 to 40 and reflect the extent to which the individual matches the "prototypical psychopath."
One derivative of the PCL-R, the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV), often is used in community and
civil psychiatric research on psychopathy. It has 12 items, with total scores that can vary from 0 to 24. The items
in each instrument are grouped into the same four factors or dimensions, each of which contributes to the measurement
of psychopathy. For example, the items in the PCL: SV dimensions are: Interpersonal (Superficial, Grandiose, Deceitful);
Affective (Lacks remorse, Lacks empathy, Doesn't accept responsibility for own behavior); Lifestyle (Impulsive, Lacks
goals, Irresponsibility); Antisocial (Poor behavioral controls, Adolescent antisocial behavior, Adult antisocial behavior).
The PCL-R and the PCL: SV are strongly related to one another, both conceptually and empirically and have much the same
psychometric, explanatory, and predictive properties. Because of their demonstrated reliability and validity, they are
widely used in basic and applied research on psychopathy and for clinical and forensic evaluations.
The personality disorder measured by the PCL-R is similar to antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), described in
the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV. The difference is that the PCL-R places considerable emphasis on the
interpersonal and affective traits associated with psychopathy, whereas ASPD is defined more by antisocial behaviors.
As a result, ASPD fails to capture the traditional construct of psychopathy and is much more prevalent in community
and forensic populations than is psychopathy.
Self-report personality inventories also are used for the assessment of psychopathic traits and behaviors. The information
provided by these instruments reflects the individual's self-understanding and evaluation, what he or she is willing
to disclose to others, and impression management. It may be difficult to obtain accurate self-reports of affective experiences
associated with psychopathic tendencies. Further, self-report measures of psychopathy are only moderately correlated
with the PCL-R and its derivatives. Nonetheless, they provide useful information from the individual's perspective,
and contribute to our understanding of the psychopathy construct, particularly in the general population. One derivative
of the PCL-R is the B-Scan or Business Integrity Scan, which includes both a self-report version and a supervisor's
rating version. We developed the scan out of our experiences with, and research on, the lack of integrity and honesty
of corporate psychopaths. Although not a clinical measure of psychopathy, it is designed to tap into the behaviors,
attitudes and judgments relevant to ethical business
You've written that many people, after reading or hearing you speak, begin wondering
if their bosses and co-workers are psychopaths - or even themselves! I imagine all of us exhibit psychopathic traits
at various times, but what are the prevailing characteristics that you believe a person must exhibit to actually be
diagnosed as a psychopath? How do you distinguish a psychopath from a difficult person?
Hare: Television constantly describes the symptoms associated with an endless list of diseases, some real, some contrived.
The viewer may have one of the symptoms of disease X, say a sore throat, and worry that he or she has the disease. But
this symptom is shared by scores of conditions other than disease X, and sometimes a sore throat is simply a sore throat.
What people don't take into account is that a given disease or medical condition is defined and diagnosed by a set of
symptoms, a syndrome, and that one or two of the defining symptoms may be of little diagnostic value. One symptom does
not a disease make, nor does being impulsive, egocentric, irresponsible, and so forth make someone a psychopath; difficult,
perhaps, but not psychopathic.
Psychopathy is defined by having a heavy dose of the features that comprise the disorder. How heavy? Like blood pressure,
the construct measured by the PCL-R and PCL: SV is dimensional. The threshold for "high blood pressure" or for a label
of "hypertensive" is somewhat arbitrary, but typically falls in a range where there is increased risk to the individual's
health. The threshold for "psychopathy" also is somewhat arbitrary, but generally is set rather high, at a level where
the individual's manipulative, callous, egocentric, predatory, irresponsible, and remorseless behaviors begin to infringe
upon the rights and safety of others. For example, researchers often adopt a PCL: SV score of 18 (out of 24) for "probable
psychopathy," and a score of 13 for "possible psychopathy." To put this into context, the average PCL: SV score is less
than 3 for samples from the general population, and around 13 for samples from forensic populations. Most of those in
the general population receive a PCL: SV score of 0 or 1. So, even those who appear to exhibit a few psychopathic features
would fall well below thresholds for possible or probable psychopathy. This does not mean that such individuals are
saint-like; they could still be very "difficult" for reasons other than psychopathy. Their values, beliefs, or personal
style may not be appealing to us, but they may be honest, have integrity, experience emotions at a real level, and contribute
to the success of the organization. These "difficult" people also can make sincere efforts to moderate their attitudes
and behaviors so as to fit more comfortably into the corporate culture or social norms of their work group. Psychopaths,
on the other hand, lack integrity, are dishonest and manipulative, and do not experience deep-seated emotions. They
may go through the motions of change in order to achieve their goals, but it will be little more than play-acting. Like
Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, psychopaths can be "good" or "bad," depending on what is likely to work best at the time.
What do psychopaths want? What are their motivations?
Hare: They want many of the same basic things that the rest of us want, but, in addition, have an inordinate need
for power, prestige, wealth, and so forth. They differ from most of us in terms of how much they "need," their sense
of entitlement to whatever they want, and the means with which they are willing to achieve their ends. They also differ
dramatically from others in the communal nature of their needs and goals. That is, the sense of altruism, concern for
the welfare of family, friends, and society, and the social rules, expectations, and reciprocity that guide most people
are irrelevant to psychopaths. They operate according to their own self-serving principle: look out for number 1, no
matter what the cost to others, and without guilt or remorse.
Do psychopaths feel emotions and respond to emotions in others?
Hare: The emotional life of psychopaths lacks the range and depth found in most individuals. It often is described
as shallow and barren, consisting mostly of "proto-emotions," somewhat primitive responses associated with their own
needs and experiences. Their displays of anger, hostility, envy, and response to frustration are likely to be much more
intense and genuine than their feelings of empathy, love, shame, and sorrow. While at times they may appear cold and
unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. They are able to mimic emotions
rather convincingly, but an astute observer may be left with the impression that they are play-acting and that little
is going on below the surface. This, of course, raises an interesting question. If their own emotional life is relatively
barren how are they so adept at "reading" and responding to the emotions of other people? The answer seems to be that
they have learned that what others describe as a given emotional state is reflected in a distinct pattern of verbal
cues and body language. Psychopaths are able to use this information to intuit an emotional state that they don't really
understand. In this sense, they are like a color-blind person who "recognizes" color because of the context in which
it occurs (the red light is at the top of the traffic signal) and therefore gives the appearance of color perception.
However, no amount of training and practice will allow the color-blind person to really understand color or the psychopath
to really understand the emotional life of others, except in a vague intellectual, inferential sense. To put it simply,
they don't know how you feel, nor do they much care.
You've written that some researchers have said that psychopaths "know the words but
not the music." What does that mean?
Hare: It means that psychopaths understand the denotative, dictionary meanings of words but do not fully appreciate
their connotative, emotional meaning. Their language is only "word deep," lacking in emotional coloring. Saying "I love
you" or "I'm truly sorry" has about as much emotional meaning as saying "have a nice day." This lack of emotional depth
in language is part of their more general poverty of affect as described by clinicians and observed in neuroimaging
What are the differences between psychopaths, sociopaths, and those with narcissistic
personality or histrionic personality disorders?
Hare: The terms psychopathy and sociopathy refer to related but not identical conditions. Psychopaths have a pattern
of personality traits and behaviors not readily understood in terms of social or environmental factors. They are described
as without conscience and incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves. Sociopathy is not a formal
psychiatric condition. It refers to a pattern of attitudes, values, and behaviors that is considered antisocial and
criminal by society at large, but seen as normal or necessary by the subculture or social environment in which it developed.
Sociopaths may have a well-developed conscience and a normal capacity for empathy, guilt, and loyalty, but their sense
of right and wrong is based on the norms and expectations of their subculture or group. Many criminals might be described
as sociopaths. Narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders are described in DSM-IV, and their differences from
psychopathy are outlined in "Snakes in Suits." Briefly, narcissistic personality disorder involves an excessive need
for admiration, a sense of superiority and entitlement, and a lack of empathy. It does not necessarily include the lifestyle
and antisocial features of psychopathy, outlined earlier. Histrionic personality disorder is defined by excessive and
overly dramatic emotionality, attention-seeking, and a strong need for approval. It lacks the lifestyle and antisocial
features of psychopathy.
