AND JOB OPPORTUNITIES
WE complain when it’s hot and we complain when it’s cold but believe me; a recent business trip to Kentucky showed me what stifling hot really means. I was literally suffocating; the air was so hot and so still that I couldn’t catch my breath. It’s a rare experience I’m sure but it did remind me of the one or two times when I’ve encountered a really bad boss situation in my own career. It simply all boils down to the stress that a boss can create.
Years have passed since my own experience and since then, I’ve seen and coached employees who have also felt a sense of suffocation at work. This occurred when they encountered what’s referred to as a “snake in a suit.” A leader or any other employee for that matter who is perceived in that manner typically demonstrates psychopathic tendencies that at the very least will destroy the internal work environment. Usually, however, their tentacles will reach the broader world, as demonstrated by the many high-profile former leaders who are now serving prison sentences for embezzlement, fraud or stock manipulation.
Snakes in suits and/or seductive operational bullies (SOBs), as named by Dr. Manfred Kets de Vries, demonstrate a sense of superiority, grandiosity or entitlement. They live in the moment, are impulsive, and seem to lack any sense of personal insight. At the same time, they are very charming social manipulators as well as good communicators who consider themselves rising stars and, as such, they are able to create a good first impression by spinning the most believable tale. These individuals thrive on fast-paced, high-risk enterprises where there’s a potential for a power grab as well as significant financial reward.
The key challenge with individuals such as this is that they are good at reading and understanding others and will abuse and take advantage of relationships for their own benefit. When they sense a barrier, they think nothing of stepping on, crushing and suffocating anyone who stands in their way, including their own boss. In other words, they justify success at any cost.
My experience shows that by the time an employee who works for a male or female “snake in a suit” seeks help, they are feeling so victimized and so demoralized from their roller-coaster worklife that they are almost totally dysfunctional. They are battered, bruised and stressed from being yelled at, bullied, harassed and taken advantage of.
In many cases, these individuals have taken steps to lay a complaint with their human resource manager and/or a more senior manager, only to be shut down by disbelief followed by inaction. Unfortunately, the complainer is then often perceived as the problem rather than the boss. Certainly a no-win situation for the employee!