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"My boss is a psychopath". It is such a common complaint that is has become a cliché, but this is because there are some psychological disorders that work very nicely in clearing a career path to the top.

Psychopaths, narcissists and machiavellians are known as the "dark triad" in leadership. They can be charming, charismatic and convincing (when they need you) and they project the sort of self-confidence and certainty that is reassuring in a chaotic world, says leadership and culture consultant, Quentin Jones.

While one per cent of the general population is psychopathic, it is four times that percentage among CEOs, according to research. These people are drawn to positions of power and fame and, all too often, our organisations reward them despite the bullying and destruction they leave in their wakes, says Jones, the managing director of CLS360.

Management writers will say you can deal with a bully by confronting them, or telling management or human resources - which may work if you are not dealing with a boss. A truly malevolent personality will chew you up and spit out your remains with distain.

Jones says the "real world" strategy is to get out. Find a new job. But if you can't do that, then you need street-wise survival skills to keep you going until you can either manage your exit strategy or engineer theirs.

But be careful: Jones tells of one client who decided to escalate the issue to his boss' boss: "The next thing he knew, he was being blamed for the problem and the two have joined forces". Three years later, despite finding another job, this man was still worse off psychologically, emotionally and financially.

In terms of character types, psychopaths are low on empathy, bold aggressive, unemotional and lack conscience. Machiavellians manipulate other and are masters of office politics, at the expense of their organisation.

There is a separate test for narcissists: Step one: Take a moment to think about yourself. Step two: If you made it to Step two, you are not a narcissist

1. Badmouth bandits: Character assassination is particularly popular with bad bosses who like to make themselves look good by pointing out how hopeless their direct reports are.

Your first defence is to maintain your own reputation, says Jones. Learn the art of self-promotion and make sure your boss and your boss' boss know about your wins at work.

"Get in touch with your inner narcissist," advises Jones. That whole honesty humility stuff won't be doing you any favours when your reputation is being assaulted. Use every informal corridor or elevation interaction with influential people as an opportunity to tell them how well your project is going (if, in fact, it is).

2. Don't be a victim: Even if it is your boss giving you hell, they will settle a bit if they think you are making them look good. So, make sure they know you are a good performer and do the best job that you can. "They will take lion's share of the credit," warns Jones, but you are just stalling to get them off your back until you can move on somewhere better.

3. Don't be a hero: This is hard to hear, but Jones says it almost always ends badly for the whistleblower. "Be very wary about making a formal complaint, as anonymity in not always assured and retribution very likely to follow."

Be careful before you take it to HR and, first, make sure they are not intimidated by your tormentor or part of the problem, he says.

You also need to do your research before taking the issue to your boss' boss. How close are they? The "dark triad" are great at managing up and kicking down.

4. Make use of, and be wary of, performance review processes: If you suspect this will be the battleground for your career, make sure you have as much hard evidence as possible to show you are competent - even excellent. The "dark triad" are masters of distorting reality and may have a convincing case against you.

If your performance review is being conducted by your tormentor, leave your attitude and ego at the door. "If you are playing for a longer game, you may have to suck it up and not react to it," says Jones.

If your boss is a psychopath, a challenge may make them want to annihilate you. A narcissist will want praise and, if you criticise a machiavellian, they will store it away and use it to attack you later.

5. Keep it in writing: Jones advises that you document every interaction with your tormentor and - this is important - don't do it on company equipment. Hand-written notes will be just as effective if lawyers get involved and are less likely to disappear if your machiavellian boss confiscates your computer and phone.

If nothing else, writing it down can be a kind of therapy as you plot your escape.

6. Duck and weave: Avoid confrontation by minimising contact. This can be easier to do if you are in one of those modern offices where you choose a new desk every day.

7. Don't rise to the bait: "Avoid the drama," says Jones. "Stay in a problem-solving mindset. What are the facts? What are we trying to achieve?". If you can manage your own emotions and be aware of what the other person is doing, you may avoid becoming a victim.

Jones also suggests some mindfulness training and meditation to handle the stress.

8. Don't leave in a blaze of fury: "If you have to leave, do so on good terms," Jones says. "Don't slam the door and berate him or her, which is probably your instinct. You may want to slap them as you walk out the door, sabotage his car, slash his tyres, but the reputation damage will go back to you. They are probably better at managing their reputations than you are."

9. Move on, remembering the lessons: Do some proper checking on your next workplace. Ask among your LinkedIn and social networks to see if anyone knows what it is like to work for that company, or in that department. And enjoy your new life.