Contrary to popular belief, psychopathology is not always about murder. It is defined broadly as callous behaviour without normal feelings of empathy or guilt.
If you feel your boss is out to get you, it turns out you could be right.
Psychopaths are everywhere, and sociopathy is a milder version of the same. And there's a surprising amount of it about.
One woman in 200 is classifiable as a psychopath, as is one man out of every 50. Overall, that's about one person in 80.
It means that every large organisation has its fair share of them. Chances are, you have several psychopaths in your building, but how can you tell?
In the aftermath of the corporate chaos that has marked the last decade, this question is becoming ever more important.
If recent estimates are true – that one in ten CEOs are psychopaths, the same probability that any one person may at one time be carrying the common cold – then if you have worked in a total of ten different places during your career or worked with ten different managers you’re bound to have run into one.
Just as the common cold may be defined by any number of symptoms - runny nose, sore throat, tickly cough, headache, lack of energy, temperature etc. - so psychopathy is characterised by a variety of different personality traits
So how can you spot a pyschopath?
The bad news is that psychopathic-type personalities can be initially very hard to spot.
These people can be quite charming. Psychopathic personalities intimidate and destroy other people psychologically as they go, so watch carefully for the signs:
1. They tend to exploit and trick others for self-advancement.
2. They have used lies and deception to get their way.
3. They tend to manipulate others for selfish reasons.
4. They tend not to feel regretful and apologetic after having done wrong.
5. They tend to be lacking in empathy and crassly unaware of the distress they can cause others.
6. They tend to be hungry for admiration, they lack remorse or even take pleasure in harming others.
7. They are never wrong, they are manipulative and controlling.
8. They don’t want to hear your viewpoint
9. They are inconsistent
10. They struggle acknowledging others success.
11. They tend to be superficially charming, even warm.
12. They tend to intimidate others, especially behind closed doors.
Unfortunately many companies unwittingly hire in favour of psychopathology, especially when recruiting executives.
Their charm, fearlessness and whatever it takes attitude can win over even experienced interviewers. With rapid job turnover they can march up the ranks at great speed.
Not only that, but our era's obsession with profit-maximisation as the primary rewarded behaviour, plays right into the sociopathic mindset — me, money, power...more about me, more money for me, more power for me.
Consequently, the chance of psychopaths holding senior positions in industry and government is disquietingly high.
How can someone behave this way? Don't they just need interpersonal skills training?
A regular person with under-developed interpersonal skills may respond very well to being taught more constructive or metered behaviour.
Unfortunately, research with genuine psychopaths suggests that empathy training just gives them more effective tools with which to manipulate and control people.
It's sorely tempting for the ordinary person to try very hard to please the psychopath, to appeal to their better side.
It's hard to remember that they don't have one.
At the end of the day, remember that as an adult you have the power to just choose a different path. Life is short, and more than a few weeks spent learning ‘life lessons’ from someone intensely unpleasant to be around, is more than enough. Leave.
There is good news about a terrible boss. Often, he or she is in your path for a very good reason: to reveal to you that it’s time to make a significant change. I did and I have no regrets.