Mirror Check! Has Your Crazy Boss Made You Crazy?

If you’ve been in the job market for over 15 years, then it’s likely you’ve worked for a bad boss. There are plenty of articles that tell you how to survive toxic bosses and co-workers, but what if YOU have become the crazy boss? What if you are the one that is stressed out with high levels of anxiety? Are you even aware of it, and are you willing to admit it and change?

Nearly 10 years ago, I was having issues with my supervisors. They didn’t appreciate the innovative ways of running my office and the respect that was garnered along the way. I had been in the office for 2 years before they arrived and was selected for national recognition and awarded prestigious medals for my efforts. The personnel that worked for me were happy and thriving, and set new standards in our area of responsibility. These men and women were absolute Rock Stars!

Trouble started when my supervisor told me that their goal was to “take me down a notch.” Their suppressive and micro-managed style of leadership caused a host of issues within the office, but also increased my stress and anxiety by 1000%. I went from being an independent high flyer with minimal oversight and high results to being reduced to permission based tasks. They consistently returned paperwork for reasons unknown to anyone, and not managing the stress, anxiety and dizzying effects from it all, I became a tyrant.

My reactions to their ridiculousness made me ridiculous, but I didn’t know it. My personnel who were once happy to come to work and our harmonious office environment started to change, but I was too stressed and distracted from my supervisor’s shenanigans to notice. Our office turned into a graveyard over a 5 month period and I couldn’t figure out why. No one talked, my personnel laid low, productivity slowed down and the once lively office was flat lining.

“When men first come into contact with crime, they abhor it. If they remain in contact with crime for a time, they become accustomed to it, and endure it. If they remain in contact with it long enough, they finally embrace it and become influenced by it.” – Napoleon Hill

Using a fish tank as an analogy, with a filter and regular cleaning, the water remains clear and the fish are healthy. If you start to inject black ink (negativity) into the water (office environment), the change won’t be immediately apparent. But as the ink continues to be injected day after day, it will go from being a gray tint to dark and murky. Since the ink is now within the environment, it will start to penetrate the skin and organs of the fish, causing toxic reactions (stress, anxiety, depression, misery, anger). If the fish are still alive in the murky and dark water, they won’t thrive and will eventually go belly up.

I was drowning and needed help; a mentor suggested “The Alpha Male Syndrome.” It breaks down 4 different Alpha types and gives a list of their values and risks (dysfunctions) to organizations. (excerpt)

I remember answering the survey questions aloud that validated my awesome leadership ability. 😉
◊ Are you a high achiever with a strong sense of mission? – Yes!
◊ Do you energize your team to reach impossible goals? – Yes!
♦ If so, do you take high levels of performance for granted? – Huh?
♦ Do you expect the impossible and fail to acknowledge what’s required to achieve it? – Umm…
◊ Are you persistent, tenacious, determined and steadfast? – Yes!
◊ Do you energize your team to reach impossible goals? – Yes!
♦ If so, do you drive yourself and others to exhaustion?  O_O
♦ Are you impatient and everything is urgent? – Wait….
♦ Do you think the rules don’t apply to you? – Arrrggggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Knowing who I was back then, it’s likely I tossed the book across the room….ok..so I did. Lol! Those questions made me tremble because I thought I was the greatest leader in the world! (Seriously) I mean…I had been given awards for my leadership ability – or was it my ability to get things done? My personnel were all high flyers – but at what cost?

That night, I asked myself the survey questions while looking in the mirror. It was the first time I had done self-reflection as a leader and it was absolutely excruciating; especially for someone as arrogant, ahem…I mean as awesome as myself. This was different than Myers-Briggs and other assessments.

Luckily, the book suggested exercises that got me out of the hole I found myself in. It explained how my leadership style could use some work. One exercise included apologizing to my personnel and acknowledging my faults. It took 3 days to muster the courage to do so, but when I did, the look on their faces was absolutely priceless…eyes and mouths wide open in complete disbelief. I apologized and vowed to monitor my behavior and requested their assistance. It became an office exercise to get Ms. Rutherford to be the best leader she could be.

That was nearly 10 years ago and I still remain in constant contact with everyone from that office even though I left the following year. There is something life changing about watching a leader transform for the best in front of you; but more importantly, contributing to the effort. Most of them are now in high levels of leadership and have level heads; all while being admired for their leadership ability from their junior personnel. People don’t listen to what you say as much as they model what you do.

With that, my goal is to offer insight to the readers of this article. We are always quick to point the finger at outside sources of our negativity, but don’t realize that in a negative environment, we also become negative. It’s a natural progression, and most people don’t even know it. We are all susceptible to being bad leaders, so instead of constantly complaining about your boss, are you willing to look within and see if you have become the bad boss? Even if you feel you are a highly admired leader, we all have dysfunctions. Will you do the work to see or will you hide?

Doing the work not only frees you, but it also inspires those you lead. Being a great leader is tough work and there are lots of people who hold leadership positions, but that does not make them a leader. Real leaders are those that inspire people to grow, develop and achieve the impossible. My one question leadership test: If you lead your people through challenges and triumphs to get to the top of the mountain, will they celebrate with you when you get there, or will they toss you off a cliff? 🙂

Have you ever worked for a bad boss? How did it affect your performance? What did you do to overcome the challenges?

Christy Rutherford, an Executive Leadership Strategist, trains leaders on long-standing leadership principles to assist them with realizing their full potential and increase productivity. She also coaches Type A leaders who are suffering from burnout, which impacts their performance at work and home.

Download your free workbook: “Success Roadmap – 7 Powerful Ways To Get Clear On The Results You Desire” at www.christyrutherford.com 

Check out the programs designed for you to manage your stress, reduce anxiety and significantly improve your life while you work to make a living. www.christyrutherford.com/programs

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