Is your workmate or your colleague a psychopath? Well, considering that 1% of the total population fits the profile of a psychopath then chances are that someone you know or have come into contact with is in fact, a psychopath.
Psychopaths are like chameleons. They blend into their surroundings so well and in such a way that they are not noticed very easily. When I say blend in, I mean that they establish relationships with people around them so that they are able to influence and manipulate others, often without being detected, flying just under the radar per se.
Now, you are probably thinking, “What do you mean? I thought psychopaths were murderers and serial killers!” That’s true; some psychopaths are in that group of criminals. But actually a psychopath could be any person, many of them circulating within the corporate world. Their behavior is devious and anti-social, which has to do with his/her psychological make up. A true psychopath cannot be detected easily.
There’s a great book called “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work” by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. This book describes how the psychopath will present himself as the perfect friend, partner, or employee by figuring out the victim’s needs, insecurities, and strengths as well as weaknesses in order to create the character and personality that is ideal to the victim. The victim is enamored rather quickly and then trusts the psychopath and that’s when the mind control starts.
Psychopaths are can be very charming, witty and seem extremely intelligent, and experienced, talking easily about all kinds of topics. They seem friendly and understanding and are usually the life of a party, always having an exciting story or tale to keep others enthralled. See for a psychopath, it’s all about impression management. They are creating impressions, knowing that first impressions count.
The following are some characteristics of a psychopath in the corporate and professional world:
• Very handsome and dresses impeccably well
• Able to get others to do things for them
• Extremely confident and at times almost arrogant
• Very manipulative
• Take credit for accomplishments other work mates did
• Not afraid of risky situations
• Emotionless with no empathy
• Smooth talking
• Liars, often getting through job interviews for positions of considerable power and influence within an organization.
The psychopath then begins to build a network of people that are useful for him/her while undermining the authority of the competition or those who may be able to expose them. They use people like game pieces in a strategic game, but make up the rules as they go. Unfortunately, the people involved are often not aware of what’s happening, playing by ‘normal’ rules, and they unfortunately always lose.
Robert Hare (co-author of “Snakes in Suits”, author of “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us”, and the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy) states, “Given their personality, it comes as no surprise that psychopaths make good imposters. They have no hesitation in forging and brazenly using impressive credentials to adopt chameleon-like, professional roles that give them prestige and power. When things begin to fall apart, as they usually do, they simply pack up and move on.”
Psychopaths prey on people they work with who give in to their manipulations, verbal hostility, or physical intimidation. Often their victims don’t say anything to their managers or other coworkers because:
1. They fear how the psychopath will treat them if they snitch.
2. The psychopath has charmed the managers so much that the managers do not believe the “snitch” when they relate how the psychopath really acts.
It is vitally important that HR and managers avoid hiring psychopaths. Peace and harmony in the workplace promotes productivity. Fear produced by a psychopath’s threats and manipulation tactics will devastate agreeable working relationships. HR and others who do any hiring can avoid putting a psychopath on the payroll by setting up a series of steps to follow when interviewing and considering a new hire.
1. Pre-Employment Tests – There are specific test scores that may indicate an applicant is a psychopath. For example, lower scores on being truthful and following the rules and higher scores on seeking power and being aggressive should raise some eyebrows and concern.
2. The interview – Managers need to ask questions that let the psychopath proudly talk about getting their way through intimidation.
3. Background checks – Managers should dig deep into the past to uncover any convictions for crimes that would jeopardize a company, Also, verify that any degrees and diplomas are real and not made up.
4. Professional references – Always, always, always contact the job applicant’s previous manager(s). And ask specific questions about why the applicant left his/her previous job(s).
5. Personal references – Get at least three personal references and talk to all of the contacts. Ask them specific questions about the applicant regarding personality, how they know them and how long they’ve known the applicant.
6. Listen to your gut – There is no scientific proof to gut feelings being true, but if you sense trouble and the applicant’s smile and charm seems a little “off, then listen to your gut.
If after going through pre-employment tests, key job interview questions, background and reference checks, and intensively studying their demeanor something about a job applicant does not feel right, then you are better off moving on and finding another applicant. Find someone who passes all these checks and balances.
It’s better to take the extra time to really make sure you know who and what kind of a person you’re considering hiring then to quickly make a snap decision on someone who “appears” to be the perfect hire. You’ll save yourself and your company from making a huge and tragic decision.