What’s your first thought when you hear the word psychopath? You’re probably thinking serial killer, or some other form of violent criminal. While many violent criminals are psychopaths, not all psychopaths are violent criminals. However, that should not undermine the damage they can do. They just happen to do it legally. So, what do you do if you find yourself working with one? Or worse, for one?
Know the signs of a psychopath!
The first step is to know the signs, and there is a lot of great information regarding those. Business Insider has a great post about knowing some of the signs of a psychopath. Recruit Loop has some insights as well for spotting one. There are a few I would like to touch on that I feel are very valuable.
They know how to turn on the charm
A psychopath knows how to turn on the charm. It’s a big way that they gain your trust so they can manipulate you into doing what they want. Look at Bundy, he was very charming! He was ‘injured’ and he just needed some ‘help’, before he killed his victims. Psychopaths in the business world are not called snakes in suits for nothing. If this charming persona includes tales that seem a little out there, or make you feel undermined or less than valuable, you may be dealing with a psychopath.
This is the biggest one, because it is the reason they behave the way they do. They lie, if it benefits them. A psychopath plays by his or her own rules, which benefit them. He or she is charming, only as long as they need to be so it benefits them. The psychopath want to be at the top! They take risks, but if those risks go south they will throw someone else under the bus for it. The world revolves around them, and anyone who stands in their way will get pummeled. It doesn’t matter who you are. They don’t have a conscious. They’ve gotten away with it before, and they will not stop on their own. Many were school yard bullies, and now they are work bullies. If they got away with it then, they can get away with it now.
Why do companies hire and keep them?
Per recruit loop, psychopaths are risk takers, and great actors! These are both true. Companies like a good risk taker! to a certain extent. A psychopath will take risks, because it isn’t his or her rear end on the line. It’s everyone else’s. The psychopath will jump ship if implicated in any way, to a risk going south. They absolve themselves of any responsibility or consequences associated with those risks. Since they are great actors, they mask power hungry with ‘motivated to climb the corporate ladder’. They can shape shift to be whatever a company wants them to be, only until it no longer suits their interests. Their destruction is great, and if they are caught, it’s often to late.
So, you’re working for a psychopath…
It doesn’t matter if you working for, or with a psychopath. You have to get out of that company and you have to do it now. You may be wondering ‘but I just work with the psychopath, he and I are peers.’ Not for long. The company hired him or her, just like they hired you. It’s only a matter of time before he or she crushes you and your career, for their own self interests. This is no joking matter I’m talking about here. I’m very serious. If you want to salvage your career, get out of this company.
What you can do right now, today
I fully recognize that getting another job tomorrow is easier said than done. However, there are things you can do today to cover your rear end, and transition out. You must always be one step ahead of a psychopath. You need to be on the offense at all times with this person, even though you consider yourself a lame duck.
I’m not just talking about writing down interactions. Pretend you have to prove everything in court. Any correspondence (if you have to have any) should be via email. Oral conversations with the person must be recorded. If they must meet with you, make sure you have a witness there as well. Suggest a public place where the psychopath is less likely to act up.
Keep your nose clean
Though you may be on your way out of this company, it is vital you keep your nose clean. Keep working like you aren’t looking for a new job, and update those contacts. Make sure that there is nothing that the psychopath can pin you for. Be completely blameless. Make sure the psychopath does not know you are onto him or her. You want to be very careful very smart about this one. Psychopaths are smart by nature. If they sense danger to them, they will quickly take care of the problem. You don’t need to be that problem.
When it is time to go
Maybe you can do a two weeks. This one is a bit tricky. I actually nearly always recommend putting in a two weeks notice so you don’t burn bridges with that employer. Word gets around to others in your industry if you leave your former employer in the lurch. However, that two weeks puts you in a bit of a sensitive position with the psychopath. If you can strike up a deal with your company to leave promptly, do that. Make sure that it will not tarnish your name in any way.
Let the company know what’s going on
If you have proof of wrong doing on the end of the psychopath, now would be the time to submit it to Human Resources. This could be part of the deal. You give them the proof they need to fire or sue this person, they let you quit immediately with a good recommendation. From there, take yourself out of it, unless you are subpoenaed. You are still doing your former employer a favor.
Working for or with a psychopath is so difficult! You find yourself second guessing yourself and that is just what the psychopath wants! You have your career to look after though. Jobs will come and go, but you worked hard to grow your career! Don’t let anyone take that away from you! Trust me, this too shall pass…just as long as you get out 🙂