Toxicity of the Intoxicated

When people are given the legitimate authority associated with a position in an organization’s (management) hierarchy, they are also necessarily entrusted with the development of those over whom they have been given formal authority.  Sadly some become intoxicated with exercising power over others that they deny and ignore the responsibility for the care and concern of others.  Upholding this latter responsibility is in large measure what separates the good leaders from the bad.

What concerns these irresponsible people is the egoic ‘me’, where their ‘I-We’ nature is completely disregarded, and with it so too is leadership. The extreme ones of this kind even see him/her self as an object, referring to them self as the title of the position—yes talking in the third person about him/her self, as if he/she is the position. Not only do they objectify others, they do the same to them self: Talk about alienation from one’s humanness!

Such people are forever striving to maintain a dominant position and control over everything and everybody—I am sure you’ve experienced this kind of person.  Moreover, this type of individual defines him/herself self, not in relation to his/her essential humanness but in relation to his/her trappings (i.e. position and possessions).

According to theoretical physicist Fred Alan Wolf, based on Einstein’s formula E = mc2, matter is ‘trapped light’—hence the use of the word trappings.  Thus, from this perspective, fear can be seen as resulting from restricting (human) energy to be within quite rigid and definite boundaries.  Accordingly, when people feel trapped fear emerges.

Consequently, when an individual clings to or forms an attachment to that which is material or concretized—like positions and possessions—he/she inevitably becomes fearful of losing these things.  To these individuals the things to which they are attached are them!  Sadly with external referencing ones sense of self is unavoidably always in question. Thus, the egocentric individual is forever fearful of losing what he/she has—it is all about what’s ‘mine’ because what’s ‘mine’ defines ‘me’.

This constant fear of loss brings on feelings of insecurity, aloneness, separateness, powerlessness and insignificance, which the ego must quell.  With individuals in positions of authority, among all the ‘isms’ to choose among to assuage these feelings, it is usually authoritarianism.  It is the drug of choice upon which they become quite dependent.  It is their way to intoxication and the numbing of their feelings.

Further, by exercising power over others they satisfy the human need to relate to others in a perverse way by creating co-dependent relationships. Understandably, they prefer employees who are willing to submit to their dominance—boot-lickers, yes-men and yes-women, but definitely not independent free thinkers.  Independent free thinkers are their enemy!

Moreover, the egoic ‘me’ tends to resist any change that threatens the precarious image of self that they have built.  Fear of and opposition to a different reality often flows out of a concern that their ego-centered needs will not be met and that a different reality–with its different set of references–will change who they are.  Therefore such people oppose any idea suggestive of a change in the way things are, since it is synonymous with the way they are.  So what does this way of managing (and way-of-being) do to those who work under the control of an egoic individual?

Toxic Environment

Though they work in a culture of fear, individuals see themselves as cooperative.  They couldn’t bear to see it as it is and as they are—conforming, co-dependent and cowering to irrational authority.   If they did they would leave or rebel.

The need for relatedness, as it is with all inherent human needs, must be satisfied in a way that advances the realization of peoples’ potential. The human spirit must be free to express him/her self.  However, in a fear-laden environment people are not free to relate productively; to be creative, to think beyond what is, to release the creative energy that lies within.  Just like when a stream is inhibited from flowing it loses its ability to self-purify becoming toxic to life, so too it is with the human spirit.

The more one exercises power over others, the more others are co-dependent, and the more toxic the organization’s environment becomes to the human spirit—it is a crime against humanity. Our inherent needs must be satisfied in a way that enables us to live life fully awake and free—not deadened in co-dependent or servile relationships.

For people to develop there must be a possibility of change.  The very idea of development requires it!  So if change is not possible, then neither is development.  Thus, if people aren’t allowed to develop then there is absolutely no hope for the organization to do so.  Obviously inhumane treatment of people doesn’t benefit the long-term prospects of the business enterprise either.

Giving a shallow individual legitimate organizational power is tantamount to putting a sharp object in the hands of a child—clearly an irresponsible act.  Accordingly, one has to wonder about those who place such shallow individuals in responsible positions.  What does it say about those who enable shallow people to pollute the organization’s environment?  Are they not complicit in the crime?  How prevelant is this in your experience?

13 thoughts on “Toxicity of the Intoxicated

  1. Gregory, I completely agree with you on this. People who allow that to go on, with all of its pernicious side effects, are just as guilty as those who are intoxicated with the elixir of power.

    • Rick ‘elixir of power’ is a nice way of saying it. Am I correct in assuming you’ve experienced such people?

  2. I think it’s a great article; it’s difficult though to do something against those people. As they are so obsessed by the power, they normally get it and they usually have chameleonlike behaviors towards the employees and their own superiors. Their superiors have no idea of how they treat the people who works for them. Plus, for a company one boss brings in profit = a good professional…. so, no more comments!

    • Yes it is difficult, especially if all that his/her superior cares about is whether the department/division is profitable. What most superiors don’t think about is: 1) how are people treated; and 2) how much more profitable it could be if the toxic boss was removed and the people were enabled to be collaborative and synergistic.

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