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When Bad People Drive Good People Mad

Over 40% of short-term disability claims submitted are for depression and anxiety. One would think that employees are withering under the constant pressure to accomplish more with less, deal with angry customers, unreliable suppliers and merciless competitors. But the most common reasons cited for workplace unhappiness and stress are a bad boss and mean coworkers.

People are incredibly resilient and adaptable in dealing with “real world stress” — caring for a loved one, raising a special-needs child, dealing with a chronic illness. In the real world, one can turn to family, friends and community for support. There are many resources available, from respite care, to special education teachers, to medication management, to counselling. And while things don’t always go smoothly, at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the best you can under the circumstances, that you have some measure of control of the situation, and a measure of self-respect, too.

But where can you turn when the cause of your distress is a crazy and controlling boss, mean and vicious coworkers, and a work setting that won’t even acknowledge, let alone address, these issues? We have lost the power to even speak about defects of character. Lying and sadistic bosses are either narcissistic, sociopathic, or have selective memory issues. Micromanagers are just perfectionists suffering from OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). The foul-mouthed boss has problems with impulse control, and the neglectful or scattered boss has ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder). The workplace itself is diagnosed as either “healthy” or “toxic.”

Make. Work. Better.

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Jack Muskat
WRITTEN BY
Jack Muskat
Jack Muskat, Ph.D., is a Toronto-based Organizational Psychologist, writer and lecturer with over 25 years consulting and business experience with individuals and organizations. He advises senior executives and managers around selection and developmental planning. Dr. Muskat is an acknowledged expert on issues relating to organizational culture and leadership, succession planning and strategic management. He also teaches courses on leadership and negotiations at the Schulich School of Business.
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