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Psycho boss uses the Extinction Technique

One of my clients has what I believe is a psychopathic boss.

They were Slack-messaging each other and the boss asked him to attend a pointless meeting, and my client said something innocuous like, “Nah, that meeting isn’t for me, I’ll pass.”

Bear in mind that my client is one of the highest performers in his company and an absolutely asset to the team. The boss needs him more than he needs his boss.

The boss then sends him a private message saying, “So what, you don’t want to do this job anymore?!”

And this is what we call the Extinction Technique.

It’s essentially a huge overreaction to even the smallest piece of resistance, and it’s a psychopath / narcissist tactic to make disagreement just so horrific that you won’t bother to do it again.

You have probably had this happen to you before. Like having a partner who threatens to leave you every time something gets a bit rough for them, or a parent who screams and threatens when you talk back to them, or a friend who ghosts you for weeks if you ever dare to give them negative feedback.

The key to dealing with this technique is to call it out, and that’s the key to dealing with all manipulation.

You say, “That is an extreme reaction, I’m going to have to consider my options here given that you’re clearly unable to talk this through respectfully.”

But unlike dealing with lesser forms of manipulation, it’s important that you take quite strong enforcement whenever someone uses the Extinction Technique – maybe even cut them out of your life completely – because it is a dangerously accurate sign that you’re dealing with someone who is psychologically toxic.

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One Response

  1. A helpful frame in this situation is to see it as a bluff, like a poker player going all in on a pair of 3s. It’s a sign that they have no real power.

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