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September 21, 2021

How to keep your boss from driving you crazy


As a psychologist, I’ve been shrinking heads and consulting with businesses for more than thirty years.  Every day people tell me that their bosses are driving them crazy, and ask me what they have to do to stay sane.  Here’s what I tell them:

The secret to dealing effectively with difficult bosses (and all other difficult people for that matter) is to approach them from their point of view rather than yours.  Here are four of the world’s most crazy-making bosses, with a few tips on how to use this strategy to keep their craziness from driving you insane.

Micromanaging Control Freaks – Control Freaks offer a perfect example of what I mean by approaching difficult bosses from their point of view rather than yours. Your inner teenager gets irritated when people tell you what to do.  You may think they do it simply because they like to be in control.  Actually, control freaks are terrified of making mistakes.  To keep them from driving you crazy, it takes reassurance rather than recrimination.  Let them know that the project is as important to you as it is to them.  Listen attentively to their lectures and take notes.  Give far more progress reports than you think anyone would need.  If you respond their fear rather than your irritation, they are likely to go and micromanage someone else.  

Bullies – Bullies get angry because it gets them what the want.  The secret to dealing effectively is to show them they can get what they want without all the yelling.  If you’re being chewed out by a bullying boss, never try to get yourself off the hook by explaining why you did what you did.  Your explanation will only make your boss angrier.  Instead of explaining, calmly ask them what you need to do to fix the problem.

If staying this calm seems daunting, remember that anger and thinking occur in different parts of the brain.  If you can manage to stay calm when a bully is yelling, you will have about a fifty IQ point advantage.

Sleaze Balls – Sleazy managers use your own hopes and fears to manipulate you.  Everything sounds like a promise, until they’ve gotten what they want. Then, what did you say your name was?  Remember that Sleaze Balls use communication differently than normal people do.  Everything they say is designed to engender an emotional effect in you.  If your boss is a sleaze ball, ignore threats and flattery.  Believe only what you see in writing.

Pathological Positive Thinkers –These bosses have sustained brain damage from attending too many motivational seminars.  They actually believe that if their people have enough can-do spirit, the more taxing aspects of management just evaporate.  There are no problems to ponder, no conflicts to resolve.  With bosses like these, there are two things to remember: Never make fun of their religious beliefs, and never suggest that anything is wrong.  Present anything that might be construed as critical as a suggestion about how to make something great into something fabulous.


By Albert J. Bernstein PhD, author of bestsellers Dinosaur Brains and Emotional Vampires. His newest book is Am I the Only Sane One Working Here? 101 Solutions for Surviving Office Insanity. For more information on how to stay sane at work, visit Dr. Al’s website:



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