Do we have research that indicates that a person is a psychopath because of genetics,
the environment, or both? If it's partially environmental, what could happen to a person so he or she develops into
Hare: All personality traits are the result of genetic-environmental interactions. Recent research in behavioral
genetics indicates that callous-unemotional traits and antisocial tendencies, likely precursors to the dimensions of
psychopathy described earlier, are highly heritable. There is no evidence that psychopathy can result solely from social
or environmental influences. This doesn't mean that some people are destined to become psychopaths, only that the process
of socialization is much more difficult for those with early indications of the precursors of the disorder.
Do male and female psychopaths practice their deceptions in different ways? If so,
Hare: There are many clinical accounts of female psychopaths but relatively little empirical
research. The available evidence suggests that male and female psychopaths share similar interpersonal
and affective features, including egocentricity, deceptiveness, shallow emotions, and lack of empathy. All will make
maximum use of their physical attributes to deceive and manipulate others, but female psychopaths may be less prone
than males to use overt, direct physical aggression to attain their ends. The term femme
fatale comes to mind.
What are some ways that companies can screen out psychopaths during the interview and
background check processes? This has to be extremely hard because psychopaths exhibit all the right qualities (and fake
the rest) when companies are vetting them for jobs.
Babiak: Psychopaths make great first impressions and have extremely effective interviewing skills, so relying on
employment interviews alone when making hiring decisions can lead an organization to make the wrong choice. The risk
is increased by the use of untrained or inadequately trained interviewers who are unaware of the psychopath's skill
at lying and deception, and therefore don't take the necessary extra steps to verify all information collected.
Improving one's chances of detecting psychopathic lying during the employment process requires verification of all
details presented (knowledge, experience, expertise), and exploring and challenging discrepancies. Psychopaths talk
a good game on a surface level, and will use technical jargon and glib, superficial charm to convince the interviewer
of their experience and expertise. As much as possible, rÈsumÈ data should be checked before the interview. Then, by
using structured interviewing techniques and multiple interviewers from different functions and levels in the organization,
inconsistencies can be explored further and details drilled down.
It is critical that all interviewers get together to share their findings and impressions before an offer is made.
During this important meeting, the discrepancies noted and possible deceptions will be uncovered. Relying on a group
decision removes the psychopath's advantage in manipulating just one interviewer successfully.
Can you talk briefly about the "three personalities" that are within all of us?
Babiak: Deep down we all have a private experience of ourselves, our personality, which consists of our needs, values,
emotions and so forth. This self-perception includes things we know about ourselves that we are comfortable sharing,
other characteristics we wish to keep private, and even some parts that are unknown even to us. This is our inner or
private personality. When we deal with others, though, we tend to limit the presentation of our personality to those
things we like, are socially acceptable, and can positively influence those around us. This is our persona, or public
self. We wear this mask in public. The third point of view of the personality is our reputation among those who know
or interact with us; that is, our attributed personality.
In a business world, where "perception is reality," this last view of our personality - our reputation - is the most
important. It influences how others will treat us and how decisions are made about us, and can ultimately foster or
derail our careers. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of or discount this view of themselves. Sometimes it is only
upon receipt of hard data, often in the form of "360-degree" feedback given during training programs, that they learn
how others really perceive them.
The psychopath operates on the surface level, presenting a mask or persona that is in keeping with the expectations
of the organization and its members. Typically, this mask is: "I am the ideal employee and leader." The psychopath invests
considerable effort creating and managing this faÁade through impression management techniques. Those who have power
and authority will be shown only this mask - that is, the faÁade of an employee who is honest, productive, caring, with
leadership potential, and so forth - and will integrate it into their evaluation of the psychopath - in effect, the
psychopath's reputation. Those who are of little value to the psychopath will not receive such careful impression management,
and may come to see the psychopath for who he or she really is. Unfortunately, however, they are often in positions
least likely to influence the thinking of those in power.
In a nutshell, how do psychopaths judge the personalities of others?
Babiak: Psychopaths often come across as good psychologists, but in reality they are just more observant of others
and are motivated to take advantage of the traits, characteristics, and personal situations of those around them. Psychopaths
use the same three-part personality model to build strong relationships with others. They initially present a charming,
charismatic mask, persona, which is often quite likeable. When they want to deepen the relationship (because the target
has something they want), they first convince the target that they truly like him or her (that is, like his or her own
persona or outward self). Then, they convince the target that they are more similar than different in many ways (including
at the deep psychological level). Thirdly, they convince the target that they fully understand and accept the target's
own true, private, and inner personality (the one with all of its secrets), and, therefore, because of this acceptance,
they can be trusted. Finally, they convince the target that they (the psychopaths) are the ideal friend, partner, coworker,
and so forth; this forms the "psychopathic bond." This bond is quite seductive, as few people reach this level of psychological
intimacy with others in the work environment. Once this bond is formed, it is very difficult for the target to see the
truth about the psychopath as he or she continues to be manipulated.
In business situations, do psychopaths target particular individuals? If so, what kinds
Babiak: Psychopaths are always on the lookout for individuals of whom they can take advantage. We often correctly
assume that they target those with high status and power in the organization, but they also identify those with subtle,
informal power in the organization. For example, many secretaries control access to their principals whom a psychopath
will want to influence. Middle-level managers control the flow of materials, information, and processes that might prove
useful to a psychopath. Individual contributors in professional positions (for example, those in IT, finance, and auditing),
despite the lack of authority over staff, have great amounts of influence over information and other resources useful
to the corporate psychopath. Any person with perceived utility to the psychopath will be targeted.
I know this is complex, but how are psychopaths able to manipulate people within an
organization to be, as you call them, "pawns," and "patrons"?
Babiak: This model evolved out of our observations of how the "psychopathic drama" unfolds. It captures the theatrical
nature of the psychopaths' view of organizational life. Psychopaths see themselves as the writers, directors, and producers
of the dramas that are their lives - on and off their jobs; other people only exist to fulfill the supporting roles
required of them - the pawns, and patrons.
Psychopaths form bonds with many people in the organization; that is, psychopathic bonds, not real ones. The psychopath
views as pawns those who have the power, status, or access to desired resources, to be used until their utility is gone,
and then dispensed with or even sacrificed. Patrons are those key power holders whom the psychopath relies upon for
protection and defense when things get uncomfortable, much like the "mentors" or "godfathers" who exist in many large
companies to assist high potentials negotiate their way through the political minefields to the top.
In addition, there is the patsy - a former pawn or patron whose organizational power and influence has been effectively
neutralized by the psychopath. Finally, there are the organizational police, those in control positions such as accounting,
HR, IT, and security who are in the best position to unseat the psychopath, but who often are not listened to by those
in power, and who have already been trapped in the psychopathic bond. The psychopath prefers to avoid the organizational
police (they tend to have ethical and professional values which are anathema to the psychopath), but having one in his
or her vest pocket can be invaluable.
It makes sense that psychopaths would try to influence recognized top managers, but
how do they manipulate and use "informal leaders," those who wield influence but might not be high on the organizational
Babiak: While formal power holders are credited with leading their organizations, it is often a group of informal
leaders who gets things done on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, in many companies, these informal leaders are the
unsung heroes - and feel as such. What better person to convince that they have value and a friend in high places, as
the psychopath moves up, than these individuals? They are the perfect targets from the up-and-coming psychopath's point
How can a person avoid becoming ensnared in a one-sided relationship with a psychopath?
Babiak: Knowledge certainly is power in this case. It is important to
learn as much as one can about psychopaths - their traits and characteristics, and how they operate. Furthermore, one
should learn more about oneself, particularly those things that would make one attractive to a psychopath. These can
include power and control of resources (formal and informal), as well as any psychological or emotional weak spots or
hot buttons that can be used to unduly influence you. Psychopaths don't operate in a social vacuum, and those with whom
they have worked or interacted can be valuable sources of information.
You've written that once psychopaths are within an organization, they revert to their
natural three-phase behavior pattern - assessment, manipulation, and abandonment. Can you briefly describe those three
steps? Can you also describe the ascension phase?
Babiak: In society, psychopaths exhibit a fairly consistent pattern of behavior.
They identify targets (assessment phase), use them (manipulation phase), and dispense with them when their utility
is used up (abandonment phase). In organizations, the abandonment phase is difficult to manage, as the
psychopath cannot just move on, in the physical sense. This can lead to confrontations with former pawns who now feel
like patsies. But the psychopath has already prepared for this, having spread disparaging
information about these individuals - that is, "poisoned the water" - among those in positions of power.
