Beyond the good, the bad and the ugly are the toxic.

Bosses, that is.

Since most of us are going to be in the workplace from age 23 to 65, we're guaranteed to run into one. Or two.

In some industries, you might bounce from a bad boss to a worse one and back again. You need deft armor and an exit strategy to protect yourself. Now.

You also need some boss-sonar so you can distinguish between the merely lame (taking you to lunch - at Wendy's) from the distracted (no annual review for years); or the thoughtless (forgetting to give you credit) from the malicious (claiming your best idea was their own).

Yep, that last one is a Franken-boss.

A recent survey by Florida State University researchers reported that two out of five bosses don't keep their word, according to their employees, and 37 percent don't give workers the credit they feel they are due. And these are ordinary bosses.

Fact is, all bosses are annoying in their own way. This is not about them.

This is about people who have made a religion of vindictiveness, rule like feudal lords and spend more time on office politics than company goals.

In essence, if you're stuck with one of these Frankenbosses, you're left with two main strategies: ditch the boss, or help him/her get promoted away from you. (Becoming a whistleblower on a felon-to-be is a topic for another day.)

A third possibility - learning to get along with the aforementioned psychopath - is a mirage in the long term. Sure, you can do it temporarily, but the sheer stress of it will warp your personality and give you migraines.

For those who doubt me, just check out People sending messages to this site are already pre-postal, vandalizing their bosses' cars and plotting elaborate revenge scenarios. Don't let this happen to you.

However, some workers do choose the accommodation option, thinking if they become a special pet they can reap all the benefits. And they might for a while. But then their soul becomes corrupted, they link themselves to mercurial, heartless dictator and they are shocked - SHOCKED! - when they are tossed aside on a whim.

Doubters, put "The Devil Wears Prada" in your Netflix queue and take notes.

The main question to ask: Who can leave easier, you or your boss?

This means analyzing who has the mortgage, the kids in high school, the 20 years with the company that makes them reluctant to change. It also means taking a critical look at your professional skills.

How well-respected are you in your company or industry? How portable are your talents? How flexible are you about some big changes?

If you view your job as a steppingstone, it might be wisest to try to get along with the boss until you can depart. This does not mean chummy. This means acquiring some of the credentials you need to get out. Research different departments or employers, establish new contacts.

If you are settled comfortably and don't want to leave, maybe your Frankenboss has wider ambitions that you could further. Working to get him or her promoted (hopefully far, far away) could unite the two of you in a successful arranged marriage.

You could also create your own job-insurance plan by raising your profile at work. Volunteer to work on cross-department projects or mentoring programs, help organize the charity outing or run the softball team. If other people in the company think well of you, it could blunt a nasty evaluation or give you places to which you can safely flee.

Comment: After this valuable piece of advice, the reader might want to gather further information about psychopaths, since this is the only thing which can really protect you from your boss.

Cleckley says, for example:
[...] psychopathy is quite common in the community at large. [Cleckley] has collected some cases of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Some researchers see criminal psychopathy - often referred to as anti-social personality disorder - as an extreme of a "normal" personality dimension (or dimensions).


Being very efficient machines, like a computer, they are able to execute very complex routines designed to elicit from others support for what they want. In this way, many psychopaths are able to reach very high positions in life. It is only over time that their associates become aware of the fact that their climb up the ladder of success is predicated on violating the rights of others."Even when they are indifferent to the rights of their associates, they are often able to inspire feelings of trust and confidence."

In over 20 years of work, I have had two toxic bosses. One fired me to spite his superiors and a second refused to give me my wedding day off.

When I was a temporary worker in Denver, a former boss thought I was a spy sent in from New York headquarters. I replied as only a 27-year-old could.

"You don't have to send a spy," I said. "All you have to do is look in the computer to see how bad this bureau is."

The man was going to fire me regardless, it felt good to blurt out the truth. But his vindictiveness still cost me plenty - I had to move across the country and spend at least three years erasing his negative evaluation.

My next boss-from-Transylvania had a myopic devotion to company rules. He gave the groom and seven wedding guests the day off, because they had seniority. But the bride? No can do.

In the end, a co-worker switched schedules with me. I worked eight straight days on the overnight and emerged bleary-eyed Thursday morning. But I had Friday, Saturday and the next week off.

I can't remember much about the wedding, but I heard it was a blast.