Identifying the Toxic Workplace…. Before you Sell Your Soul 1


Logo-rPeople don’t quit jobs, they quit supervisors, and the number one reason people come to me seeking a resume is that they work for a nutcase and need to get out. After hearing the horror stories as well as experiencing a few of these Jekyll and Hydes myself, I did some extensive research to better understand the traits of what to look for in a neurotic boss before you sign on the dotted line.

One of the best studies I uncovered was in “Seven Neurotic Styles of Management” by Kurt Motamedi, PhD at Pepperdine University. Dr. Motamedi identifies recurring patterns in Explosive, Implosive, Abrasive, Narcissistic, Apprehensive, Compulsive, and Impulsive behaviors along with their detrimental impact on organizational effectiveness.

I’d like to take Dr. Motamedi’s findings one step further and point out just a few things you need to look for during a job interview and salary negotiations so you don’t move your family across the country, only to end up working for Satan.

For example, one of the neuroses described in the Seven is “the Narcissist.” Narcissists like to embellish their image. So during a job interview take a close look around your future supervisor’s office. Is it overstuffed with awards, and photos with famous people everywhere? How about impressive company logos from previous employers?

Next, if your prospective boss has YEARS of experience but has jumped around all over the country, check to see how many of his or her former employees followed along. Most new managers will tap into their network of former colleagues and try to bring along some top talent to their new position. After all, there’s already an established relationship between a former worker and manager. But if the manager doesn’t bring along a former staffer, that could be a serious RED FLAG. It’s highly likely no one from his or her past would ever want to work for this person again. And you should be suspicious. These are folks who “will piss on you and then tell you it’s raining.”

Neurotic Managers ruin morale, micromanage and sabotage projects, don’t keep promises, covertly watch your every move, and will do everything they can to keep you off kilter. If you challenge them, you will be told you’re not a team player. But let’s face it, how can you play on a team if you’re always having to defend your actions against the office bully. The other problem with challenging them is that they fear you will blow the whistle on them.

Many of these toxic leaders abuse alcohol or drugs. Their moods change on a dime, they waste company resources and when you are no longer valuable to them, they cast you aside like yesterday’s news.

Most companies will conduct a pre-employment background check on you, through drug testing, credit reports, references checks, etc. It is imperative that you do your own due diligence to find out WHO you will be working for. Use LinkedIn to contact former employees of your prospective boss. (oh, and don’t forget to check how MANY former employees are actually Linked to this person.) Most current employees are too afraid to warn you for fear of losing their job or being the next targeted victim so don’t even approach them.

If you’ve been subjected to a bi-polar boss, or OCD-inflicted supervisor, be make sure to read “The Seven Styles of Management.” It’s only a few pages. Then use hindsight of what happened during your job interview and courting process, and think about the early warning signs that you either ignored or didn’t notice at the time (because you were being seduced with a great new job). I’d love to hear your story. Would you share it here? Don’t identify yourself, and please don’t list names of people or companies.


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  • Job Descriptions

    I also ask my friends whenever I apply if the company is good and the management. That's one of my ways to prevent from getting stress at work.