A letter of hope for self-absorbed bosses

by  Jane Perdue  |  Leadership Development

Three nearly identical stories shared with me in just two days. Three stories of individual and/or group anguish, trauma, frustration, annoyance, confusion and heartbreak caused by narcissistic control-freak bosses.

Bosses of this self-absorbed ilk aren’t self-aware or open to feedback, so no amount of pixie dust will help them listen despite how much we have to tell them or want to help them.

Because you need your job and because your boss doesn’t listen to your opinion anyway, let’s try a different tack. Print the following letter, maybe change-up some of the facts to fit your situation, and place it on his or her desk. Perhaps you can enlist others in your organization to quietly participate because maybe, just maybe, if the feedback comes from enough angles and sources, perhaps their veil of self-importance and specialness can be pierced. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

Dear Boss,

Yesterday’s staff meeting was a tour de force. You were articulate and forceful as you pointed out the shortcomings of each department. I was awed by how you controlled the meeting.

In working for you, I’ve learned how much you dislike being out of the loop and not having all the facts readily available. The purpose of my letter is to bring some facts to your attention. That way, you’ll have a complete picture of the situation and perhaps know better how to handle the problems.  Here goes.

• You were upset that marketing hadn’t launched the new campaign. What you aren’t aware of is that you said you wanted to approve the plan before it went live. The file is on your desk and in your email. It’s been there for two weeks, and you’ve been too busy to look at it.

You said it was inconceivable that hiring was so far behind schedule. You’re most right that our ability to serve our customers has been compromised by the delays. But the secret behind the hiring backlog is that you fired the HR lead for unacceptable performance because he had suggested you would benefit from working with an executive coach.

You accurately pointed out that operations and engineering aren’t working together and, in fact, are working to undermine the other.  That’s regrettably happening since you pitted one against the other when you blamed the department heads for last quarter’s performance falling short of projections and threatened to fire them.

Why am I sharing these facts via an anonymous letter instead of talking to you? There are lots of reasons:  you’ve made it clear you don’t value my opinion or what your team thinks; we all saw what happened to the HR lead who just wanted to help you; and I really, really care about this company and want it to succeed.

I know how the CEO views you is important to you. Here’s your chance to fix some problems in your division and invest in some personal development before it’s too late, and his good opinion of you changes. If we succeed, you succeed, too; but if we fail, so do you and I know that’s something you never want to have happen (and neither do I).

With hope,

An employee concerned for the future

Image credit:  Phil’s Philosophy

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About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mike Henry  |  09 Nov 2012  |  Reply

So, this is where that letter I got last week came from. We need to talk!

:-) Mike…

Jane Perdue  |  10 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the super-sized chuckle, Mike!

John Hoskins  |  10 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Too funny and so true! lol

Jane Perdue  |  10 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, John! Was feeling a bit snarky the day I penned this one!

Kenneth  |  10 Nov 2012  |  Reply

What a very precise assessment of “that boss” we’ve all had at one time or another. Thanks for the laugh. (If my current boss happens to see this, I’m not talking about you. :) )

Jane Perdue  |  11 Nov 2012  |  Reply

Kenneth — so glad you enjoyed a chuckle, and I’ve got your back if your boss starts asking questions!

David M. Dye  |  14 Nov 2012  |  Reply


Thanks for the fun tongue-in-cheek piece. I know so many people who would gladly deliver such an anonymous letter.

Part of the character leadership revolution will require us all to help change cultures to where this behavior is no longer rewarded for very long.

It is snarky…and I enjoyed it immensely :)

Take care,


Jane Perdue  |  15 Nov 2012  |  Reply

David —

I’m delighted you’re part of the LCG revolution to change how leadership is practiced, defined, compensated and rewarded because it’s certainly time for a new model. But sometimes it’s fun to be a bit cheeky about eating the 800-pound gorilla. Thanks much for your kind words!


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