Maybe you are luckier than most, and you’ve worked at the same business since high school, gradually working your way up the ranks until you eventually attained a position where you could make a decent living. Maybe you inherited a role in your family’s business that was always meant for you to have. Maybe you got a prestigious internship in college and had a job waiting for you as soon as you graduated. Well, if that’s true, good for you.
For the rest of us, it is more likely than not that we will have multiple jobs in our lifetime. We will probably be fired or forced to quit a position at some point. We will stress out about bills in between paychecks. We will probably not end up in the job we dreamed of having as a kid, working with the subject we got our degree in, or being where we thought we would be. And through all of this, we will have to endure lots of different bosses; the good, the bad, and the villainous.
You already know what annoys you about your boss; it’s the thing you are commiserating with your coworkers about in the break room or ranting to your significant other about after work. But what you may not know is that some of these behaviors are not merely that of an annoying boss but rather traits of a true tyrant. Here is what you need to know to avoid becoming their minion.
The Passive-Aggressive Boss
Passive Aggression “…of or denoting a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, etc.”
“Mother Knows Best,” Mother Gothel says, and she means it. Mother Gothel raises Rapunzel after kidnapping her as a child and raises her to be the obedient daughter who fears the outside world. She is Rapunzel’s only connection to the world beyond her tower and controls everything about Rapunzel’s life within it. She is not physically violent with Rapunzel but nonetheless keeps her prisoner using fear, verbal abuse, and gas-lighting techniques. Most notably, she withholds affection and becomes increasingly critical when Rapunzel exhibits an independent will, intentionally reinforcing Rapunzel’s insecurities so that Mother Gothel can continue to use her for her own means.
Mother Gothel’s tools of manipulation are very passive-aggressive. In a 2018 study by Comparably, which polled more than 2,000 workers about the biggest complaints they had about bosses, male and female respondents both chose “micromanager” as their top response. This is defined as a boss who has to control every part, however small, of an enterprise or activity. To women, being overly critical is almost as bad as being a micromanager. The percentage of women who chose “overly critical” in the survey was high at 28%. For young women starting out at their first real job, having a micromanaging, overly critical boss that gradually chips away at their self-esteem would be like working for this soul-sucking witch.
The Narcissistic Boss
Narcissism, “selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”
Gaston could be a hero in another Disney movie under a different set of circumstances. What makes him a villain is his narcissism. He is not a hero rallying villagers to try and save a princess captured by a beast in a cursed castle, he is a totally immature, selfish man-baby sending an entire village into battle over his own bruised ego. Gaston has a need for constant praise, and he usually receives it as many in his village see the world in a similarly superficial way as himself. He is the best-looking and strongest man in the village, and so he is entitled to marry the woman he deems to be the best looking and, therefore, the most worthy. She is merely an object to be displayed, used by him. He uses his influence over the villagers to lead them to win her back effectively, but ultimately he does not get the girl or kill the beast.
Gaston may be a charismatic leader, but he is inherently selfish. A 2013 study from The International Journal of Economics, Business and Management Studies found the more that a boss’s narcissism level increases, the employees lose commitment to their work. Lack of motivation also increases when there’s a noticeable deterioration in behavior and attitude. In other words, when employees notice a deterioration in workplace morale under a selfish boss, the perceived undermining of others’ efforts leads to a counterproductive workplace. For young go-getters wanting to storm a castle, they may lose their nerve when they see the person who is calling them to battle is in it purely for their own glory.
The Machiavellian Boss
Machiavellian, “cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics.”
Hades is one of three of the “big three” Greek Gods of ancient mythology. Lord of the Underworld is jealous of brother Zeus who lives on top of Mount Olympus and rules over all the gods. He manipulates the fates to learn of a prophecy where he can free the Titans, which will lay waste to the mortal realm, in order to overthrow Zeus. However, he knows if the hero Hercules grows to adulthood, his plan will fail, so he attempts to make the child mortal and kill the baby. When Hercules escapes Hades’ minions, he sends a woman whose soul he owns to manipulate Hercules and ultimately kills her when she falls in love with the son of Zeus. It is safe to say, Hades will do anything to get what he wants.
Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher, and historian who lived during the Renaissance. He is best known for his political work The Prince, a 16th-century instructional guide for new royals that details how the use of any means (no matter how immoral) can be justified to achieve the ends of one’s own survival and ultimate glory. Modern philosopher Seth M. Spain, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Concordia University, classified these types of bosses as “dark bosses” in his work Stress, Well-Being, and the Dark Side of Leadership. “Dark bosses,” like traditional Disney villains, can be mean, harassing, and out-rightly abusive. And like Hades, they often rely on pain and panic.
The Psychopathic Boss
Psychopathy, “marked by deficient emotional responses, lack of empathy, and poor behavioral controls, commonly resulting in persistent antisocial deviance and criminal behavior.”
Judge Claude Frollo is one of the darkest of the Disney Villains. He is deeply hypocritical, wrathful, and prejudiced. Those who are different from him are to be hated and feared. He uses his position as a judge to abuse gypsies in his city, indiscriminately burning the homes of those he suspects of those who help them and ordering the Captain of his guard to be killed when he defies the order to do so. He is unmoved by the death and suffering of others and occasionally finds it amusing. He uses religion and law as excuses to inflict his own iron-clad will on all those around him.
Expansive studies by Ph.D. researcher Abigail Phillips at the Alliance Manchester Business School, focusing on the “Dark Triad” of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy- revealed increased levels of psychopathy in the workplace frequently emerged in highly competitive and intense work environments that come with power. These include positions like law enforcement officers, high-ranking business executives, lawyers, media personalities, and salespeople. Individuals with high levels of psychopathy and a lack of empathy are often naturally drawn to these fields. Psychopaths who rise in the ranks exhibit bullying behavior by being overly critical of employees under them, taking advantage of the vulnerable, and behaving aggressively in the workplace. Many of the 1,200 employees in the studies reported varying levels of depression, stress, and general job dissatisfaction.
How to Vanquish the Villain Once and For All
The only way to defeat these real-life villains is to know your own value. No job is worth your dignity. No one person should have so much power over your own happiness just because they give you a paycheck. These manipulative types of bosses often break employees down so that they feel that they are “stuck” even when they can quit, or they should feel “grateful” even when they are being mistreated. But it’s not true. Revamp that resume, stand up for yourself, and find a place where you can live happily ever after.