Those who ultimately confront a corporate psychopath often come to find themselves on the
In some cases, psychopaths see opportunities to move up in the power hierarchies by unseating those who have mentored
or protected them, their patrons, in the ultimate acts of betrayal. This form of ascension can be particularly rewarding
to a psychopath who has played both the patron and other members of the organization.
Are most corporate and organizational psychopaths loners or do they sometimes team up with other psychopaths
to pull off fraud schemes?
Babiak: Most of the individuals we have met have been "loners" in the sense of only thinking of themselves;
however, they do surround themselves with supporters and followers to facilitate their activities. To the degree that
the psychopath can get these naÔve supporters to believe that their actions are consistent with their own personal values,
the game remains in play.
Occasionally, two psychopaths may work as a team in the same organization, at least for short periods. Inevitably,
there will be a falling out: two stars is one too many. In one case, two corporate psychopaths worked in the same company
but were in different divisions and rarely interacted. Historically, there may have been
instances of psychopaths working together. One wonders who was "more" psychopathic: Joseph Stalin or his henchman, Lavrentiy
Beria, chief of the secret police.
Have the Internet and other technological developments aided psychopaths?
Hare: Immeasurably! The Internet and technology have given psychopaths and other predators access to a virtually
unlimited pool of potential victims. They can promote phony stocks, circulate crooked investment schemes, siphon off
bank accounts, commit identity theft, and so forth, all with little risk to themselves. They also can promote themselves
by constructing fake or greatly embellished Web sites and credentials in order to lure unsuspecting victims. In a very
real sense, the Internet and associated technology represent a paradise on earth for fraudsters, with even better things
The business world of the 1980s and 1990s went through startling changes after decades of relative stability
in culture and procedures. And now we're in an economic slowdown or possible recession. Have these changes helped or
hindered psychopaths in organizations?
Babiak: While economic slowdowns can lead to layoffs and plant closings, there is still the need for seasoned,
experienced leaders who have the wherewithal to meet the challenge of recovery and turnaround. These individuals are
rare. What a perfect scenario for the psychopath to enter as the "solution," replete with
the skills (faked), abilities (faked), and background (faked) necessary to take over and makes things right.
There is also greater access to higher education in general than before, as well as questionable online degrees that
can be bought and used by psychopaths to pad their resumes. Losing one's job no longer bears the stigma - or provokes
as much concern - as it once did; layoffs and plant closings have left many truly stellar executives with gaps in their
employment histories. Economic conditions can be a convenient explanation for short tenures listed on the resume. While
a psychopath would be expected to blame the former boss's personality or colleagues' underhandedness for losing his
or her job, a really clever one can feign some sadness at having to leave "a great job at a great company" due to economic
You've written that organizations have become more "psychopath friendly." What do you mean by that?
Babiak: The change of organizational structures from large and bureaucratic to lean, mean, and flat has inadvertently
made companies more attractive to psychopaths (fewer rules) and, at the same time, easier to negotiate (faster progression).
There is more opportunity for a motivated psychopath to stand out amongst his or her peers, less hoops to jump through,
and shorter distances to the top. Changes in work values among employees have also facilitated
entry by psychopaths. Many companies, initially puzzled by the demands of "younger" workers for large
sign-on bonuses and promotions at least every two years, are beginning to accept this as part of a new work style that
needs to be accommodated in some way. A young psychopath would fit in quite nicely in this culture.
You've written that you doubt that psychopathic individuals would be very successful in a highly structured
traditional bureaucracy. Why is that?
Babiak: Bureaucracies, by design, are rule-bound structures. They are the result of a stage of organizational
development in which companies attempt to systematize their operations in pursuit of consistency, quality, and productivity.
An unfortunate outcome also is that they can become quite boring, slow to respond, and intolerant of creativity and
During the 1980s and 1990s, the speed required of businesses to maintain their positions, and perhaps grow market
share, increased. This put a tremendous strain on organizational systems - the bureaucracy - as well as on employees
and managers - the culture. The mantra became "do more, better, faster with less" - a difficult task, at best. In response
to accelerated market demands, organizations began to jettison parts of their bureaucracy - policies and procedures
- in the interest of speed. Entire levels of management were eliminated under the theory that communications would improve
from top to bottom. Systems once thought to be helpful were eliminated or "reengineered" away. By eliminating those
policies and procedures that could help uncover psychopathic behavior - formal performance appraisals are a good example
- and systems that help prevent their hiring - structured employment practices - it became much easier for someone with
psychopathic tendencies to slip in and look successful.
Unfortunately, this is where the psychopath has an advantage; these new structures are always in a state of flux
and never reach the "ideal" state. We call them "transitional organizations" because the transitioning never ends. This
frustrates and confuses those who have grown accustomed to the stability that large organizations used to provide. Being
a thrill seeker by nature, the psychopath relishes the chaos. On a practical level, a constantly changing work environment
provides the psychopath an endless source of new coworkers to target and many opportunities to move from project to
project when boredom sets in.
Can you talk about how psychopathic fraudsters use affinity groups (religious, political, or social entities
in which all members share common values or beliefs) to pull off their schemes?
Hare: We refer to these schemes as affinity fraud. They rely on the fact that members of an affinity group
typically are very trusting of others who profess to share their values, beliefs, and interests. Those who are most
adept at perpetrating affinity fraud are psychopaths who gain entry into the group by developing an acquaintance with
a member who then introduces the fraudster as "one of us." The result is a "fox in the henhouse," with predictable results.
Religious groups, are particularly vulnerable; belief in the inherent goodness of others and uncritical acceptance of
professions of faith are tailor-made for an enterprising psychopath. Sadly, even after being victimized, many members
of a group will refuse to face the truth, continuing to believe that the scamster is basically good at heart or that
there must be a reason why he or she took advantage of the group. Even sophisticated members of financial and business
groups - such as investment clubs - often are no match for the charm and seduction of a good-looking, well-dressed,
and apparently well-connected psychopath. A suspicious view of newcomers might help but is no guarantee of immunity
to infiltration by someone intent on doing the group harm. Even organizations that by their very nature are extremely
cynical and suspicious - such as intelligence agencies and criminal gangs - cannot protect themselves completely from
those who misrepresent their credentials, connections, and intentions.
Joseph Wells, the founder and chairman of the ACFE, has concentrated on teaching not just about fraudsters'
actions but their psychological motivations and aberrations. How can a group like ours aid its members in spotting possible
psychopaths and prevent them from transforming their behaviors into crimes?
Babiak: Increasing the professional standards and training of fraud examiners is a good foundation. Knowledge
about the nature of psychopaths and of the strategies and tactics they use is important. Even so, it can be very difficult
to spot them without detailed information from a variety of sources about their behavior and manipulations especially
if you are the one being targeted. It is also important for examiners to understand themselves and how their own personality
traits and vulnerabilities may play into the hands of a psychopath. A confidential "hot line" could be made available
to members who have suspicions and need coaching and advice on how to proceed.
Are most psychopaths in organizations exposed or do they remain or go on to greater positions?
Babiak: With one exception, all of the psychopaths that we have studied are still
in positions of authority in their companies. In some cases, they have risen within the ranks, and in
others, they have solid positions from which they continue to use their organizations for personal gain. The one psychopath
we studied who was fired ended up leaving with a sizeable financial package and a company car. He was hired by a competitor
at a significantly greater salary. Unfortunately, in their effort to rid themselves of problems and to avoid embarrassment
in front of corporate or financial communities, some organizations will cover up their messes and even write favorable
letters of recommendation thus facilitating psychopaths' devious journeys up corporate ladders.
Since the publication of "Snakes in Suits," we have received an increased number of calls from executives, entrepreneurs,
and principals who now suspect that someone on their staff - or even an equity partner - is a corporate psychopath.
We see that awareness of the problem has increased, as has the willingness to take action to remove or otherwise deal
with the problem person.
How does a fraud examiner identify possible psychopaths after they're hired? I imagine
it's a sensitive issue to put the psychopath label on anybody, but how should a fraud examiner proceed to prevent a
possible fraud or should they even try? Is it ever possible to discern the potential for fraud in a suspected psychopath?
