Everyone's convinced that their own boss exhibits psychopathic tendencies, and studies have shown that the most unstable do often end up in boardrooms instead of behind bars.
Now however, science has finally come up with a solution to cope with truly horrible bosses. Unfortunately it involves avoiding dealing with them face to face, something easier said than done.
In The Dark Side of Negotiation, a study by the University of British Columbia, 200 students were assessed on their seriously shady sounding 'dark triad' qualities – otherwise known as the ability to empathise, powers of manipulation and levels of self-obsessiveness. When the students were later asked to take part in both face to face and virtual negotiations, the most psychopathic subjects fared much worse in the negotiations carried out over messenger.
This might be because psychopaths can't exploit their opponents' weaknesses online, or that their intimidating language just comes across as hostile without a disarming grin and firm handshake to back it up.
University of British Columbia professor Michael Woodworth summed it up: "Once you remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the equation, the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier... it is very likely that the qualities that allow these people to successfully charm, manipulate, intimidate or exploit others appear to require a live, in-person audience."
So there's no easy way to avoid a Mexican standoff in a meeting, but the next time you're building up to asking for that hard earned raise, maybe try doing it over email before knocking on the door of your boss's office. Just don't blame science if you get a paperweight flying across the office in response.