Most offices are headed up by charismatic psychopaths that shape an organisation’s culture and define the type of day everybody else endures by means of a well-placed tantrum or strongly worded group email. Such leaders have a spark about them that most office types don’t possess – a je ne sais quoi that guaranteed their meteoric rise through the corporate ranks from the first moment they swiped their key card at the main entrance turnstile.
History is littered with people that are so driven and focused on a particular goal that they were prepared to do pretty much anything to see it realised.
Which category of psychopathic tyrant from the annals history does your boss fall into?
The Pol Pot
Pol Pot and his communist Khymer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia in the 1970s and oversaw the deaths of over 1.5 million people. This type are contradictory in their very nature because they will go all out to claim an allegiance with the little guy in the office. Every seemingly rash decision they make is based on a desire to make things better in the company as a whole rather than to improve the bottom line. As a result, the failing department your boss oversees becomes the fault of everybody that works in it.
The Pol Pot boss is a doctrinaire manager that does things by the book, regardless of how out of date the actual book is. They send memos via fax (remember those?), in fact, all their documents exist in hard copy format only. The Pol Pot hails from the era of the Filofax and Rolodex so the future, or rather, ’email,’ as it is generally referred to these days, absolutely terrifies them.
Your Pol Pot boss would happily see productivity fall in the name of keeping things the same, mainly because they haven’t yet evolved into the computer age. They manage in the name of the little guy whilst simultaneously making half the department redundant in an effort to improve efficiency.
New ideas – new faces even, are a threat to the Pol Pot boss who has been with the company since the year nought and things have been slowly falling apart ever since.
If you ever get invited into the Pot Pot boss’s office for a chat, be sure to put your phone on silent in case you get a text alert, or you may never see the phone again.
The Idi Amin
Here at The W1nners’ Club we hold a daily vigil for our office based kith and kin that are unfortunate enough to find themselves working under a boss of the Idi Amin typeset. The ex-ruler of Uganda was a very strange fellow indeed. His self-designated official title was, “His Excellency, President for life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of all the beasts of the Earth and fishes of the seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in particular.”
If this mouthful title of self-aggrandizing gobbledegook wasn’t enough, he also crowned himself King of Scotland and awarded himself a Doctorate in Law. To say the man was a little unhinged is an understatement.
Such bosses are usually the outright owner of the company or have a large enough stake that the size of their annual bonus has probably driven them mad.
Expect them to tell you numerous stories about their fraternization with prominent public figures (most of it will be true), alimony payments that are equal in size to the GDP of Luxembourg and a general standard of behaviour that would get most people locked up for a considerable length of time.
The Idi Amin leadership type is so far removed from the real world that they sit in a gilded cage of money and power, enabling them to live out a cartoon fantasy of uber indulgence that just so happens to be reality.
Whilst Idi Amin was rumoured to be a cannibal that would crush the testicles of his hapless political opponents, your boss will probably just fire you for being late and/or for being early – depending on which one of their bi-polar personalities is in control of their psyche at that particular moment.
The Josef Stalin
Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili later became known as the rather more catchily named, Josef Stalin. He was supreme ruler of The Soviet Union for 25 years in the early 20th century and if your boss falls into this category, you really had better watch your step!
Stalin’s rule was characterised by an almost unprecedented reign of terror resulting in the deaths of around twenty million people from his own population. Business leaders of the Stalin type therefore tend to be very paranoid. Does your boss religiously harp on about your competitor’s business success to the point of obsession? Does he or she ruthlessly enforce unattainable performance targets then scapegoat those who fail to achieve them as saboteurs of the company? If so, you’ve definitely got a Stalin on your hands.
The key to surviving under such an individual is to get a clear understanding of how they operate. Unlike others who may only react adversely towards you if you arouse a pet hate of theirs eg. lateness, the Stalin boss will deal with your offensive behaviour before it has even taken place.
They micro-manage as a precaution and spend most of their time looking for flaws in people before they are apparent.
Needless to say, labour turnover is often high in such a regime and your best approach is to either try and make yourself invisible, or take the art of arse-kissing to unprecedented levels of cringe-worthiness.
The ultimate problem with working under the Stalin boss is it’s impossible to know which approach is best, as either could get you swiftly marked down as a potential conspirator.
The Erich Honecker
Do you ever wonder how your boss ever became a manager in the first place? Is his or her style of leadership remarkable for its sheer mind-boggling ordinariness? If so, your boss may very well fit into the Erich Honecker mould.
Honecker led the German Democratic Republic of East Germany and was General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until the weeks leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was a man known for having a lack of charisma, that gave awkward speeches and looks very much like a school deputy head teacher – yet his grip on power was unwavering during his period in charge.
Think of your main competitors in the industry you work in. They get paid twice as much as you, they get more holidays, they have a mind-blowingly generous bonus structure and they even get membership of a half decent gym thrown in to their benefits package rather than the spit and sawdust dirt box that you’re a member of. To work there would be a dream come true – naturally.
Unfortunately for you however, your boss is an Erich Honecker and any attempt you make at updating your CV for the purpose of changing jobs will be ruthlessly crushed. Your email will suddenly stop working and it will feel like you’re being constantly watched by your colleagues. You’ll never, ever be allowed to leave for a better life. It’s as if a wall has been built to keep you separated from the rest of your industry in the West.
The Benito Mussolini
No leader apart from maybe Richard Branson, has ever exploited the cult of personality to quite the same degree as Benito Mussolini. ‘Il Duce,’ leader of Italy’s National Fascist Party, ruled from 1927 to 1943.
Your boss falls into the above category if he or she has expansionist ideas that never benefit the company in any way.
Does your company spend insane amounts of money sponsoring corporate events that no one turns up to? Does every new product your company brings to market send the share price into freefall? Equally importantly, does your boss take proud ownership of these calamitous eventualities by using them to increase their own industry profile – usually by plastering their portrait on related promotional material instead of the company logo? If so, your boss is definitely a Mussolini.
Il Duce almost bankrupted his country by invading Ethiopia in the 1930s and then proceeded to enter World War Two without the necessary troop numbers or armaments.
As you watch the company disintegrate before your very eyes, just be thankful that your remuneration package doesn’t contain share options.