3/03/2005

Do you know a workplace psychopath?

This article was circulated by one of my team members today at work.

My favourite comment is at the end of the article-

"People who think they may be working with a workplace psychopath should
be reminded that there are many types of people with poor social and
managerial skills..."

My Manager also chimed in with "I think we are safe. Most of them are partners of law firms"

The hidden world of psychopaths
By Samantha Baden
02mar05

THEY are callous, egotistic and destroy their victims, but serial killers and rapists are not the only type of psychopaths. In fact, you could be working with one.

Criminologist John Clarke, a consulting profiler for NSW Police, said most psychopaths were not homicidal maniacs, but worked and lived unchallenged in society. He has written a book about his work as a consultant to corporations who call on him to deal with workers who create problems in their organisations because they exhibit psychopathic traits.

His book, Working with Monsters, identifies the psychological tendencies of the workplace psychopath.Like their violent counterparts they are superficially charming, have a grandiose sense of self-worth, a need for excitement, and are pathological liars.

"They have an absolute lack of remorse, a lack of guilt for what they do," Mr Clarke said.

"It's a parasitic lifestyle, they live off other people, take credit for other people's work, ... have a sense of entitlement, are very narcissistic and often exhibit promiscuous sexual behaviour."

It is not exactly known how psychopaths come to be, but most authorities agree that it is a combination of genes, biology and the environment that produce the psychopathy syndrome, or cluster of behaviours. There are different types of workplace psychopaths, but for some of them the main objective is to get to the top of an organisation for the financial rewards and power it brings, according to Mr Clarke. Their second aim is to revel in the suffering and misery they exert on people.

They can also be corporate fraudsters who steal from their organisation by being brilliant con artists, or they can use their jobs to act out their psychopathic tendencies on people.

"Just incidentally, the workplace psychopath is very nice to talk to. Very, very nice," Mr Clarke said.

"Out of all the killers and rapists and everyone, the workplace psychopath is the most interesting."

This is because they are extremely clever and have very good verbal skills.

But workplace psychopaths have a devastating affect on corporations and co-workers.

"For the people they work with, who they actually victimise, it's absolutely devastating, (and causes) anxiety disorders, depression, heart problems, relationship problems and stress beyond belief," Mr Clarke said.

In the beginning, a corporation may value the psychopath because they attain success at any cost.But they over-promise and cannot deliver and eventually customers get
frustrated and take their business elsewhere.

"It costs the corporation money," he said.

It is estimated that between 1 and 3 per cent of the adult male population and between 0.5 and one per cent of the adult female population are psychopaths.

"It's a small proportion of the population, but the damage they do is out of all proportion to how many there are," Mr Clarke said.

"Everywhere they go they affect people's lives and they will con and manipulate everyone around them."

People who think they may be working with a workplace psychopath should be reminded that there are many types of people with poor social and managerial skills, Mr Clarke said.

"But for those who really think they do have a psychopath, they should really seek professional help."

9 Comments:

At 1:25 pm, Blogger OLS said...

Oooh! I think my boss's boss might be one. This part certainly sounds right:

"for some of them the main objective is to get to the top of an organisation for the financial rewards and power it brings, according to Mr Clarke. Their second aim is to revel in the suffering and misery they exert on people."

I think he would even admit it!

- OLS

 
At 10:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I work with one as well. He plays the system to his own advantage. He sets out to undermine women - particularly those who are highly organised and competent, and rewards those (women again) who give him unquestionable support. I suspect that within our Catholic organisation, he is supported by those who occupy the top of the hierarchy, becasue of his charm. People feelpowerless to stand up to him.