Babiak: In business situations, it is rarely useful to label someone a psychopath; organizations can only
respond to the overt behaviors of fraudsters and others. Suspecting that a client (or even a coworker) has psychopathic
traits can help sensitize an examiner to search out and investigate subtle forms of lying and deceit. If the client
is highly psychopathic, the odds are that some form of corporate misbehavior, perhaps fraud, is underway, but hidden
from view. If inconsistencies and improprieties begin to surface, it is important that the examiner's focus remain on
the facts of each case, as the psychopath will try to distract him or her through flattery, misdirection, questioning
the examiner's competence or authority to investigate, and so forth.
What steps lead to the confrontation of a psychopath and how is it carried out? Can
a psychopath ever be rehabilitated?
Hare: Like anyone suspected of corporate misbehavior or fraud, confrontation of a suspected psychopath should
occur after all the facts have been obtained, verified, digested, and interpreted, and in accordance with corporate
policies and due process. In addition, however, it is important to anticipate the potential reactions of the psychopath,
which may include "plausible" indignation and denial, diffusion of blame and responsibility, appeals to a "higher" authority,
verbal abuse, and threats of litigation. In such cases, it is essential to ensure that the case against the individual
is factually and legally sound and to "stand one's ground."
A somewhat different tactic sometimes employed by those accused of misbehavior is to admit it, claim that the behavior
was out of character, and solemnly pledge to change. However, when dealing with a suspected psychopath such tactics
should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. There is little evidence that psychopaths can be, or even believe
that they should be, rehabilitated. Their behavior reflects a well-established, stable personality structure. Most people
have some insight into the motivations for their own behavior, and will accept that changes need to be made in order
to be a good corporate citizen. Unfortunately, psychopaths already are aware of their own motivations, see little wrong
with them, and do not believe they need to change. However, if they think that "rehabilitation" can serve their own
selfish, pragmatic ends, then they are quite capable of playing the game, portraying themselves as a "saved" or "redeemed"
Dick Carozza is editor-in-chief of Fraud Magazine.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners assumes sole copyright of any article published on
www.fraud-magazine.com or www.ACFE.com.
ACFE follows a policy of exclusive publication. Permission of the publisher is required before an article can be copied
or reproduced. Requests for reprinting an article in any form must be e-mailed to:
Another story from a volunteer developer
When people ask me how to get involved in an open source project, I tell them to find a place where they can be helpful,
even if it's just by helping with basic Linux questions. A sincere desire to help others
is a great ticket into the Linux community because this sentiment is at the heart of all open source development (including
Linux). At least, it should be.
Along the way you'll inevitably run into people who know more than you. And you'll learn from them just as newbies
continue to learn from you. It's also likely that as you gain more experience you'll come across opportunities to help
in new ways. Maybe some of the project developers you come across will suggest something, or they'll ask for help themselves.
They may even invite you to become part of the development team. If you're focused on helping others, they'd be foolish
to pass you by. If you're helping a lot of people out, you will definitely be noticed in the community. That's sort
of how it happened with Stampede and me.
Gradually I became more and more involved in Stampede development. Before long, I was an official Stampede developer.
With the blessing of skibum (Matt Wood, Stampede's head honcho), I began working on a new version of Stampede's primitive
.slp packaging format. At the time the .slp package format consisted of a .tar.bz2 archive with a fixed-length footer
stuck on the end that contained information about the package author, a description of the contents, the package creator,
etc. This approach had two major problems: the fields were a fixed length and the footer really wasn't that big, and
there was no extensibility built into the format (there was no way to add any additional fields to the .slp format in
the future). Obviously this thing needed a major overhaul.
Working with the senior Stampede developers, I wrote up a proposal of how to deal with the problem. Then I started
coding the prototype tools in Python. The new format (codenamed slpv6) was somewhat similar to the IFF file format from
the Amiga world. This next-generation .slp format allowed for
2 32 fields,
2 32 categories
of fields, and a maximum field data length of
2 32 bytes. Not only was the format very extensible, it was
also more compact than plain-text and easy to parse. Both text and binary data could be stored in the format, which
allowed for a lot of possibilities for the future. The idea was to stick this next-generation dynamic header on the
end of the archive file, thereby producing a next-generation .slp format that would serve Stampede users for years to
come and at the same time maintain compatibility with standard UNIX archive formats.
People can get ugly
slpv6 development was going well and all the senior developers were happy with my progress. But unfortunately,
two lower-level Stampede developers wanted to control the slpv6 project. They didn't like
the direction I was taking, and they spent most of their time insulting the new slpv6 system. Though
I spent hours in heated development discussions defending the proposal against their attacks, we weren't able to resolve
anything. Eventually it became clear that they were just naturally argumentative and wouldn't be happy until they
had their way. Fortunately for me, my project had the approval of the senior Stampede developers. But these
discussions began to wear on me and made Stampede development very unpleasant. Ugh!
I couldn't avoid these guys since I had to hang out on #stampede to chat with higher-level developers. And every
time I was on the channel they became combative, trying to undermine my work. They'd use devious techniques like calling
for development meetings (really just an opportunity to insult my work in front of the senior developers). They'd also
try to call for votes, attempting to seize control of Stampede. Of course they'd only call for a vote when they thought
they had convinced enough people to agree with them. Throughout all of this I continued my slpv6 development. Needless
to say, the senior development loved my work and wanted me to continue (without their support I wouldn't have been able
to stick it out).
Understanding the freak
These two guys belong to a category of
developer I like to call "the freak". But although they made my development work very unpleasant, I also learned a lot
from having to deal with them. At this point I'd like to offer you an expos?f the freak developers, a sort of comprehensive
overview: the qualities that make a freak, the freak's modus operandi, and how you, the development project leader,
can confront and possibly reform the freak without exerting a lot of effort.
In order to avoid emotional damage, you'll need one prerequisite: a backbone. If you're
unable to confront the freak in a respectful but firm manner, there's no hope. The freak's goal is to
control as much of your project as possible so that he or she will feel powerful. The freak will use several techniques
to make this happen. First they'll start unfairly criticizing or bitterly complaining about a project and/or the
developers working on a project. Then they will refrain from offering any constructive solutions. They will
also not be willing to help with the project in any other way unless they are promoted to the role of project manager.
Their goal is to convince you to give them as much authority as possible so that they can solve problems that only they,
with their finely trained freak eyes, can see.
If the criticism and complaining aren't effective, they'll request a developer meeting.
This will be their opportunity to try and divide your development team into two factions. When they
think that they've gotten enough people on their side, they'll request a vote (knowing they will win). If they don't
win the vote or they are overruled, they'll push for another developer meeting next week in which they'll again try
to divide your development team. They'll repeat this process endlessly.
If the developer meeting approach doesn't work, freaks will become reformers. By adopting
this role they will try to streamline (read: undermine) the oppressive and unfair executive decision-making process
by attempting to replace it with something more democratic (read: easily manipulated.) This will often
involve convincing you that you should do whatever the majority of your developers want. Freaks love this because then
you can't override those developer meeting votes anymore (muhahaha!). If you allow this
to happen, you've basically given the freak the keys to your Lexus. You're powerless.
In another approach, freaks will irritate and drive away your productive developers.
Then they'll work your entire team into a frenzy as they forcefully try to reform the project's power structure.
If their efforts are finally defeated, they'll try to rally as many defectors together as possible and fork from your
Managing the freak
You can identify these guys pretty easily. They're the ones who aren't writing any code
(nor do they have any intention to). Instead they spend their time talking about more important things.
You know, those managerial issues. If you're a project leader, it's pretty easy to deal with them.
Just tell them that you won't consider any proposal unless they produce working code.
Or insist that they constructively help the current project, which includes obeying the current project manager, before
giving them the opportunity to offer any (constructive) criticism. If they write some nice code or start being more
helpful, great. If not, tell them to go away. They'll either leave the project (if you ignore
them long enough), or they'll get their act together and start writing some code and generally become more pleasant.
Unfortunately the senior Stampede developers didn't take on freak management. In other words, they allowed these
two guys to pester me (and others) to no end. While the senior developers were always in favor of my development work,
they didn't do much to get these guys under control. So one day I decided that it would be easier to create my own distribution
rather than have to put up with the two freaks. I resigned from Stampede development and started making plans to produce
my own distro.
