Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

How To Deal With A Psycho At Work

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I find it incredibly interesting how some individuals get hired into roles.

So often it seems that leaders and managers cannot see the massive red flags and flashing lights that say “this person is going to cause MAJOR problems for your team and organisation”.

Sarah Boyd

Maybe it’s because they’re charismatic.

Maybe it’s because their results look impressive.

Maybe it’s because they’ve become so expert at creating an illusion about their true selves that we all fall for it.


Of course there is always the honeymoon time – when this individual looks potentially like the greatest hire you’ve every made.

Performance lifts, bottom line is positive, problems quickly resolved.


But then things begin to change… and before you know it, you have a critical situation that is spinning out of control.

It seems like it’s come out of nowhere.

All you see is good-hearted, intelligent people leaving your team and organisation quickly and quietly.

And it is very rare that anyone will tell you why directly. Because they’re terrified.

Self-esteem’s destroyed; confidence smashed; huge fallout.

All because of this one individual.


When you confront this individual, there will always be an extremely logical and plausible explanation for the fallout; almost always placing blame on the individuals who have left.

But watch very carefully, because it’s about to happen again…

Sound familiar?

Same pattern, every time.


These individuals might make for good drama and comedy on reality TV shows, but in reality they destroy lives and workplaces.

We spend so much of our lives at work that it has a dramatic effect on our stress and confidence when we end up having to work with a ‘psycho’.

It is my belief that there are too many undiagnosed personality disorders in the workplace and particularly in management or leadership roles.

These individuals look charismatic on the surface and full of good results, but they destroy human beings in the process.

(To read more on my previous article – 9 tell tale signs you’re dealing with a dangerous work colleague).


Dealing with work colleagues is different to friendship – if a friend consistently treats you poorly, you have the choice of no longer maintaining a relationship with them.

But you didn’t choose to work with these people, it just is that way. And unless you are ready to move job roles, you are stuck in an overwhelming situation.



1 Create Awareness

This is an internal awareness that you are not the problem, but their behaviour is.

Although this goes against a ‘take responsibility’ leadership culture, we need to understand that another’s toxic behaviour can have a poisonous affect on our self esteem, confidence & mental health.

There is a concept in psychology called “emotion contagion” which is a phenomenon where we catch other people’s moods.

For example, you might arrive at work feeling positive about the day, but 10 mins with a colleague who is stressed and negative, makes you feel the same.

Holding an internal awareness that the problem is their toxic behaviour (and not you) will help protect your mental health to make wise decisions about the situation.

The quote from William Gibson rings true (please excuse the language) –

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression, or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by a**holes.”

To read more on signs of toxic leadership, click here.


2 Create Space

This may be physical space (if at all possible, don’t hire them or don’t work with them) or space within in the relationship (being professional but not vulnerable with them).

The closer you become, the more they are going to affect you.

I repeat – the closer you become, the more they are going to affect you.

You cannot change them. They are who they are & that’s their responsibility.

You responsibility is to work out how to navigate a relationship and work with them without compromising your dignity and confidence.


3 Create A Healthy Culture

If you are the leader, make sure you are creating a healthy culture within your team and organisation.

An unhealthy culture will allow toxic behaviour to thrive. Whereas a healthy culture will starve toxic behaviour, and identify it much earlier before it has done as much damage.

One of the most important focuses of a healthy culture should be:

HOW you do things is as important as WHAT you are doing.

As a leader, by making HOW you do things important, it will not allow toxic behaviour to thrive. When you have a belief that the WHAT is most important at any cost, it allows toxic behaviour to flourish.


If all else fails, leave.

It is never ever ever worth your self esteem, confidence and mental health to continue in an environment that signficantly negatively affects you.

Make a plan and get out while you still have some confidence left.


Dealing with unstable and toxic individuals in the workplace is often highly complicated and stressful.

Always remember – they are responsible for their own negative behaviour.

You didn’t do anything to cause it, invoke it, nor do you deserve it.

Your only responsbility is how you will respond to it, making sure your self esteem and mental health are the priority. 

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.