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The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

 
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    Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 7:12am
LOOONNNNNGGG READ!


     
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal–even charming–all those around him or her are suffering.

Four percent of the global population is made up of sociopaths, Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells us in her book The Sociopath Next Door. That means one out of every 25 human beings has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, no empathy, no ability to understand emotion–no soul. Worse, while they can mimic emotion, they see other humans as mere pawns or saps, to be used for their benefit or amusement, or both.

Add that to the fact that science now is questioning whether there is any difference at all between sociopaths and psychopaths, and that those with narcissistic personality disorder also have some of the same characteristics (an inability to care about anyone but themselves), it means that “evil” is all around us, even at work.

Sociopaths lie with impunity, cast blame where it does not belong, humiliate and berate their direct reports or colleagues. They set up coworkers, betray confidences and undercut good work because it is a threat to them.


Some start life by killing small animals, while others are not that obvious. Regardless, they progress to more mayhem as they go. And, while some go on to become full-fledged serial killers, or Bernie Madoffs, others channel their efforts closer to home or the workplace.

Picture a new boss who comes in to head the sales department of a high-tech company. At first he seems too good to be true. Attractive, well-spoken and suave, he says all the right things and makes all the right promises.

Then things start to go off a bit. He starts blaming and humiliating individuals in public for mistakes they claim they did not make. He may target one or two individuals, or start playing team members against once another. Talk starts to turn sarcastic and hurtful. Jokes become nasty, profane and mean-spirited, while tempers begin to flare as shouting becomes more acceptable. Rumor and gossip flourish where little had existed before: “Did you know that X has a drinking problem? Y is leaving his wife? XY is really having a homosexual affair?”

People are rarely praised. And if they are, it is hollow. Client requests and needs start to be flagrantly ignored. And so it goes.

At first it is almost impossible to believe that one person is causing all of this trouble. And some people never believe it. One friend of mine described a coworker who his team named “Mephistopheles,” because he did seem to be the “second coming of the devil,” and everyone saw it.

Wherever he went, trouble followed, but he skirted just above the ethical line. And he was successful in what he did. So, when I asked my friend if Mephistopheles was ever fired, he answered, “Oh, not for a very long time. They just let him pass. Eventually, though, he was caught up in a round of layoffs, because no one would defend him…”

And this is the problem: The smarter the sociopath, the harder it is to catch him or her. And, the more destructive they can become to individuals who interact with them and the organization as a whole. Who knows, you may have come in contact with them in your job already. I know that in my work as a crisis manager, I have. In fact, these individuals are often ground zero in creating the ethical crises that companies get caught up in.

Is there anything that can be done? Psychologists now think such behavior is prompted in large part by brain dysfunction, and that neither medicine, talk therapy nor any kind of treatment will ever work. (See the September/October issue ofScientific American, “Inside the Mind of a Psychopath.”) The best thing that you can do when face to face with a sociopath is to avoid contact–distance yourself, as far and as fast as you can.

Other suggestions, some adapted from Martha Stout’s work, include:

–Trust your instincts. If you think a colleague is a sociopath, don’t go into denial; accept that this may well be so.

–Keep records. Many of these folks do their most damage one-on-one, so that if reported, it becomes “he says” vs. “she says.” If legal in your state, you can capture some of this behavior on tape. At least save all your e-mails, phone messages and the like. Whether or not your use it, it will shore up your own sense of reality, if you start to doubt yourself and your perceptions.

–Call the person out. In very savvy and careful ways, of course. If he or she has been lying about you, talk to others about it in a smart fashion: “I have no idea why he is lying so blatantly, but he’s been going around saying X about me, and here is evidence that this is completely false. Why would he be lying so much? Have you seen other incidences of it?”

–Never, ever trust that person again. They will not change.

–Don’t buy into others’ excuses of them.

–Defend yourself. If you are targeted, talk powerfully with the truth. Never let a lie that you know of stand.

–Leave. It is a final resort, but if your organization does not see the light quickly, or if the sociopath runs the organization, do not wait too long. Justice does not always come swiftly, and this is why you have saved your money–so you can leave a bad situation before it takes a terrible toll on you.

–Help and support others. You can be a beacon when they find themselves in similar situations.

We are used to fighting evil on the battlefield. But good people rarely can anticipate, or even recognize, evil behavior up close in the workplace–until it is too late. One of the benefits of Martha Stout’s book is that it helps us accept the fact that at least one out of 25 is a sociopath.

And the more we can accept that this does play out in the workplace, the more we can fight it on that front and the more we can minimize the damage. A good goal, I think, when faced with unconscionable behavior.


http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/19/sociopath-boss-work-forbes-woman-leadership-office-evil.html



Edited by GG - Nov 20 2013 at 7:13am
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eanaj5 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote eanaj5 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 8:49am
damn, no soul though? It's not as if they choose to be that way...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote afrokock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 8:50am
Lol one out of twenty five?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote patternsandtexture Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 8:58am
Hmmm.....
 