While I felt a bit weird about leaving a project because of two lower-level developers, the fact that they weren't
dealt with really indicated that the project had severe managerial problems. If the higher-level developers weren't
able or willing to make sure the Stampede development effort was pleasant and rewarding, then I didn't want to be there.
[Mar 6, 2007] Letter from the reader
One area you seem to miss is that although micromanagement is a cancer in the business community...it
is epidemic in the non-profit/volunteer management world.
Most volunteer managers already believe that the reason a person is volunteering is he must either be unemployed
or a retiree as an elementary school janitor...but in fact most volunteers are more educated,
experienced and knowledgeable than there volunteer managers. Most non-profits do not have the financial
capability to hire the best in their needed fields.
The reasons many people volunteer are generally altruistic but they are often successful businessmen (lawyers, business
owners, doctors..etc, who don't have to work the extra hours and want to give something back to the community or believe
in a cause. The "I am the manager so I know how to do it better than everybody else".....and
treating the volunteer a "useful idiot" is pretty common.
And it has the same results of frustration, loss of your most creative,
knowledgeable and capable people...and generally due to the managers incompetentcy....damage
to company services or product.
Most people at some point in their lives have to deal with a difficult boss. Difficult supervisors vary in personality
from being a little pushy or rude, all the way to being downright abusive. Many people feel that an abusive boss
has control of their personal life outside of work by lowering their self-esteem and making them live in constant fear.
The role of a supervisor sometimes attracts certain controlling-type personalities because they crave the power it gives
them and because they lack such control in their own personal lives. A supervisor has complete control over your most
basic human needs—your ability to put food on the table and a roof over your head. These are powerful motivating factors
that allow a difficult supervisor to control people out of fear of losing these basic needs.
We may not be able to always correct their behavior, but we should never have to live in fear and let our difficult
boss control our lives.
Here are some strategies on handling a difficult boss situation.
- Always have a plan B. ...
- Never react to verbal abuse or harsh criticism with emotion. ...
- Discuss rather than confront. ...
- Manage the manager. ...
- Know that you can do little to change them. ...
- Keep your professional face on. ...
- Evaluate your own performance. ...
- Gather additional support. ...
- Don’t go to up the chain of command unless it’s a last resort....
- Encourage good behavior with praise. ...
- Document everything. ...
- Leave work at work. ...
Experiences outside work
- you feel like throwing up the night before the start of your work week
- your frustrated family demands that you to stop obsessing about work at home
- your doctor asks what could be causing your skyrocketing blood pressure and recent health problems, and tells
you to change jobs
- you feel too ashamed of being controlled by another person at work to tell your spouse or partner
- all your paid time off is used for "mental health breaks" from the misery
- days off are spent exhausted and lifeless, your desire to do anything is gone
- your favorite activities and fun with family are no longer appealing
- you begin to believe that you provoked the workplace cruelty
Experiences at work
- you attempt the obviously impossible task of doing a new job without training or time to learn new skills but
that work is never good enough for the boss
- surprise meetings are called by your boss with no results other than further humiliation
- everything your tormenter does to you is arbitrary and capricious, working a personal agenda that undermines
the employer's legitimate business interests
- others at work have been told to stop working, talking or socializing with you
- you constantly feel agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen
- no matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference
- people feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream
- HR tells you that your harassment isn't illegal, that you have to "work it out between yourselves"
- you finally, firmly confront your tormentor to stop the abusive conduct, you are accused of harassment
- you are shocked when accused of incompetence despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone
who cannot do your job
- everyone -- co-workers, senior bosses, HR -- agrees (in person and orally) that your tormentor is a jerk, but
there is nothing they will do about it (and deny saying what they said later when asked to support you)
- your request to transfer to an open position under another boss is mysteriously denied
According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI), the top 10 bullying tactics include:
- Falsely accused someone of "errors" not actually made (71%)
- Stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68%)
- Discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings ("oh, that’s silly") in meetings (64%)
- Used the "silent treatment" to "ice out" & separate from others (64%)
- Exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61%)
- Made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61%)
- Disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (58%)
- Harshly and constantly criticized having a different ‘standard’ for the Target (57%)
- Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person (56%)
- Encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55%).
[Sept 10, 2006] Do you hate your job MSNBC.com
By Melanie Lasoff Levs
Before Maria Schnabel, director of Latino public relations for Cingular Wireless, began her rewarding career in the
corporate world, she was a young, floundering freelance writer just out of journalism school at San Diego State. Her
unpaid student internship at the Los Angeles Times garnered her experience working on interesting stories. But when
she realized she was dissatisfied with the industry, she had a revelation.
"Entry-level journalism jobs were very few and very low-paying," says Schnabel, who is now 50. "This was not a career
I could see myself in for a number of years." Though it was years ago, she remembers her first job well. She didn't
like it. "It was, 'Do I continue in substandard living or move on into something more lucrative?'"
Her decision was difficult because she had focused on journalism in college. But, she says, disliking where she was
meant changing her perspective. "It's a decision I've never regretted," says Schnabel, a native of Barcelona, Spain.
"I find PR very interesting, and I have a great career."
She has approached her career — which has included several years launching products in Latin America for BellSouth
— with that same resolve and strategic eye. "Your career needs to be planned like you plan projects," she says. And,
she adds, if you don't like a job or a direction, take control. "Look inside yourself and see what else you can bring
to the equation."
There are as many reasons for hating a job as there are jobs. Some of the most prevalent
include a lack of autonomy and flexibility, a corporate culture that doesn't fit with your values, feeling
disrespected or unappreciated, and discrepancies in pay. But the top reason is a difficult boss.
Elizabeth, 31, an executive at a boutique PR firm in Los Angeles who asked that her last name not be used, was once
a practicing attorney at a small law firm. But her boss, part of the husband-and-wife team that headed the firm, frequently
"freaked out" on her, she says. Once he yelled at her because she billed too many hours while catching up on a case.
Another time, she recalls, he was so angry for reasons she couldn't understand that he ordered her out of his office
and then stopped talking to her for days. "I would cry every day on the way to work," she remembers. "Every day I was
sick to my stomach that I had to get up and go to work." She eventually quit and is now happy at a new job.
So how much should you tolerate? People often stay too long, says Utah-based consultant and trainer Sherron Bienvenu,
professor emerita at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and visiting professor at the international M.B.A.
program of the Helsinki School of Economics.
They stay because they like the location, they have a close friend at work, they don't want to let their co-workers
or subordinates down, or, simply put, they don't want to lose the cash and benefits.
Articulate exactly what you don't like, she says. If it's a supervisor, perhaps you can move within the company and
work for somebody else. If it's the schedule, create a proposal to suit your needs and benefit the company, and approach
management with it.
If it's because you feel overwhelmed, maybe you can negotiate an intern to help with tasks or take a training course
in an area in which you're weak. "Rather than making a blanket statement, be specific," Bienvenu advises.
Liz Ryan, workplace expert and founder of WorldWIT, an online network for professional women, classifies job complaints
into two categories: modifiable and nonmodifiable. The modifiable categories include discrepancies in pay or promotions
(you can attempt to negotiate), problem co-workers (talk to the boss so you don't work with the person anymore) and
individual policies or even job tasks (ask if you can take on different responsibilities that match your interests).
The nonmodifiable aspects include the speed at which things happen at the company and office politics. "That is the
proverbial turning a battleship around. It takes forever to change a culture," Ryan says.
Dividing your complaints into those categories puts them into perspective. "If you end up with a couple things in
the nonmodifiable category — say, you don't like the direction the company is going and you don't like the CEO — those
might not outweigh the modifiable things," she says. If you can change the majority of your situation, she adds, "It
could be worth it to stick around."
Laura Berman Fortgang, career coach and author of Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction, has her clients write
a list of complaints to see what's manageable.
"Is it about a whole new career," she asks, "or something practical that needs to be fixed about the current one?"
She and other experts do not advise quitting immediately. But if the signs indicate the job is not working, take
action, says Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, a career and life coach and co-founder of New York City-based Daily Life Consulting.
"You spend so much of your waking hours at work, and it is so much a part of our identity," she says. "You just don't
want to be miserable."
© 2006 Forbes.com
I recently read an article in American Way magazine called,
“And You Thought
YOUR Boss Was Bad.” It made the claim that “nearly 8 in 10 employees are victims of a micromanaging boss.”
This is patently false.
