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My boss is really a brilliant guy, gutsy, full of ideas and very driven. Lately he has been exhibiting a very irrational behavior, squandering deals, blaming everybody, and we are beginning to lose big customers. I've seen bipolar people before and it seems pretty clear to me (I am not a doctor so I can't say for sure)

How should one deal with this situation? Try to get help or just go work somewhere else?

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What's the particular behavior that's "bipolar"? Does he often overpromise during "manic" episodes, end deals during depressive episodes...? It's hard to tell what you mean by the term –  Rarity Jun 2 '12 at 12:58
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I mean exactly what it is - bipolar disorder manifests itself for bouts of mania and depression. He definitely over-promises and many times we are stuck having to solve problems that sometimes are impossible so we don't deliver. Another sign - it's all about winning the deal, regardless if we are going to make money on it or not. –  user1220 Jun 2 '12 at 18:16
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maybe he asked for a raised and he wasnt given one and now he is really upset and stop caring about a good performer, that happens all the time –  user1544 Jul 13 '12 at 15:05
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There may be a problem but i doubt it is what you are diagnosing. I've encountered too many non-professional health diagnoses ('I read the symptoms on the Internet and it described them exactly') and they were mostly incorrect. My guess is the person has some other problems (business? money? personal?) or some drama in their life. It would be much easier to start a discussion about that than about sensitive health issues. –  james Jul 13 '12 at 16:50
    
How was this situation resolved (if it was) ? Did you confront your boss about this ? Did you quit ? What happened ? –  Radu Murzea Mar 17 at 15:07
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First let me say that this is a difficult situation, and you don't know for sure if bipolar is the cause of your boss's unusual and counterproductive behavior. Regardless of the cause, the way to respond will be similar and will vary a lot depending on other aspects of each unique case.

It sounds like you suspect your boss is either untreated or the treatment is not working, because the behaviot is affecting your boss's ability to perform his job to his normal standards.

You ask whether to try to get help or to just work someplace else. The answer depends a lot on other aspects of the boss and your relationship with him. I'd suggest thinking through the following questions to decide if you should try to gently approach the issue, or just move on:

  • Does your boss respond well to constructive feedback?
  • Does he try to make changes when a problem is identified?
  • Do you have a strong channel of communication with him?
  • If this were about another employee rather than him directly, would he respond reasonably to such concerns?
  • Are there others in the company you can go to with your concerns?
  • Is there a precedent in your workplace for employee feedback on working environment or company policies and practices?

If you can think of a less significant situation that has been handled poorly or ignored, I wouldn't hold out hope that this one will be handled well. I've been in situations before where I've tried to address issues but the truth is that the management just does not have the skill or motivation to deal with complex and sensitive issues such as the one you describe, and I've never doubted that moving on was the right thing to do.

However, if the company is reasonable in other respects and deals with smaller issues well, and you have a good relationship with your boss, then it may make sense to try to discuss your concerns with your boss. Perhaps broach the subject by first stating your admiration and respect, and then gently expressing concern that something is amiss because recent behavior has been so inconsistent.

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Thank you for the thoughtful answer. It didn't use to be like this, but now even the other senior partner gets its share of rage and dressing downs. He cannot deal with any feedback, and even when third parties are invited to help if they come up with anything negative about how the business is being ran he dismisses them. The telltale sign for me is - everybody else is at fault even though we have unanimity in our opinion that it is not the case. –  user1220 Jun 2 '12 at 2:04
    
I'm sorry to say that doesnt sound good. Possibly talk to the other senior partner about your concerns and assess whether he or she is willing to attempt to broach the issue. If the other partner won't address it either, it may well be time for you to find a greener pasture. –  Tech Lover in NYC Jun 2 '12 at 2:16
    
Oh boy... I have been thinking about it, it is hard to do that after so many years. I have been reading about bipolar disease and to my astonishment the symptoms of mania episodes are all there. The other senior partner at meetings looks like a deer in the headlights and later he doesn't have the energy to do anything. I guess it is time to dust off my resume. –  user1220 Jun 2 '12 at 2:24
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Do keep in mind that the other senior partner may not have the same knowledge of bipolar disorder that you now do. If you think they would consider the information honestly, it might be good to talk to them (while also working on plan B), in case they are able to discuss the concerns with their partner and suggest treatment. It would be a good thing to do, but may not help anyhow because while a person is in a manic phase it is very hard to convince them anything is "wrong" and needs to be treated - they often feel energized and fearless. –  Tech Lover in NYC Jun 3 '12 at 16:49
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I don't know if a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder is the right answer, since it sounds like both senior partners are desperate and depressed because business is bad. When there is no work at all, contracts that simply break even or aren't as much of a loss as having no work seem appealing. The burden of responsibility for one's employee's welfare can be crushing, especially when things aren't going well. –  David Navarre Jul 23 '12 at 14:30
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