There is a difference - sociopaths tend to think more in long range think of House of Cards, a psychopath tends to think things much more on the go, while narccissts tend to think they are doing it for the better good and they are the best one at the job for it.


Edited by patternsandtexture - Nov 20 2013 at 9:00am
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Truth.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote coconess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 9:09am
Originally posted by patternsandtexture patternsandtexture wrote:

Hmmm.....
 
There is a difference - sociopaths tend to think more in long range think of House of Cards, a psychopath tends to think things much more on the go, while narccissts tend to think they are doing it for the better good and they are the best one at the job for it.

i didnt really read the thread yet (just skimmed) but i do not think this is correct.. i think its the opposite.. 
i may be wrong but i don't think so (about psychos and socios.. psychos will plan and plan and plan.. they're smarter.. socios are more on impulse and tend to make more mistakes) 


Edited by coconess - Nov 20 2013 at 9:10am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote patternsandtexture Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 9:19am
Originally posted by coconess coconess wrote:

Originally posted by patternsandtexture patternsandtexture wrote:

Hmmm.....
 
There is a difference - sociopaths tend to think more in long range think of House of Cards, a psychopath tends to think things much more on the go, while narccissts tend to think they are doing it for the better good and they are the best one at the job for it.

i didnt really read the thread yet (just skimmed) but i do not think this is correct.. i think its the opposite.. 
i may be wrong but i don't think so (about psychos and socios.. psychos will plan and plan and plan.. they're smarter.. socios are more on impulse and tend to make more mistakes) 
 
It's actually the opposite, psychopaths don't really plan.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote coconess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 9:22am
hmm… 
let me find my sources and we'll see which is more credible.. it looks like their reference was wikipedia… 
 
i am positive that i read the opposite. hold on  


Edited by coconess - Nov 20 2013 at 9:23am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote coconess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 9:39am
Though not all psychology professionals agree on what exactly differentiates sociopaths from psychopaths, among those who believe each are separate disorders there is a list of definite differences. Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place. Some sociopaths form attachments to an individual or group, though they have no regard for society in general. In the eyes of others, sociopaths appear clearly disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath tend to be disorganized and spontaneous.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, often have charming personalities. They are manipulative and easily gain people’s trust. They have learned to mimic emotion and so appear “normal” to other people. Psychopaths are often educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they can have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.

Psychopaths, when committing crimes, carefully plan out every detail and often have contingency plans in place. Because of this marked difference between the method of crimes committed by sociopaths and psychopaths, the distinction between these disorders is perhaps even more important to criminology than it is to psychology.

Another belief among some professionals is that the etiology of the disorders is different. According to David Lykken, a behavioral geneticist known for his studies on twins, psychopathy stems from a physiological defect in the brain that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopathy is more the product of childhood traumas and abuse. According to this model, some professionals believe that sociopaths are capable of empathy, but only in specific contexts.

http://www.helpingpsychology.com/sociopath-vs-psychopath-whats-the-difference

There's a lot of debate about the presentation of a psychopath versus a sociopath. Some people say that a psychopath is extremely well-organized, secretive, and manipulative, while a sociopath is disorganized, unable to pass for "normal," and messier in his or her crimes. Others say the exact opposite. People may try to differentiate between a psychopath and a sociopath based on his or her ability to feel compassion, saying that a psychopath feels no compassion for anyone at all, while a sociopath might feel compassion for his or her family members or friends. There is no consensus on these distinctions, however, and since individual psychopaths and sociopaths have distinct personalities, the behavior of one person diagnosed as one or the other might differ entirely from someone else with a similar diagnosis.

http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-difference-between-a-psychopath-and-a-sociopath.htm

The distinction between psychopathy and ASPD is of considerable significance to the mental health and criminal justice systems. Unfortunately, it is a distinction that is often blurred, not only in the minds of many clinicians but in the latest edition of DSM-IV. - See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/antisocial-personality-disorder/psychopathy-and-antisocial-personality-disorder-case-diagnostic-confusion-0#sthash.QoNkeQdk.dpuf

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/antisocial-personality-disorder/psychopathy-and-antisocial-personality-disorder-case-diagnostic-confusion-0

i found more sites saying the opposite of what you said.. but idk how credible they are. 

i think i change my mind though.. thinking back on some classes.. i think yours may be right.. I'm not sure.  

i want LB to come in and confirm.. she would definitely know. 



Edited by coconess - Nov 20 2013 at 9:47am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote patternsandtexture Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Nov 20 2013 at 10:06am
Yeah, I need to research and see, but from my college books, psychopaths do well in fast past enviroments where they can dominate others, but long term goals they pretty much suck at it.
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