The Psychological Leadership Games and the Pathology of Mistrust

In the organizational environment and not only, mistrust is felt in various forms, most likely due to the creative ways in which those who feel it has been abused in the past, especially by persons in formal positions of superiority or authority.


In my opinion, the biggest problems of the lack of trust are manifested in:

  • developing teams for performance,
  • the input that stakeholders are motivated to have in the groups they work with,
  • creative use of the potential of those involved in projects,
  • accurately and objectively establishing and evaluating the KPI (Key Performance Indicators).

A trap that many players face in the organizational environment is the political game played by bosses and the ambitious ones. How some are trying to behave in this situation is direct competition. Direct competition can be useful if it occurs among teams pursuing a clear goal. If the goal is not clear, it is not controlled and there is no team in the first instance but only one group, we can only speak about the root of all the evils in this issue: the comparison.

The comparison itself is not bad… when at first the right people are selected to do a certain job. The comparison itself is not bad… when it’s done by relating a person’s performances in the present to their performances in the past. The comparison itself is not bad… when employing performance analysis, it brings useful strategies to be implemented later on. In other words, when it helps to identify and learn, competition deserves to be encouraged. Instead, when used in the absence of clear and restricted objectives and criteria, comparison with others will come to manifest itself thus: “I don’t feel as special as the boss, therefore…”:

a) envy: ”I wish I felt just as special: I have to become a boss! I want to be great, too!”

b) spite (holos): ”I am spiteful because he is the boss; I’m not, and he reminds me of that every day. I feel so small!”

c) grudge (khatos): ”Someone has to take down/replace this bastard! I’m going to make him regret his command!”

d) hate (zacos): ”May the boss, his command, and all of this organization burn in hell”.

(keep reading ↓)

Chart by Irina Chiriță

Such mechanisms occur if and only if:

  • the actual causes that have led to certain effects (e.g. certain skills that make some employees obviously more profitable than others in a company) are ignored

  • there is a negative association between the power of the position and the interests of the person holding them (e.g. the contempt of some for others traveling in expensive cars)

  • the one who feels inferior agrees with the game of comparison is actually feeling inferior in the first instance and seeks to “adjust” the imbalance.

Thus, “to feel clever” is an aberration because cleverness is not felt (except for those who prefer the kinesthetic channel), but is an intellectual concept, objectively measured by using extremely precise psychometric instruments. Whenever someone tries, consciously or unconsciously, to feel clever, they express their emotional need for validation and possibly importance. (S)he wants to feel listened to, understood, and, mostly, special. In fact, it happens in this form because maybe:

  • those who cared for him/her in their childhood (caretakers – most often, parents and grandparents) didn’t give him/her enough importance for various reasons and/or

  • someone has abused this person in the past, something that was not understood, accepted, and especially forgiven, and/or

  • he/she believes that trust is something conditioned that comes from outside because that’s normal.

Thus, those who consider it normal for bosses to abuse power because this is how they feel special may be tempted to do so as a fulfillment of their need for validation. Those who dare not become bosses avoid promotion possibilities. They may choose to feel special because they “do not get into the pig’s trough”. Both groups satisfy their desire for superiority but not also the need for validation, because, in fact, they can only join forces with those who think alike (and that they have to protect themselves against because they do not really trust them).

Those who complain about not succeeding in reaching a goal because their bosses are very mean don’t actually have that goal because, if they did, they would reach it. In fact, the real objective is to destabilize authority and self-assert using a place of the negative control (“throwing the blame”) placed outwardly. The goals stated in this game are only instruments. If we want to know how to deal with superiority, the answer is the objective evaluation of the skills and performances, but this is used more as a kind of threat, as a kind of Damocles’ sword above those who look like “the cat that ate the canary”.

This problem is truly solved by self-confidence, and here we have other traps. Self-confidence is not some deifying omnipotent magical aura, but should naturally be a matter of skills that one has. Usually, one presumes that an organization should put together different complementary talents so that by working together they could achieve more than individually.

Marcus Victor Grant

Photo copyright © Irina Chiriță, 2018-present

Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2018-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Jocurile psihologice cu șefia și patologia neîncrederiil“  published initially by Marcus Victor Grant in Romanian on the 22nd of May 2019 on Discerne. The original version of this article has been considered the 8th best article in quality from all the articles written and published by me in 2019. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. 

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.

One thought on “The Psychological Leadership Games and the Pathology of Mistrust

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