If your boss seems to take pleasure in belittling you or your co-worker lies to you without remorse, you may be dealing with a sociopath at work. According to Harvard Medical School psychologist Martha Stout, as reported by "Forbes," 4 percent of the global population are considered sociopaths. That's one out of every 25 people, so if you;re employed by a large company, odds are good that you're working with one right now. Learning to recognize the traits of a sociopath will help you identify a co-worker with this disorder before he harms you emotionally or physically.
Lack of Conscience and Remorse
A common trait of sociopaths is their seemingly complete lack of remorse for anything they've done wrong. A sociopath might succeed in getting someone fired, for example, but feel no guilt whatsoever. According to professional counselor Gordon Shippey, sociopaths don't feel guilt for harming others as long as they can get what they want from them. Your co-worker might hide under the guise a friendly team player, when she's really secretly plotting ways to steal money from the company, for example. A sociopath has no problem using people to obtain wealth and power for themselves.
Lies and Exaggeration
Sociopaths, in general, are born liars. They'll lie about everything. Dr. Martha Stout, in an interview with Kate Simon in "Interview" magazine, says that sociopaths lie just to see whether they can get away with it. If confronted with evidence of wrongdoing, the sociopath will accuse you of plotting against her and trying to get her into trouble. Sociopaths invent stories that sound ridiculous to others, but they'll claim that their tales are true even when they're obviously not.
Intelligence and Manipulation
Sociopaths have the intelligence and charm to manipulate people to do their bidding. Many sociopaths seem friendly, outgoing and personable, at first. Over time, though, their true nature is revealed. A sociopath's ability to manipulate others can even allow them to develop a cult-like following. On the job, a sociopath might gather a small group of dedicated followers. These followers will listen to everything the sociopath has to say and protect her from accusations of wrongdoing.
How to Cope with a Sociopath at Work
If you're fairly certain that you work with a sociopath, it's best to distance yourself from her as much as you can. Don't get on her bad side, or she may decide to make you her next victim. Gary Ludwig of JEMS Emergency Medical Services suggests that you do not try to befriend a sociopath. Sociopaths don't care for anyone but themselves and might see an attempt at friendship as a sign of weakness. If you know the sociopath is committing an illegal act, gather evidence and present it to a trustworthy supervisor, suggests Gordon Shippey. Don't take the evidence directly to the sociopath, since it will only anger her. If the sociopath is your boss, or there's little chance of her quitting or being fired, consider leaving the company before she turns against you.
- Forbes: The Sociopath In The Office Next Door
- Interview Magazine: The Sociopath Next Door
- Madame Noire: Six Signs Your Boss Might be a Sociopath
- JEMS: How to Tell if You Have a Sociopath in Your Workplace
- Counselling Resource: Sociopath Survival Skills: When Your Boss Has No Conscience
- VodaHost: Sociopath Test
Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.