Questions & Answers

How do you resolve conflict or deal with difficult situations on the job? Every week our expert Dr. Geertje Tutschka will answer your questions.

My boss’s behavior is strange and unpredictable. Sometimes he scares me. What do I do if he has serious psychological problems?

When different characters, skills, and interests collide in the work environment, friction is inevitable – especially when time pressure reduces rest and recovery phases and financial dependencies are involved.

However, if the behavior of your boss repeatedly triggers feelings of fear and distress in you, you should not ignore them. Your feelings are an important indicator.

A first step can be to get an objective picture by observing the behavior over a longer period of time (maximum four weeks) in different situations and especially in relation to others. Here it can help to take notes since these will be, in retrospect, more accurate than one’s own memory after some time.

If the difficult behavior continues and a discussion with him is no longer possible due to the disturbing, anxiety-laden situation, a trusted colleague should be engaged and/or someone  independent in a higher rank in the organization should be informed.

Question/comment of a reader:

The topic itself is very interesting. I believe leading a team is a difficult job and many people out there face such psychological problems that they aren’t even aware of. Unfortunately, the article was a little short. I would like to know what else I can do if no colleague can/wants to help. It’s very difficult and depends on every individual case, but isn’t there more to advise?

If no colleague can help and the way to the higher hierarchical level is also blocked, the following can still be recommended:

ask yourself who is most affected by the difficult behavior of the boss – the person responsible for this in the company would be your next contact person.

For instance: 

  • If the boss is a choleric person who yells at the employees and puts them under extreme psychological pressure, they are particularly harmful in their management function, so then HR would be the contact person. After all, it damages the most valuable capital of the company – the employees – who either do not give their best, call in sick, or even resign.
  • If the boss is someone who takes incalculable financial risks due to their difficult behavior, or perhaps even can no longer assess the seriousness of the situation for the company itself, the management is the contact person for the impending risks for the company. 
  • If the boss is totally overwhelmed with work and unfinished orders and customer enquiries pile up, the management would also be the contact, as long as the next hierarchy level or the sales department does not intervene here.

Please note that your next level information should always be formulated as neutrally and objectively with as much evidence as possible. A recommendation on your part can be made, but should focus on the solution of the problem and not primarily focus on the personality of the boss.



Geertje Tutschka is the founder and CEO of CLP (Consulting for Legal Professionals), which supports lawyers in their careers around the world with here 25 years of expertise as a corporate lawyer and attorney in Germany, Austria, and the US. Her most relevant topic is leadership. The mother of three daughters is the author of numerous specialist books. Since 2016, she has led the German chapter of the International Coach Federation, the world’s largest association of professional coaches.