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Nov 19 2012

Is your cubicle next to a sociopath at work?

Sociopathic, quotes about sociopaths, sociopaths at workWhat about the boss who occupies the corner office? Or the vice president on the 10th floor? Believe it or not, but deep inside many corporations hides a sociopathic leader. Read on to learn more about the signs and ask yourself if any of these traits sound familiar.

The dictionary defines a sociopath as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience”.

An online source defines sociopaths as those who “have little regard for the feelings of others and manipulate others in order to get what they desire. People who have this disorder often have no sense of right or wrong.”

In an article by FastCompany.com, we read that Robert Hare, renowned researcher in the field of criminal psychology, came out with a startling proposal when he suggested that some corporations are “sociopathic” because they “ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests – ‘shareholder value’ – without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage”.

“I always said that if I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange. There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You’ll find them in any organization whereby the nature of one’s position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something,” Robert Hare said in an interview with Fast Company.

This article definitely offered some inspiration behind the post. But this post is really the result of a story I heard about a girl and her challenges with her boss – who so happens to be situated in the cubicle next door.

Her boss has been with her company for years and rules her department with an iron fist. She is also BFFs with the President thereby giving her the power to influence decisions. Meanwhile, this distressed girl has been appointed to be her right hand person, and it seems every day she gets that much closer to breaking down.

She’s under immense stress every day, and it seems nothing is ever good enough for her boss. She’s admitted to leaving work crying. She feels her boss is only looking out for herself and doesn’t care about anyone else’s feelings. She describes her boss as anti-social, unable to properly communicate with people. She only cares about her own glory and would throw anyone under the bus in a heartbeat if “shit hit the fan”.

Sound familiar?

The one comment that still rings inside my head is: “She yells at me every day.” Another one is: “She blames me for everything, even if it was her own mistake.”

My immediate response was simple: “This is NOT normal and you shouldn’t be treated this way!”

As the distressing stories continued to pour out, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of excuse could be given for such behaviour. There’s nothing to justify treating people this way. But sadly, many corporations are full of leaders and managers that treat their people with ruthless disrespect.

When I stumbled across this Fast Company article, a light bulb went off in my head – sociopathic corporations breed sociopathic bosses, which in turn create a toxic and destructive environment for employees.

Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist consists of 2 factors:

Factor 1: Personality “Aggressive Narcissism”

Traits include: glibness, superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning, manipulative, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect, callousness, lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions.

Factor 2: Case History “Socially Deviant Lifestyle”

Traits include: the need for stimulation / proneness to boredom, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioural control, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, juvenile delinquency, early behaviour problems, and revocation of conditional release.

Hare has revised his Psychopathy Checklist to make it easier to identify corporate psychopaths. Corporate psychopaths score high on the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others” category (Factor 1), and score low to moderate on Factor 2, which usually resembles those who wind up behind bars.

Just for fun, take this Quiz: Is your boss a psychopath? and find out who you’re working for.

If your boss scores: 1-4 – Be frustrated    |    5-7 – Be cautious    |    8-12 – Be afraid    |    13-16 – Be very afraid

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