There are so many things that irritate me about this article that it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll do my
First of all, the line above about “nearly 8 in 10…” makes a common (but important) statistical error of suggesting
that because someone once had a micromanager for a boss, they “are” victims of micromanagement. The
actual line later in the article is:
“79 percent of us say we have been micromanaged.”
I won’t even attempt to address the issue that the statistic comes from a book purporting to be a “Micromanagement
Survival Guide.” The problem here is that if I say I “have been” micromanaged, that doesn’t mean I “am being” micromanaged
I have come to believe that journalists do this on purpose. Sorry, but that’s what I think. I see this so often I
can no longer chalk it up to a lack of understanding of the difference.
Further, there’s a quote from a Dr. Robert Trestman:
“We are in a micromanagement pandemic.”
What a joke. This is even MORE patently false - if it’s possible - than the 8 of 10 statistic above.
Dr. Trestman is a clinical psychiatrist, and surely much more studied and intelligent than I am. Please, I have nothing
against Dr. Trestman. But he’s just flat wrong.
The issue here is that just because someone tells you they’re being micromanaged does NOT make it so.
Oh, I’m sure there are clinicians and HR folks and therapists who would say that that IS the definition, but it’s not.
If that IS the definition, then that look you saw on the face of your directs when you asked if you could give them
feedback - that look alone - could cause you to be considered a micromanager.
This is a victimization mentality, and it’s not just wrong, it’s insidious.
By the way, this article has some great anecdotes about micromanagers, all of them amusing and several horrific.
Putting compelling anecdotes in an article this way is a great (and false) way to support your thesis. Don’t confuse
anecdotes with statistics.
Look, it’s unlikely you are a micromanager. (But if your team reads this article, they might think you are, just
to make themselves feel like part of the majority!)
Let me stop here, having gotten through the lesser of the two evils of this article: its sloppiness and resultant
I’d love to hear your comments, and when I recur, I’ll talk about how the problem is NOT micromanagement
... ... ...
Burnout reflects an uneasy relationship between people and their work. Like relationship problems between two people,
those between people and their work usually indicate a bad fit between the two, rather than just individual weaknesses,
or just evil workplaces. And so reversing burnout requires focusing on both individuals and their organizations to bring
them back into sync with each other.2
Beating burnout is not just a matter of reducing the number of negatives. Indeed, sometimes there is not a lot you
can do about the negative aspects of work. Instead, it is often more useful to think about increasing the number of
positives, and of building the opposite of burnout, engagement. When burnout is counteracted with engagement, exhaustion
is replaced with enthusiasm, bitterness with compassion, and anxiety with efficacy
The Six Areas of Burnout
How do individuals and organizations move from burnout to engagement? How do they make sense of what's going wrong,
and figure out how to make things right? Our surveys and interviews of more than 10,000 people across a wide range of
organizations in several different countries have revealed that most person-job mismatches fall into six categories:
workload (too much work, not enough resources); control (micromanagement, lack of influence, accountability without
power); reward (not enough pay, acknowledgment, or satisfaction); community (isolation, conflict, disrespect); fairness
(discrimination, favoritism); and values (ethical conflicts, meaningless tasks).3
We originally developed this six-category framework as a way of organizing the vast research literature on burnout.
Our subsequent work then showed that both individuals and organizations could use the framework to diagnose which categories
are especially troublesome for them, and then to design interventions that target these problem areas.4 The
six-area framework has now been incorporated into assessment programs for organizations5 and for individuals.6
To fix burnout, individuals and organizations must first identify the areas in which their mismatches lie, and then
tailor solutions to improve the fit within each area. In Mark's case, his core problem is work overload. Workers in
the nonprofit sector are distinctly vulnerable to work overload for two reasons. First, nonprofit organizations may
often have fewer resources than organizations in other sectors, leaving workers with too little time and too few tools
with which to handle their workload. Second, nonprofit employees have high expectations and are attempting to solve
truly monumental problems. Their idealism can lead them to overextend themselves and take on too much.
Mark is also experiencing an imbalance in the area of values. Although workers in the nonprofit sector may not face
the same ethical dilemmas that many workers in for-profit companies do, they often feel value conflicts of a different
sort: between the loftiness of their ideals and the realities of their day-to-day work. This is what is going on with
Mark, who often feels so bogged down in the details of organizing volunteers and coordinating actions that he loses
sight of the larger goal of environmental preservation. His work no longer feels meaningful to him
Mark also feels a lot of dissatisfaction in the area of rewards. No one goes into the nonprofit sector to get rich,
but Mark expected to enjoy his activist activities more. He also expected more appreciation and praise from his colleagues
and from the communities he serves.
In contrast, Susan's core problem is in the area of community. 7 In her work setting, she is excluded
from her colleagues' circle of support, and she spends a lot of time feeling isolated and lonely. Being left out of
the loop introduces a second mismatch for Susan, this time in the area of control. By the time an issue appears on a
meeting's formal agenda, the matter has already been settled in the informal conversations in which Susan could not
participate. As a result, Susan does not feel that she has an adequate say in how she does her work.
As time wears on, Susan has begun to suspect that her lack of community and control at work are due to a third area
of mismatch: fairness. She wonders whether the male doctors in the ER are discriminating against her because she is
a woman. Because of this hint of injustice, Susan feels not only anxious and uncertain about how best to do her job,
but also angry and hostile toward her colleagues.
Two Paths to Engagement
There are two paths to banishing burnout: the individual path, and the organizational path. Both Mark and Susan took
individual approaches; they first identified the mismatches leading to their burnout, and then enlisted their colleagues
and organizations in addressing those mismatches.8
An organizational approach, in contrast, starts with management first identifying mismatches that are commonly shared,
and then connecting with individuals to narrow these person organization gaps.9 The sidebar (left) describes
how this organizational approach was used in a large organization. This strategy of working collaboratively on shared
problems can be used in organizations of any size, even those nonprofits that are small and that have limited resources.
No matter the path to engagement, it is important to keep in mind that positive changes don't just happen. Instead,
people must take action, and well-informed action, at that. Rather than assumptions and "best guesses" about what the
problem is, the six-area diagnostic tool can help pinpoint it more accurately. Solutions that don't address the problem
can be worse than no solutions at all.
For example, we recall attending a meeting of teachers for which the school superintendent had hired a motivational
speaker to inspire them and help them deal with stress. As the speaker reeled off stories from his own days as an athletic
coach, we watched the teachers sitting silently, their venom rising with each minute. They did not lack motivation.
Decent pay, adequate supplies, parents' support, a manageable workload, yes. But not motivation. The superintendent's
well-meaning attempt to nip burnout in the bud only nurtured it.
Lightening Mark's Load
Having identified workload as his main relationship problem with his work, Mark is finding ways to relax during strenuous
times. He now takes regular breaks in which he gets away from the job, either physically (e.g., by jogging around the
neighborhood) or mentally (e.g., by reading a book that has nothing to do with his activist interests). Even more effective
for him are temporary changes in work, in which he "downshifts" to some less demanding task (e.g., taking care of routine
paperwork, sweeping the floor) before returning to the more challenging jobs.
Another critical discovery for Mark is that he really didn't have to be the center of his activist universe. Instead
of being the lone person who does everything, he is learning to delegate tasks, to train others to do what he did, and
to get them to share the responsibility. "Now I don't struggle against the feeling of burnout," he says. "I'll say to
myself: 'Oh, I'm burned out, I'll just sit here for a while. Let somebody else do it.' And you know what? Somebody else
Mark's new perspective on his place in his activist organization reflects the wisdom of an older colleague who told
him: "When I was younger, I was convinced that I needed to drive myself every single minute. Now I feel that I can go
to the sauna, and I'll still hate imperialism in an hour and a half. And that's helped me to stay an activist."
By addressing his workload problem, Mark has simultaneously improved the fit between him and his activist work on
the dimension of value. To relieve stress, he took several long hikes in the wilderness, which renewed his feelings
of awe at the beauty of nature -- feelings that fueled his commitment to environmental activism in the first place.
"I felt in love. It was a passion I hadn't felt in a long time. There was very little burnout. Instead there was a craving."
