Life Coach Magazine

Is Your Boss a Psycho?

By Djridings @fivethingsnow
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This post has been written by the renowned clinical psychologist and TV personality, Oliver James. I am very grateful to Oliver for this excellent contribution to the 5thingstodotoday blog site. I won’t tell you what my score is!

oliver james



Does your boss have any of these traits?

- A Highly impulsive thrill-seeker who lacks empathy for others. Think Stalin and Gordon Gekko (from the film Wall Street). They are four times commoner among senior executives.

- Exceptionally calculating, they behave in a cold and manipulative fashion, ruthlessly pursuing their self-interest. Think Henry Kissinger and almost any of the bosses in Homeland, 24 or Mad Men. People at or near the top have this trait much more than those lower down the food chain.

- Commonly perceived as vain, they are prone to grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, a desire for dominance and feelings of superiority. Think Madonna and Donald Trump. Senior managers are more likely to be like this than ordinary people and, even, than mental hospital patients.

You may have guessed that the first group are psychopaths, the second machiavels, the third narcissists.

What you did not know is that startling research done in the last 10 years proves that if a person has one of these characteristics, they are very liable to have the other two as well. This is known as The Dark Triad.

The awful truth is that the number of such triadic people has greatly increased in the last thirty years, how much depending on which country you live in. The reason is because the global economy increasingly demands elements of triadic behavior in order to succeed. This is especially true of English-speaking nations, like Britain and America, but also in emerging nations, like China, India and Russia. Frankly, it’s scary.


Here’s a simple test you can do to work out how Triadic your boss is.

Apply the following 12 statements to that person, scoring low (1) if you feel it does not apply much or at all, high if it applies quite a bit or a lot (5). Specifically, score it as follows:

A. If you ‘strongly disagree’ that the statement applies to them, score a 1.

B. If you ‘disagree’ that it applies, score 2.

C. If you feel it maybe applies sometimes but not much, score 3.

D. If you ‘agree’ it applies, score 4.

E. If you ‘strongly agree’ it applies, score 5.

Here are the statements, give each one a score as applied to your boss.

1. They tend to exploit and trick others for self-advancement.

2. They have used lies and deception to get their way.

3. They have used ingratiation to get their way.

4. They tend to manipulate others for selfish reasons.

5. They tend to not to feel regretful and apologetic after having done wrong.

6. They tend not to worry about whether their behavior is ethical.

7. They tend to be lacking in empathy and crassly unaware of the distress they can cause others.

8. They tend to take a pretty dim view of humanity, attributing nasty motives and selfishness.

9. They tend to be hungry for admiration.

10. They tend to want to be the center of attention.

11. They tend to aim for high statuses and signs of their importance.

12. They tend to take it for granted that other people will make extra efforts to help them.

If the person scored more than 25 out of the maximum possible of 60, they are Triadic, the higher the score, the more so.


1 Work out which of the three traits is predominant – nearly always one will be stronger than the other.

2. If it’s a mainly psychopathic one, put as much organizational distance between yourself and then, as soon as possible. These people are impossible to make deals with or to find a cooperative ‘live and let live’ co-existence with. When they use you as a dustbin for aspects of themselves they hate – like feeling useless or worthless – picture this feeling they have induced in you, wrap it up in a newspaper, and stick it in an imaginary bin in their head.

3. If it’s a mainly machiavellian one, the best hope is to keep off their radar and give them no reason to bother with you. If you do become a pawn in one of their games, you will at least be able to see how their mind is working. Once you realize that a lot of what they are doing is pointless game-playing, it starts to make a kind of sense. Keep a close eye out for lies they have told about you to peers and do your best to counteract them.

4. If it’s a narcissistic one, they are easiest to spot. They will usually be suckers for ingratiatory tactics, like flattery or chameleonism. You may have to be subtle about it – just saying ‘hey, you look well today’ may not be enough. Try getting other people to tell them how you were saying nice things about them, for example. When their insufferable self-importance and grandiosity begins to make you feel sick, pity them in your mind, rather than letting it show: these are people who are compensating for feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness dating back to early childhood.

5. Hone your office political skills: become more astute so that you can be better at knowing which tactics to use when, network conscientiously and cultivate the appearance of sincerity.

For more, see Oliver James’s book, Office Politics – How to thrive in a world of lying, backstabbing and dirty cheats (Vermilion).

Office Politics can be bought from amazon here.

If you would like to contribute to then please e-mail [email protected]

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