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Stopping a Petty Tyrant with Kindness

I was familiar with the concept of a “petty tyrant”, an impossible person in an authoritarian position which one has to deal with in life. I first read about it in the spiritual books of Carlos Castaneda. I didn’t realize, however, that one day it was to be one of my best teachings.

I had a job where my boss was extremely difficult. He was a very powerful person and, at the same time, he felt victimized. It was a complicated situation. He felt his job in life was to play “bad cop/bad cop” and insisted we play it with him. He would speak badly to, and about, everyone. He would direct us to say unbelievable things to our customers and his motto was “the vendor is always right.” I know it sounds crazy, and it was. Some people were unable to deal with him and subsequently left. I tried to find another job, but with tough economic times it wasn’t easy to find anything that fit my talents and financial needs.

You would never know what mood he would be in when you entered his office. When his mood was dark, you could almost see the light sucked out of the room.  You can imagine how scary this was sometimes. I would avoid him at all costs but I didn’t want to feel this way. I didn’t want to allow him to have this power over me but it was it was very difficult to overcome these feelings. “He was the unreasonable one. Why did I have to deal with it?”  I found myself coming up with creative and novel ways I could survive an untenable situation. At first, I would mostly hide in my office, staying out of his way.

One day he showed up in my office and yelled at me. I just couldn’t take it anymore so I yelled back. Whoa! The look of fear on his face was shocking. It was in that moment I realized he was just a bully who was just as scared of me as I thought I was of him. I’m not sure what made me do it, but the next moment I was incredibly kind to him and he began to soften. (Don’t get excited; he didn’t really change.) It was in that moment that I learned what a powerful weapon kindness can be. It can stop even a tyrant in his tracks, if only for a moment.

N.G. North Hollywood, CA

P.S. I finally got another job.


One Response

  • Shanti M says:

    I can relate to this! Although my boss is more of a driven workaholic than a tyrant, I find myself trying to avoid him and hide, but that’s challenging since he’s on the other side of the wall even as I write this!
    I find myself feeling like a child, in fear of “getting in trouble” even though I know I do a good job. I really want something to shift, and since no other jobs have appeared on the horizon yet, I guess I just need to approach each moment with kindness and trust that things will work out.