Workplace psychopaths, have you worked with one?…or maybe even hired one? Sadly for many of us, we didn’t see them coming until it was too late.
They are charming and highly skilled at managing upward, with an innate ability to gain the trust of those hierarchically above them whilst leaving a trail of destruction with colleagues around and below them.
Here is our top 5 on what to look out for:
- I’m sorry I’m not sorry
Workplace psychopaths significantly lack empathy. Rather, they enjoy the game of exploiting abuse and exerting their power. They lack remorse and carry no guilt. Instead of colleagues they can call friends, they have victims. Even those who appear to be on side with their workplace psychopathic colleague, eventually end up as victims too. A workplace psychopath fails to accept responsibility for their own actions and often blames others. They cannot see the impact they are have on people.
- Web of lies
Workplace psychopaths have no conscious. They lie well and with ease. Lines between fact and fiction are blurred especially by convincing others that they have strong networks and connections within and beyond the workplace.
- Skin deep charm
Verbally smooth, and extremely charming- particularly on first impressions, they can easily convince many they are the real deal and confuse others who may have glimpsed their darker side. Workplace psychopaths are not concerned for others and they view their self-serving behaviours as totally acceptable.
- False sense of entitlement
Workplace psychopaths feel legitimately entitled to certain things and they create working environments where others are pitched against one another, for example: person A cannot talk to person B and person B cannot talk to person C for the specific gain to that entitlement. Expect to see left of field rules, punishments and behaviours. Anyone, particularly subordinates, who dare challenge their authority, risk verbal outbursts and manipulation resulting in feelings of guilt and shame.
- Taking credit for others work, and goal post shifting
A workplace psychopath tends to behave erratically by changing regularly how work is performed or approached, frustrating those who they lead and exerting their control and authority if things aren’t executed as directed. Workplace psychopaths tend to make unrealistic business plans and objectives often as a result of making big promises to those sitting above them on the corporate ladder. They are also known for taking credit for others work achievements especially in the presence of their superiors.
How to avoid or manage a workplace psychopath
Try to recruit to your company values, ensure your interview questions cover areas around the organisations values and test these through thorough behaviour based questioning techniques and psychometric testing.
Also ensure that you communicate your company values and instil them via a robust on-boarding program as well as on-going through performance appraisal programs that are in place.
Managing a workplace psychopath is probably most difficult once they’re in and operating within your workplace- even more so if they are managing other people. Often senior managers are the last to become aware of a workplace psychopath existing within their organisation. Therefore having policies and procedures around what is acceptable behaviour, complaints management as well as protection measures for those who come forward including those exiting the workplace, may empower victims to raise their concerns.
Employers need to be prepared for the time and resources needed to appropriately identify a suspected psychopath’s behaviour. It’s important for the wellbeing of employees and the long-term benefit of the company.
At HR Gurus we can provide you with a review of any existing policies, procedures or processes to ensure that you are prepared.
We are also able to assist you if you believe there is a workplace psychopath operating in your workplace.
Written by Senior HR Guru Angela Olanda.