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The Freddy Krueger Boss

Freddy Krueger google images

Halloween is just around the corner! Many of us remember “Freddy”–the winner of the Best Villain award in 2010 at the Scream Awards. Wikipedia describes Freddy as a “vengeful spirit who attacks his victims from within their dreams”.  Scary!!!

Have you ever worked for a Freddy?

Over my years as a coach and consultant, I’ve heard about many so called Freddys in the workplace:

  • Angry . . . prone to explosions
  • Yells at people
  • Uses put-downs and sarcasm to belittle people
  • Slams fist on table to show frustration
  • Uses silence and angry facial expressions
  • Slams things
  • Unpredictable . . . never know when the next outburst might occur

How do they get away with this?

It intrigues me that bosses (I won’t call them leaders) stay in their jobs with such behavior today.  When asked what it’s like to work for a boss like this people report that they:
  • Try to avoid being around them
  • Avoid offering ideas during meetings or brainstorming for fear of another attack
  • Always feel on the defensive–ready to defend themselves
  •  Often feel down, sick or depressed thinking about going to work
  • Think about finding another job

Can a Freddy change?

The short answer is yes . . . with tons of effort and a sincere willingness to change.  Is it easy?  Definitely not!  It’s like asking a zebra to change its stripes.

Having coached more than just a few individuals like this, I’ve uncovered some fascinating insights:

  • Sometimes don’t realize the impact they’re having on other people (blind spot)
  • Sometimes they are aware . . . but simply don’t know how to change
  • They are extremely driven–have extremely little patience for anyone who doesn’t “get it”
  • They have gotten away with this behavior for a long time–it’s been reinforced by not getting fired or disciplined
    • (In fact sometimes promoted because they get results!)
  • They grew up in a family where explosive behavior was the norm

Suggested next steps

The first step is to determine who is initiating the coaching . . . Freddy or Freddy’s boss?  Is there an understanding as to why coaching is needed?  Is there agreement as to the hoped for outcomes of the coaching?

Some critical next steps:

  • Administer only the best assessments for this type of difficult behavior
  • Identify the key stakeholders and conduct verbal 360 interviews with them to gather examples, stories, and learn about the impact the behavior is having on the team, other departments, the organization, customers and others
  • Determine if the situation is a true coaching need or if a referral to a mental health professional is recommended
    • I’ve worked with individuals who have benefited from both . . . coaching as well as therapy
  • Meet frequently in the beginning of the engagement–be available between coaching sessions by phone or email
  • Use the best coaching skills–unconditional regard is important


For more information, please contact me:






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