 
At 1:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I work with an ' old ' Psycopath. She may be cunning and have run every other female from the Office in the past. But I picked her the 1st minute she offered the hearts and flowers.She may have honed her stealth manipulation skills on others, but the years haven't taught her to 1) NEVER judge a book by it's cover and 2) know your enemy. When the time is right I'll introduce Madam Psycopath to 'Deranged Delores'

 
At 1:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had the horror of working with one of these inhuman creatures. Textbook case, to the letter. We would have quarterly meetings with upper management, and this guy would sit a few rows ahead near the front, and always be sure to ask a question so as to appear more keen than the others. In the office he was a cold-blooded tyrant. Flame emails, veiled threats (which he'd wait for no witnesses to make). I caught him by getting a witness for one incident, and by documenting everything as soon as I recognized what I was dealing with. I got out with references, and salvaged my career. Most HR will not recognize these people as problem because THEY are the ones who promoted them. Just get out as quickly and cleanly as possible, and document everything in the meantime. If they slip and actually do say or do something that can be prosecuted under the law (they are cunning on this point) look for a witness. Sooner or later they will slip. I got out and managed to get mine demoted from his "team lead" position. He bullied because the title he had was his only justification for being on the team, he hadn't the technical ability to be there.

 
At 1:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody ever notice how the boss sets the tone of the workplace? Ours is an extreme narcissist/pathological liar/bully/coward/deluded/megalomaniacal/self centred/abusive in the extreme (imagine the most spoiled two year old of all time in the body of a thirty-seven year old male.) So we've got the old climate of fear happening... Which means that the only people who will stay in the workplace have either low self esteem, only do the occasional shift (myself), or are fellow psychopaths! We've got not one but three! The other two psychos are of course very close to the boss, know how to stroke his ego, and are figures of terror in the establishment. I can look upon it with detachment and curiosity (I'm fascinated by psychology), but it's fascinating that a psychopath will examine the boss, and then replicate their behaviour. Whereas most of us are "ourselves," psychopaths will immediately adopt precisely the attitudes and behaviours that the boss finds pleasing. They seem to have no internal beliefs, attitudes or ideas- whatever gets them the most power with the boss, they'll do! They're built from the outside in. And yes, they're charming. (Well, one of them is. The other's an old bully.) The biggest, warmest smile you've ever seen, great eye contact, make you feel important, but behind your back... Claw you to death! Hearts of ice...
I thought there might be a blog site somewhere, like there's datingpsychos.com or something like that (the author Peter Carey's been listed by one of his exes, I'm told) Perhaps we could start a blog- Workplacepsycho.com.au or something, and share stories- and ways to deal with this. What do you guys think?

 
At 7:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes... psychopaths are everywhee, in my company, a large Australian Airline is full of them. Everyday I go to work and see my mates all stressed out and getting sick from the unreasonable actions from management and their constant watching eye and bad treatment from the supervisors who carry out the orders.

 
At 11:17 pm, Blogger KATRINA said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I probably work at that same large Australian airline and resigned as I simply cannot compete with the psychopath who has undermined my authority and made my life a misery for so long. You just have to get out and let these people go and can only hope that karma will some day come back to bite them. My written evidence and emails were no match for the lies they continued to use to justify their position and the way they lay the blame on others to cover for themselves. It is truly shocking and I feel completely betrayed by my employer that they protected this person particularly when I found out they did it to two former employees at another organisation they worked for.

 
At 1:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found myself in the situation of working for a man who I am convinced is a workplace psychopath. The problem is that I have only recently moved to his section from another one and since nobody has ever worked for him before, I'm afraid I wouldn't be believed if I complained. He is so different to his peers, they see a different side of him, he seems like a different person completely. I've never seen a person like that before. Plus he has undermined my confidence so much in private that now I really doubt myself, and doubt I could stand by my argument. He has lied to me to make himself look better and made me believe I made mistakes (when in fact he had failed to give instruction). He doesn't bother to hide the fact that he gets pleasure from upsetting me and making me doubt myself, because I am his subordinate so I don't matter. So he is a little sadistic. just today he saw I was close to crying and he smiled in pleasure. He has also sent vicious 'flame' emails to myself and other colleagues in the past, which questioned our professionalism for no reason. This made them all the more shocking and effective. He is so charming to his superiours that he'll probably keep his job, but I need to find a way to arm myself psychologically against this individual- what can I do? Apart from this, I work in a big political organisation; I think he chose this profession as he clearly craves power. He is also very young to hold a high level job, and I wonder if he manipulated and charmed his way into it as I haven't seen much knowledge. It's worse now that everyone's on holidays and I'm alone with him. Help!

 

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