Fantasising About Killing Your Boss Is Normal, Says Leading Psychologist

by : Charlie Cocksedge on : 07 Jun 2019 12:29
horrible bossesSony Pictures/Warner Bros.

It turns out, fantasising about killing your boss is fairly normal, and may suggest you’re merely more advanced in evolutionary terms.

According to a leading psychologist from University College London, more than half of employees have, at one time or another, imagined killing a person they know. However, the good news is this makes them less likely to carry out the act.


This is because rehearsing the details of the deadly act in their mind reminds people of the dire consequences, and therefore puts them off doing it.

charlie from It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaFX

Conversely, if those who fantasise about it more are less likely go through with it – is it the quiet ones we need to look out for?

According to research by Dr Julia Shaw, from UCL, a common subject of murder fantasies are employers and ex-partners, as the Independent.ie reports.


Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Dr Shaw said:

Most of us don’t engage in murder ever, luckily. Murder fantasies are an empathy exercise.

You think things through, you imagine what the consequences would be, you imagine what it might be like to go through with it – and guess what your decision generally is? ‘I don’t want to do that, because those are not the consequences I would like’.

ricky gervais in the officeBBC

Dr Shaw also said it can be wrong to describe most murderers as ‘evil’, because their actions are often the result of a loss of control or a one-off mistake.


Evolutionarily speaking, some psychologists suggest fantasising about killing someone is a positive step forward in human advancement. It suggests people have learned to adapt and think about the consequences more, rather than thoughtlessly going through with the act as our ancestors may have done.

While it may sound like the odd murder day dream is harmless, other studies have suggested overthinking it could be damaging to your own health.

steve carrell in the officeNBC

Kai-Tak Poon, a psychology professor at the Education University of Hong Kong, conducted a study which involved one group participants fantasising about doing something violent to someone they hate, and another group fantasising about taking a neutral action.


The results suggested those who had aggressive thoughts were more like to ruminate on their actions, which would consequently lower their perception of their own well-being, The Atlantic reports.

As the research suggested, thinking too much about inflicting pain on an enemy can burn you out, even if the idea really appeals to you.

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Charlie Cocksedge

Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist and sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.

Topics: Life, employee, employment, killing, Power, Psychology, Work


Indepedent.ie and 1 other
  1. Indepedent.ie

    Fantasising about killing your boss says 'you're less likely to do it'

  2. The Atlantic

    Who Really Gets Hurt by Violent Fantasies?