Building Susan's Community
After zeroing in on community as her primary area of self-work mismatch, Susan first took a few minutes at the start
of her next shift to talk with Tom, one of the most approachable of the doctors. Tom told Susan that he was amazed that
she could feel left out, and assured her that no one intended to exclude her. Susan didn't quite buy Tom's assurances,
but nevertheless replied that she was pleased to hear this, because she certainly didn't want to go through the complicated,
time-consuming, and awkward process of making a formal complaint. She was confident that before too long, the ER doctors'
clique would know all about their conversation.
Susan took the second step toward narrowing the gap between her expectations and her work reality at the next meeting
of the ER medical staff. She told the staff that she was feeling left out of important decisions, and requested that
they include her in all discussions about clinical matters and hospital issues during her shift. There were a few furtive
glances, but overall most people nodded and said, "Of course."
With Tom and a few other doctors, Susan has smoothly moved into relaxed conversations. She refers to her feelings
of burnout only within the context of working on better ways of working together. With the other doctors, it has been
more of an uphill battle, but is still an improvement over silence. Since Susan took her complaints to her colleagues,
there have been a lot fewer surprises at medical staff meetings, making Susan feel like she has more say in her work
environment. She also now realizes that the doctors' previous exclusive patterns were more a matter of thoughtlessness
than a concerted campaign to exclude her -- thereby assuaging her fears of sexism.
Feeling that she is part of a community, respected, and in control is giving Susan a renewed enthusiasm for her work.
The end of the shift brings the same familiar pattern of aches and pains from the hours on her feet. But the dullness
of feeling is now rare.
"Looking back now, I'm shocked to think of how close I was to losing my connection to the work that I love and that
I do very well," she says. "It's not just about working with the patients. It's taking on colleagues and relationships
to make sure you're included and respected."
By confronting the situation in an informed and focused way, Susan has been able to repair the relationship between
herself and her work. An important principle in Susan's situation is that unfair treatment is difficult to sustain after
it has been brought into the open. There were no defensible grounds for excluding Susan from professional discussions
at work. But the situation persisted until Susan called her colleagues on their actions.
Mark and Susan have had different experiences of burnout, reflecting the unique qualities of their work settings.
Each situation involved a different area of mismatch, and each called for distinct solutions. Note that neither attempted
to address all of their mismatches at once. Rather, each first identified and addressed his or her core area of concern.
Both had also begun to feel the personal costs of burnout, which include poorer health and strained private lives.
But at least as important, Mark's and Susan's organizations had also begun to suffer. When employees shift to minimum
performance, minimum standards of working, and minimum production quality, rather than performing at their best, they
make more errors, become less thorough, and have less creativity for solving problems. They are also less committed
to the organization and less willing to go the extra mile to make a real difference.
Burnout is not a problem of individuals but of the social environment in which they work. Workplaces shape how people
interact with one another and how they carry out their jobs. When the workplace does not recognize the human side of
work, and there are major mismatches between the nature of the job and the nature of people, there will be a greater
risk of burnout. A good understanding of burnout, its dynamics, and what to do to overcome it is therefore an essential
part of staying true to the pursuit of a noble cause, and keeping the flame of compassion and dedication burning brightly.
1 "Mark" and "Susan" are pseudonyms.
2 For our review of the psychological literature on burnout, see Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, M.P. "Job
Burnout," in Annual Review of Psychology 52, eds. S.T. Fiske, D.L. Schacter, & C. Zahn-Waxler (2001): 397-422.
3 Maslach, C. & Leiter, M.P. The Truth About Burnout (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997).
4 Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. "Areas of Worklife: A Structured Approach to Organizational Predictors of Job Burnout,"
in Research in Occupational Stress and Well- Being 3, eds. P.L. Perrewe & D.C. Ganster (Oxford: Elsevier, 2004): 91-134.
5 Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. Preventing Burnout and Building Engagement: A Complete Program for Organizational Renewal
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000).
6 Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship With Work (San Francisco:
7 See also De Jonge, J. & Kompier, M.A.J. "A Critical Examination of the Demand- Control-Support Model From a Work
Psychological Perspective," International Journal of Stress Management 4 (1997): 235-258.
8 Leiter & Maslach, Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship With Work.
9 Leiter & Maslach, Preventing Burnout and Building Engagement: A Complete Program for Organizational Renewal.
Feature) Job burnout can affect anyone
by Master Sgt. Merrie Schilter Lowe
Air Force News Service Features
WASHINGTON -- Job burnout normally afflicts people in helping or service professions -- such as ministry or medicine
-- but it can affect anyone.
Psychologist Herbert Freudenbeger, who claims credit for the term, defines burnout as a depletion of energy and a
feeling of being overwhelmed by other peoples' problems.
The condition is analogous to combat stress in that it occurs when a person has "seen too much, done too much, and
had to contend with a situation for too long," said Col. (Dr.) Karl O. Moe, chairman of the psychology department at
Malcolm Grow Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Job burnout, he said, results from prolonged work stress. Symptoms include digestive upsets; a constant sense of
fatigue, coupled with insomnia; and an extreme anxiety over proving one's self-worth.
If not treated, burnout can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts, Freudenbeger said in his book "Burn-Out."
He lists warning signs that people should watch for:
-- Exhaustion. Lack of energy associated with feelings of tiredness and trouble keeping up with usual activities.
-- Detachment. People headed for burnout begin putting distance between themselves and other people, Freudenbeger
said, particularly those with whom the person has had close relationships.
-- Boredom and cynicism. The burnout victim begins to question the value of friendships and activities, and even
-- Increased impatience and irritability. According to Freudenbeger, burnout victims are usually people who have
been able to do things quickly. However, as burnout takes hold, their ability to do things diminishes and they become
impatient and begin to blame family and coworkers for things that are their own fault.
-- A sense of omnipotence. Some victims begin thinking that no one else can do their jobs as well, not even God.
-- Feelings of not being appreciated. Burnout victims want to be appreciated for their added efforts which really
aren't producing more but less, Freudenbeger said. These feelings result in the burnout victim becoming bitter, angry,
-- Change of work style. Reduced results and conflicts with others eventually cause burnout victims to withdraw from
decisive leadership and work habits, or to compensate for conflicts by becoming more demanding, tyrannical or inflexible.
-- Paranoia. Long-term burnout can lead victims to believe that someone is out to get them.
-- Disorientation. Long-term burnout causes the victim's thoughts to wonder, speech pattern to falter and concentration
spans to become limited. The person may joke about becoming senile but inwardly, stress and agitation are the problem.
-- Psychosomatic complaints. Physical ailments such as headaches, lingering colds, backaches and similar complaints
flourish in burnout victims. Although the complaints may have real physical causes, they are more likely brought on
by emotional stress, which the victim may not want to admit, Freudenbeger said.
-- Depression. The depression is usually temporary, specific and localized to one area of life.
-- Major depression. Some burnout victims will develop major depression that pervades all areas of their lives. Generally,
the burnout victim will stop blaming others for negative circumstances and start blaming themselves. Instead of being
angry with others, he or she will feel guilty for everything that goes wrong.
-- Suicidal thinking. As the depression progresses, the results can be suicidal thinking, Fredenbeger said. Some
personality types, such as the hysterical personality, may make suicide threats or gestures that are manipulative. However,
an obsessive-compulsive personality will likely attempt suicide, he said.
Once a person is burned out, the solution could be in changing jobs. "It doesn't have to be out of their career field,"
Moe said. For example, he said an emergency room nurse could work in a different section of the hospital, "somewhere
that doesn't cause such an emotional drain." After a period of time, the person could go back to the emergency room,
Since prolonged stress leads to burnout, the No. 1 buffer against stress is social support, Moe said.
"You need to have someone at work whom you can talk with and blow off steam. You don't even have to talk about the
problem, as long as you have enough of a relationship to know you could talk about it if you wanted to," Moe said.
If support at work is not possible, "talk with someone in your family or from church, or one of the organizations
you belong to," said Moe.
Burnout victims also need to take care of their physical needs with rest and proper nutrition, according to Drs.
Frank Minirth and Paul Mier in their book "How to Beat Burnout."
Additionally, they recommend that the person talk about his or her negative feelings rather than bury them. This
will help the burnout victim see the situation more realistically, they said, and move on.
For more information about stress or job burnout, people can contact the base mental health clinic, Moe said.
Burnout is a cluster of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion
reactions. It is the result of constant and repeated emotional upheaval associated with people at home and in the work
place. It is created by an environment with too many pressures and not enough support. People who burn out develop negative
self-concepts and job attitudes, while becoming detached, apathetic, angry or hostile.
