Sociopaths in the Workplace

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Sociopaths often appear outgoing, friendly, charming on the outside. Do not be fooled though. The sociopath perceives others as victims or competitors and the competitors typically end up as victims too, because the sociopath wants to win at all costs. They have poor judgment and do not learn from experience, as they believe they are smarter than everyone else. This is often hard to recognize as the sociopath will always play up to higher ups by feeding their ego’s. Sociopaths make remarks that will lead others to believe the sociopath is humble and not worthy of praise. This is not true the sociopath is only covering up for their undeserved over inflated sense of superiority. This behavior is often times seen when the sociopath is interacting with management in the workplace.

Sociopaths ruin people’s lives. It’s not illegal, it’s difficult to prove, and they get to flex their power. Sociopaths single out coworkers they feel stand in their way. Sociopaths feel superior to almost everyone. Unless you can provide them with power, more money or other perks of the job they feel you are beneath them. If they feel threatened professionally by you they will do anything to undermine you with management by lying, using personal information against you, constantly complaining about you and your work to “higher ups”. They feel entitled to do this as after all they are superior in every way!

Watch the people who constantly court your organizations management personnel for their own betterment; actively deliberately making management their personal good “buddies”. They do not care how they get ahead and are not above bribery. Steak dinner Boss? Many sociopaths are physically dangerous. They can also be very dangerous in more abstract ways — particularly in a work place, where a manipulative and conscienceless coworker could affect your career in the long term. Many sociopath employees tend to be bullies, targeting weaker employees or employees they feel are threats.

A sociopath finds satisfaction in manipulating others to do his or her bidding. If your colleague is a sociopath, you may find him or her manipulating others to think poorly of your work. Sociopaths don’t feel guilt for harming others as long as they can get what they want from them. Your co-worker might hide under the guise of a friendly team player, when she’s really secretly plotting ways to undermine you and others in the workplace. A sociopath has no problem using other people to obtain wealth and power for themselves. On the surface a sociopath may and often does appear very friendly and outgoing but make no mistake a sociopath is no ones friend.

Sociopaths invent stories and can lie without being detected. Playing on sympathy is a favorite weapon of choice for sociopaths. While they are confident, outgoing, mentally resilient and rarely feel sorry for themselves, they are master manipulators who are extremely proficient at eliciting pity and compassion from others.

Many sociopaths have a sad and possibly true life altering event that they use to hide behind. Case study “Judy” had a son who committed suicide at an early age and in a very passive aggressive way made sure that the people she perceived as someone she could use knew this about her. Many sociopaths are actually dangerous individuals who will try to deflect their own unhealthy feelings by pointing out and often lying about work place violence or threats. Case study “Pam” complained to management and others that a certain coworker had made her feel uncomfortable and she felt physically threatened as a ploy to gain sympathy and discredit her coworker.

Many sociopaths are masters of being aggressive but becoming passive aggressive whenever this strategy works to there advantage. Case study “a popular political figure” who flagrantly displays antagonism and dis-inhibition which are both classic symptoms of the sociopath (antisocial disorder). Antagonism can be characterized by hostility, manipulating, deceitfulness, or callousness. Dis-inhibition, is characterized by impulsive behavior, irresponsibility, and risk taking.

If your relationship with your boss has been plagued by ‘false starts’, ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘wrong assumptions’ then you may have a sociopath coworker on your hands. A tendency to misrepresent the facts while appearing plausible and reasonable, along with a lack of guilt or anxiety over telling lies is another hallmark of sociopath behavior. But they are hard to spot because the lies often contain just enough truth that a spurious cover story can be concocted if they are scrutinized too closely.

A sociopath thinks he or she is more skilled, important or valuable than anyone else. Sociopaths need to control and manipulate others and so are attracted to positions where they can influence others. In the corporate world, management roles are ideal places for sociopaths to function in. Any organisation that has a hierarchical structure which enables an individual to have a position of power over others is attractive to people with sociopath tendencies – even better if they get to wield their power with impunity. Sociopaths are masters at “managing up”, so beware of anyone who will step on those below to impress those above.

Be wary of anyone especially management who seem to come from nowhere yet get to management status in just a few years without putting in the work or time that would seemingly be required for the position they obtained so quickly. This individual could very well be a sociopath. There is evidence that some people experience unnerving physical sensations when in the presence of a person with sociopath tendencies, whether they be a killer or not. So if someone “creeps you out” maybe there is a reason why. There is the suggestion that sociopaths give out a certain ‘aura’ and comments like “he makes my skin crawl”, “he makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end”, and “he sends chills up my spine” are just some of the reactions people report. So trust your gut instincts – if you feel uneasy around your boss or a coworker, or experience discomfort when you are alone with him or her for any length of time, then GET OUT!

If your organization offers anonymous management reviews then certainly take advantage of this very valuable tool. Sociopaths are known to exhibit aggressive or passive aggressive retaliation. Every organization should have an anonymous forum to effectively evaluate their management people otherwise they will lose many valuable employees due to a sociopath individual being given a management position. This is not uncommon as sociopaths are experts at gaining the trust of people they think can advance their careers. The problem with this is that the company or organization can suffer greatly by losing their really talented people.

It is critical to remember that sociopaths don’t play by the same social rules that most people obey. In some sense, the sociopath believes that rights apply only to him and no one else. Therefore he feels no guilt or remorse for manipulating, abusing, or otherwise taking advantage of anyone and everyone…as long as he can get away with it. The sociopath has an unfounded sense of superiority and will often show disdain for those they do not feel can help them up the ladder.

The sociopath’s Achilles’ heel is that he has poor impulse control and is prone to go “too far” in his campaign to dominate the department. If you catch him or her red-handed in a clearly unethical act, with airtight documentation proving their poor judgement, you now have control. Use care when going over his or her head in the chain of command, as sociopaths have been known to corrupt and co-opt levels of management above them. You might find yourself fighting against a unified management front. Often times management appear to be directed or coerced to have to much contact with the sociopath coworker. If you see your management people interacting to much with one individual it is because the sociopath is a master manipulator. Be wary of this individual and ask yourself why they appear to have so much power over your higher ups,

However, every Human Resources (HR) department lives in fear of a lawsuit, so you’ll likely find a more sympathetic ear there. Parlaying your airtight case into your sociopath boss or coworkers termination, a promotion for you, a transfer away from your boss, or a nice fat cash settlement may grant you the closure and vindication you desire.

Management should be trained at dealing with a sociopath employee. If issues arise they should always have witnesses present and document every aspect of the meeting with the sociopath employee. If a sociopath employee makes a statement, insist that he or she back up the statement with evidence. If the statement is about another employee, have the other employee present to defend himself.

Ultimately, no one deserves the abuse that sociopaths dish out. As bad as the job market may be, and as much as you’ve attempted to defend and protect yourself from your sociopath management or coworker, retreat may be the only reasonable move. At some point you have to ask yourself if the damage to your emotional and perhaps physical health is worth the paycheck. How much better would this world be if everyone refused to work with sociopath management!

Sociopaths do anything in their power with no conscious to get where they are. In the end, your boss or coworkers power to manipulate and abuse is only as strong as your resolve to stay in a damaging corporate relationship. If you decide to leave you should make your HR department aware of your concerns on your way out the door anonymously if possible. If that is not possible then just be upfront with your concerns and voice your reasons for leaving since you will no longer be a part of an organization who does not care about all of it’s valuable employees.

We welcome your comments and suggestions.

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