Susan J. Fowler, a former Uber engineer, wrote a blog post that’s making a news splash for its description of sexual harassment she and other women were subjected to at the company — a problem that, in a classically abusive fashion, was repeatedly minimized, ignored, and eventually blamed on her.
Her story is notable not just (ha) for the sexual harassment she endured on the job, but also for a depiction of what is or should be already recognized as a toxic workplace culture that develops in any organizations — families, businesses, countries — run by character defective individuals: narcissists, psychopaths, and malignant narcissists (narcissistic psychopaths).
Here’s what Susan writes about working at Uber, aside from its coddling of sexual predators:
In the background, there was a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job. No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: they boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like. I remember countless meetings with my managers and skip-levels where I would sit there, not saying anything, and the manager would be boasting about finding favor with their skip-level and that I should expect them to have their manager’s job within a quarter or two. I also remember a very disturbing team meeting in which one of the directors boasted to our team that he had withheld business-critical information from one of the executives so that he could curry favor with one of the other executives (and, he told us with a smile on his face, it worked!).
The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right, OKRs were changed multiple times each quarter, nobody knew what our organizational priorities would be one day to the next, and very little ever got done. We all lived under fear that our teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on yet another new project with an impossible deadline. It was an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos.
This is a spot-on description of what goes on in any human enterprise led by narcissists and psychopaths, and that includes our disorganized and inept White House — or as the King of Chaos puts it, “a fine-tuned machine.”
As we know by now — and see proven daily on a national and international stage — narcissistic psychopaths are inherently destructive — they cannot help it as their character defect makes it impossible for them to recognize and create anything of value. Driven by compulsion to meet their own primitive goals — power, greed, sex, and adulation, in varying order of importance depending on circumstances — and unencumbered by empathy, guilt and shame that would give rise to inhibitions and scruples, they use other people as objects of their need- and wish-fulfillment.
Normal people cannot function within such organizations for long, and their attempts to fit in will lead to a host of negative mental and physical problems like poor job satisfaction, bad work behaviors, high levels of stress, demoralization, depression and even suicidality. Their attempts to address the organization’s toxic culture will be met with hostility and revenge, since hell has no fury like a narcissist scorned.
In a recently published study, Abigail Phillips and her colleagues from Alliance Manchester Business School, found out that
as the levels of psychopathy and narcissism increased among leaders, so too did the prevalence of workplace bullying, counterproductive work behaviour, job dissatisfaction, psychological distress and depression among subordinate employees.
Interestingly, they also discovered that the toxicity of the character defective bosses infected the whole workplace by normalizing bullying among employees. Compare this again with the effect that our Narcissistic Psychopath-in-Chief has not only on his staff but the entire country.
It goes without saying, of course, that any organizations run by narcissistic psychopaths and their ilk will be permeated with misogyny, which is a “natural” feature of this character defect. Sexual harassment is nearly guaranteed.
Ian Hughes of Disordered World has more on narcissistic bosses.
5 thoughts on “Uber Narcissists at Work”
I’ve found this same behavior in many successful massive corporations in which the smaller individuals have their individual power struggles on their path upward. I remember my first experience at age 18 working for a big box store. My boss was a narcissistic dip-shit who used his power to sleep with any girl he could (while promising promotion to these desperate minimum wage employees) and diminishing those who didn’t go along. I was one of those who despised and opposed him.
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A narcissistic dip-shit. I like it. Sounds just about right. These DS’s do it because they know they can get away with doing it.
What did you do?
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Well, it wasn’t the most brilliant moment of my life. I was 18 and working at Sears. I hated the job, though it did teach me a lot, and it enabled me to live on my own. It wasn’t until I had to go to work immediately after hearing that my closest friend committed suicide that things took place. I had to work, because I was starving and had rent to pay and average grades in college which wasn’t enough for scholarships. He found me crying and said, “I heard your friend offed himself. I knew someone who did that once. People who do that sort of thing deserve to die.” I didn’t say anything, because I was 18. I just quit and made sure everyone knew just what this guy was up to. My karma was getting hired on to a much better job (college library clerk) by a person who received an excellent deal at Sears because I broke the rules and told her about an upcoming sale that would save her over $100 the very next day. She was my next boss and far better.
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Ha! The karmic laws of the Universe work as they should.
Sorry to hear about your closest friend’s suicide.
I would say that quitting and letting others know how abusive Mr. Boss is was a good choice.
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