Burnout is a major problem in the helping occupations, where people give a lot to others but fail to take care of themselves
in the process. Professionals in medicine, social work, law enforcement and education are especially prone to burnout
Of course, burnout can also affect people in other types of careers as well. Jobs that promote burnout include ones
in which workers do repetitive or routine tasks, never get much feedback or have a lot of responsibility but very little
Employees who are suffering from burnout feel they are answerable for everything that happens. They feel they receive
very little cooperation from co-workers, and they personally feel powerless to change things. These feelings tend to
make them assume a martyr-like position, become resigned and apathetic, and focus on the worst aspects of the job. Persons
suffering from burnout often blame others or the situation, rather than taking action for change. How does burnout happen?
It can begin when a person who has difficulty setting priorities and putting life into balance is confronted with a
stressful home or work environment. Some common sources of job-related stress include:
Many people learn to with job-reowonists, idealists and workaholics. They start out enthusiastic about their
work, dedicated and committed gh energy levels, positive attitudes and are high achievers.
- Poor time management
- Conflicts with co-workers, supervisors and managers
- Feeling unable or unqualified to do the job
- Difficulties adapting to changes in the work routine
- Feeling overwhelmed by work
- Inability to meet deadlines
- Lack of support from supervisors and managers
- Feeling that work is meaningless or boring
Over time, stress and the inability to cope with it lead to pessimism and early job dissatisfaction. Workers in the
early stages of burnout feel fatigued, frustrated, disillusioned and bored. They may suffer from symptoms of stress,
As burnout progresses, work habits begin to deteriorate. Affected workers arrive late and leave early. Productivity
drops. They become isolated and withdrawn and avoid contact with co-workers and supervisors. They become increasingly
angry, hostile and depressed. Most suffer from physical symptoms of stress such as:
- increased consumption of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
- abrupt speech
- decreased eye contact during conversations
- changes in sleeping and eating habits
- withdrawal from other people
- moodiness and irritability
In the final stages of burnout, workers experience an irreversible feeling of detachment and a total loss of
interest in their jobs. Self-esteem is very low. Feelings about work are totally negative and chronic absenteeism becomes
a problem. At this point, the only course of action is to change careers.
- chronic fatigue
- back pain
- dry mouth and throat or difficulty swallowing
- diarrhea or constipation
- rashes, hives or other skin problems
- chest pains or heart palpitations
- nervous tics
Burnout doesn't happen overnight, and it can be reversed with the right steps. Managers can help by:
Baptist Hospital East's Center for Behavioral Health offers
Building Healthy Employees, a program which provides
on-site training on topics such as team building, communication, assertiveness, stress management and relaxation, workplace
wellness, conflict resolution, self-esteem and peak performance, and accessing strengths. The Center for Behavioral
Health also offers Relaxing in the 90s: A Stress Management
Workshop for individuals who want to learn more about stress management and relaxation techniques. For more information,
call (502) 896-7105.
- Using employees to their full potential. Involve them in decision making, increase their responsibilities and
allow them to use their skills and abilities. Employees need to feel needed and important.
- Giving positive feedback and recognizing achievement. Praise and encouragement are vital to job satisfaction.
- Developing a supportive management style. The most stressful management styles are: intimidating; overly ambitious;
cold and arrogant; or demanding and unfair. If you see yourself in any of these styles, you need to make a change.
- Being fair and realistic in your promotion practices. Unfair promotion practices speak very poorly of a company's
attitudes toward its employees.
- Encouraging your employees to share their feelings and concerns. Talking with co-workers can help put an issue
- Striving for success. Work groups that are constantly trying new ideas and taking risks seldom burn out.
Reading the teachers’ diaries is an exercise in frustration: Tales of breaking up fist fights; confiscating scissors
from one student threatening to stab another; a student threatening to slash a teacher’s tires — and time and time again,
there are no consequences for misbehavior. The offending students are simply returned to the classroom.
Standardized testing has consumed increasingly larger parts of the day. Some teachers were pulled from their regular
teaching assignments for up to five weeks as they administered and graded tests. One teacher wrote: “This situation
emplifies what education in New York City has become — preparing for tests, testing, and grading tests. What has happened
Mandated teaching requirements also created some frustration for the teachers — especially the veterans. “Sometimes
I feel like I’m a robot regurgitating the scripted dialogue that’s expected of us day in and day out,” one writes. Another
teacher restates her day despondently: “Teach mini-lesson... Student raises hand with question. Tell him to put hand
down. Students not allowed to ask questions during mini-lesson. Feel guilty.”
The report also describes constant interruptions during class time — administrators calling seeking paperwork, PA
announcements and parent visits. One Common Good researcher observed a teacher who was interrupted sixteen times in
a single day. A certain amount of test preparation, disciplinary action and paperwork can and should be expected in
a typical workday for any teacher, but the situations described in the diaries can’t possibly be what anyone truly intended.
Layer upon layer of new mandates developed without a teacher’s voice — much less a real collaboration between classroom
professionals and those who supervise them — have resulted in a system that substitutes time- consuming bureaucratic
routines for quality teaching and learning.
This is not unique to New York. If we are serious about improving America’s schools, we need to listen carefully
to what teachers are telling us. We must bring order and safety to our schools, because learning suffers in an environment
that is neither safe nor secure. We need to strike a healthy balance between teaching and testing, because students
are denied important opportunities or new learning when testing is excessive. And we must respect the skill and commitment
of our educators, providing them with the professional latitude they need to do their jobs, rather than drowning them
in paperwork and micromanagement.
That’s just common sense.
Improve your supervisor relationship and reduce
stress - MayoClinic.com
The battle with burnout
Dr. Beverly Potter
It's normal to feel frustrated, angry, depressed, dissatisfied or anxious occasionally. But if you're caught in the
burnout cycle, you usually will experience these negative emotions more and more often, until they become chronic. Eventually,
you will feel emotional fatigue.
When you feel emotionally drained, it becomes harder to deal with people at work and at home. When the inevitable
conflicts arise, you're likely to overreact with an emotional outburst or intense hostility. This makes communicating
with co-workers, friends and family members increasingly difficult. Some burnout victims are also apt to withdraw socially.
The tendency to withdraw is most pronounced among "helping" professionals, who often become aloof and inaccessible to
the very people they are expected to help.
As your emotional reserves become depleted and the quality of your relationships deteriorate, your physical resilience
declines. You may frequently experience minor ailments, such as colds, headaches, insomnia and backaches. In general,
you feel tired and rundown.
During the burnout process, you may become bored with your job or lose enthusiasm for your projects. Or you may find
it difficult to concentrate. You become less productive and the quality of your work declines.
To cope with the stress associated with job conflict and declining performance, you may find yourself drinking more
alcohol, using more drugs, eating more (or less), drinking more coffee and/or smoking more cigarettes. Increased substance
abuse further compounds your problems.
Feelings of meaninglessness
More and more, you find yourself thinking "so what" and "why bother?" This is particularly common among burnout victims
who were once very enthusiastic and dedicated. Your enthusiasm is replaced by cynicism. Working seems pointless.
Top 10 Signs That You Have Job Burnout
10. You're so tired, you now answer the phone with just: "Hell."
9. Your friends call to ask how you've been, and you immediately scream, "Get off my back!!"
8. Your garbage can is your "In" box.
7. You wake up to discover your bed is on fire, but go back to sleep because you just don't care.
6. You have so much on your mind, you've forgotten how to logon to your 401K account.
5. Amount of staff in your mailbox helps you make it from Saturday to Monday.
4. You don't set your alarm anymore because you know the cellphone will go off before the alarm does.
3. You leave for a party and instinctively bring your badge and secure ID token with you.
2. You keep your sleeping bag in the car just in case you can't make the commute.
1. Sometimes you think about how relaxing it for prison inmates to do nothing for days and weeks.
Burnout Inventory (Test)
Burnout Self-Test -- from Baptist Hospital East
Show Me Careers - Burnout -- very good have
Top 10 Signs
you have job burnout -- humor
ACoA and Job Burnout -- story
Baptist Hospital East - Health Information - Burnout on
Preventing Job Burnout
by Susan Friedmann
ExhibiTips, Volume 3. #3, March 1995, Professional Development
Copyright Trade Show Exhibitors Association
(Feature) Job burnout can affect anyone
-- Airforce news
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