Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Dragon Complex: Strategies for Identifying and Conquering Workplace Abuse by Winnifred Taylor, Patrick C. Dorin and John Taylor

This one was on loan from my sister-in-law, and is all about how to identify, deal with or escape abusive bosses. The authors call them Dragons, those that protect them Doorkeepers, victims who are abused and stay Doormats, and victims who are abused and forced out Dragon Food. The premise for the loan was that the boss at my last job was a Dragon and I was Dragon Food and, although I think there are certainly some similarities between my situation and the situations described in the book, I’m not sure what happened to me can accurately be compared to the hypothesis that forms the basis of this book. The best stuff came from the Introduction:

Marilyn worked for a large defense contractor. She had to work long hours and take work home evenings and weekends to appease her boss, who claimed that her work was consistently below par. She eventually suffered a breakdown and was promptly replaced.

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Employees, management, or human resources personnel may not even be aware that the company has Dragons in its midst until the toll of low productivity, broken careers, and lost opportunities becomes overwhelming. By that time, the Dragon has usually moved on.

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Dragons enjoy undermining the careers of any employees who are perceived as threats and/or will not be part of inappropriate activities. Employees may be targeted because of their high knowledge levels, positive working relationships with staff, customers and clients, progressive suggestions, questioning of new or unspoken business practices, or pointing out potential problems.

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Abusive bosses are cunning enough to know that they can’t just fire productive people. It would make the abusive bosses look foolish. Therefore, they have a field day creating a case for dismissal under the guise that it is “good for the company.” The confused victims, blaming job stress, often accept the guilt for their perceived and/or trumped-up “failures” without question, while the abuser feels victorious.

The Dragons described in this book are really nasty. They want their victims to engage in illegal activities, unethical behavior, or sexual escapades. They’re monsters—like Hillary Clinton. Nothing like that ever happened to me at my old place of work. But I do believe my old boss did exhibit some Dragon behavior. I believe it is her and her leadership that is creating the employee turnover there, and I believe some of her actions in this regard are calculated and deliberate. The simplest way to put it is to say that she does not fire people. She makes life so difficult for them that they quit.

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