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Psycho managers, stress and your employment rights

Updated on December 6, 2010
The workplace is not supposed to be a melodrama.
The workplace is not supposed to be a melodrama. | Source

In a recent survey it was found that an estimated 10% of American managers could be categorized as clinically psychotic. It apparently didn't occur to anybody to ask why psychotics are in charge of anyone or anything. Perhaps it's some sort of tradition.

The fact is that nobody is paid to put up with psychotics. Nobody should be paying them to be psychotic, either. Given the very large numbers of people placed under direct stress as a result of the antics of these alleged managers, there are some major issues to be addressed.

The effects of stress in the workplace include:

  • Depression, now at epidemic levels around the world.
  • Violence, including actual shootings of other people in the workplace by those driven to commit assaults due to extremely high stress levels.
  • Suicide, also now at epidemic levels around the world.
  • An extremely large number of law suits, including an interesting statistic that 30% of American sue their employers at some point during their careers, and that 70% of these people win their cases.
  • Management behavior is apparently responsible for extremely high turnover of staff, and related expenses running into billions of dollars.

An enchanting picture. Insanity, ineptitude and incompetence, all in one picturesque, expensive environment. How sweet. To add a certain flavour to the situation, these managers are often paid an extremely large amount of money to achieve these destructive results.

Which brings into question the levels of competence of the people hiring them. This management culture is a virtual indictment of Western society. The insane, mediocre, sycophantic and pathetic are for some reason employed as managers, instead of being placed in appropriate psychological care.


What conceivable purpose is served by employing people whose sole mission in life appears to be creating problems in the workplace?

In America, the "employment at will" concept has apparently given rise to a belief that employers are immune from prosecution for the behavior of their managers. This is not the case. Any work-related incident, including stress, which causes a medical condition or ill health, may be actionable.

It’s probably only a matter of time before a major US employer is affected by a class action in relation to stressful working conditions. That would be poetic justice, and might even get the antiquated dino-intellects of management science paying attention to these issues.

This legal approach would certainly be preferable to the routine workplace massacres, and other delightful ephemera and esoterica which regularly hits the headlines. It would also provide some functional case law for dealing with these entirely unacceptable situations.

Just for the record, managers are employees. They can be fired, too. So why aren't they? Does it actually take a 100 million dollar lawsuit to get it through the thick and apparently unconscious heads of senior management and business owners that they're supposed to be running businesses, not some sort of circus for psycho managers to conduct their neuroses/personal tantrums?

It's very much a matter of opinion whether or not managers are actually taught to manage human beings. The evidence so far is that they aren't, and have no idea how to do a qualitative assessment of workplace practices at the most basic levels.

A further issue relates the owners of businesses who tolerate managerial dysfunctional behavior. Are they so utterly ignorant of the realities of the workplace that as long as a set of figures is produced they don't feel any need to take an interest in the conduct of their own businesses?

I ask because that is the appearance. There is no indication that stockholders, institutions, fund managers and the private investors who collectively own major businesses have the slightest idea how to handle their own managers.

A CEO can be fired unceremoniously and without a "golden handshake" simply for breach of their contract, which any first year law student should be able to identify without getting a mental hernia. All that’s required is a board decision. Junior managers can be fired even more easily, provided the administrators know how to spell the word "incompetence". The question is really whether the owners of businesses want to incur endless liabilities for the ineptitude/insanity of their managers, or ensure that their businesses are managed properly.

The fact is that typically managers are rarely fired, and hardly ever penalized however many disasters they cause in the workplace on a regular basis. No doubt there is some reason for this masochism, probably blackmail or some other equally sleazy situation, but business owners should be aware that they can be sued regardless of any other issues for injuries including stress.

The absolute bottom line on this issue is that managers are expendable if they don't perform. There is no reason to tolerate this office melodrama at such incredible expense. A manager who costs a business money is a liability and should be treated accordingly. Managers should be psychotic on their own time, not that of their employers and not at the expense of the health of other people.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I agree with you botton line but you will find in most cases the blame gets put on the workers. They get fired and the manager stays. Brilliantly written