Do You Work With a Psychopath?

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

There really isn’t any job a psychopath wouldn’t do so long as it benefits them in some way. Psychopaths can be business owners, surgeons, lawyers, data entry clerks, waste managers, salesmen, politicians, waiters, and even therapists. They don’t have to be serial killers or mob bosses to be a psychopath.
The term psychopath is over used in our culture and has come to mean something that it doesn’t. Episodes of Criminal Minds highlight the extreme violent behaviors of the disorder. However, many psychopaths do not commit heinous crimes. Some are involved only in white collar crimes while others don’t do any obvious criminal behavior.
What is a psychopath? The term is encompassed under the definition of Anti-Social Personality Disorder along with sociopath. However, psychopath and sociopath are not interchangeable terms. Think of them as two separate parts of a whole personality disorder. A psychopath has the ability to create an entire persona in direct contrast to who they really are. It is as if they are an entirely different person without the dissociative or multiple personality elements.
In a work environment, they can appear to be very responsible, charismatic, friendly, too good to be true, and a hard worker. Their resume which has been custom designed to match the job description will leave employers feeling like they are getting the better end of the bargain. They can talk whatever talk is needed to get the job, to excel at the job, and to get promoted. However, there is a darker side.
Psychopaths will appear to work within a team environment but really they don’t. The work generated is frequently at the expense of someone else and not a product of their own efforts. Back-stabbing, gossip, and manipulation are frequent tactics utilized to undermine authority, gain dominance, and eliminate competition. Rules are for fools to follow, not psychopaths. There is no social, corporate, or legal restriction that will keep psychopaths in line. Because they have no conscious, they are only bond by what they choose.
The goal for a psychopath is to gain as much power and control as possible with the least amount of effort. To a superior, a psychopath presents the better side in order to gain trust and confidence. Their magnetic personality is appealing to upper management as they easily fit into any environment. As a quick study of personalities, the psychopath is able to transform their appearance and body language into something that is appealing in as little as 30 seconds.
But to co-workers, the psychopath presents the darker side frequently stealing new ideas, destabilizing the team atmosphere, and refusing to complete assignments. Often, co-workers pick up the slack in an effort to maintain the collaborative work environment which psychopaths are all too willing to allow them to do. However, if a co-worker complains about the arrangement, the psychopath will attack with such force as to cause the co-worker to get fired. This enlists fear in the other co-workers who are then more willing to comply with the psychopath’s demands.

Diagnosing a psychopath should be left to a professional but even professionals sometimes do not see the deception. It requires an ability to assess the person in multiple environments before some of the fraud can be seen. Even then, it may be hard to tell. The best advice is to avoid anyone who fits this description. Better to be safe, then sorry. 

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