Overbearing, condescending, domineering and arrogant. Are these just some of the words you could use to describe your boss? The following list is a further list of symptoms of an individual with an interesting disorder called Hubris Syndrome. Hubris refers to one in a high position experiencing a psychological state of high superiority to others and perceiving others to be highly inferior.

Hubris creates a perception of oneself as a giant and others as minions. This distorts the individual’s sense of goals and decisions. – Christoph Loch

This is not a recognised psychiatric condition, however many symptoms are similar to Narcissistic personality disorder and they are specifically identified in people of high positions in the corporate working world whom their sense of power can cause catastrophic judgement and decision errors.

Can you recognise these?

  • They seek self-glorification
  • Act to enhance personal standing
  • Are excessively conscious of their own image
  • Display messianic tendencies
  • Believe “I am the organisation”
  • Use the royal “we”
  • Have excessive confidence in their own judgements and are contemptuous of others’ opinions
  • Display exaggerated self-belief
  • Feel they’re accountable only to history
  • Believe unshakably that they will be vindicated
  • Are out of touch, isolated
  • Are restless, reckless & impulsive
  • Are impractical – overlooking detail and possible unwanted outcomes
  • Implement incompetently – fail to attend to details through excessive self-confidence*.

But what causes one person in a position of power to acquire these set of symptoms and another to not? What causes individuals to become intoxicated with power that then destroys relationships, work morale and healthy decision making? Not everyone who assumes a position of power manifests these ugly characteristics.

Power can provide validation of who you are in the world. With Power, one acquires respect, adoration and even fear from others. These responses are what can give the person with the position of power a distorted sense of self-worth and self-importance which can, to certain individuals, manifest into the symptoms and behaviours described above.

Those individuals who are prone to display such behaviours at work are those who in fact have the lowest sense of self worth to begin with. As the saying goes; “the empty vessel makes the loudest noise”. Now it may be hard to believe because of the extraordinary contrasting display of behaviour, that is far from the typical “battered wife syndrome” that can characterise low self-worth.

However it is important for you to understand, that in order to look and display oneself as superior, one must be lacking self-importance to begin with. If one already felt content within, there would be no subconscious drive to create such professional discord and manipulation in pursuance of maintaining their self-importance.

Those with Hubris symptoms and Narcissistic personality disorders often have a fractured sense of self-worth which stems from their upbringing. A common finding with a Narcissist’s childhood is that they were only valued for what they produced, achieved or looked like (level of attractiveness), hence creating a psychological dynamic of “if I do X I get rewarded”. They therefore rely on their ability to charm and perform, to be liked and adored, but internally experience a sense of lack of self-love, having not experienced being loved for who they are intrinsically. So you can see that what you see at work is just the surface level behaviour of a deeper and much more subconscious issue of what encompasses Hubris Syndrome. Understanding the subconscious driver for these behaviours does not justify it, however can make it easier for co-workers to function and manage with such personalities.


*‘Hubris Syndrome: An acquired personality disorder? ‘A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years’, David Owen and Jonathan Davidson, Brain 2009: 132; 1396-1406


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