How to Tame the Office Sociopath
I’ve never watched “Dexter.” Does that make me uncool? Do I get any points for watching every season of “Sopranos?” Sounds like similar themes – lots of blood and sociopaths. I hear people throwing around the word “sociopath” a lot, but I bet not many folks know the actual definition or diagnosis. One thing is certain, if you work with one, you KNOW the behaviors. And we aren’t talking a weird co-worker like Bob, who is just a little odd and annoying, but harmless.
Let’s start with the clinical stuff. We shrinks use the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to diagnose patients. Here’s an overview of the traits of sociopaths and psychopaths, which are now both categorized under “Antisocial Personality Disorder:”
There is a “pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others,” such as…
1. Failure to conform to social norms, i.e., lawful behaviors, repeatedly doing things that are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as in repeated lying, aliases or conning others for personal gain
3. Impulsivity and/or irritability
4. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
6. And the BIGGIE – Lack of remorse, being indifferent to having hurt or mistreated another.
OK, you might not have a full-blown one who meets all the criteria above, but your office “Dexter” has some of them. I’m thinking most likely #1, 2 and 6. These folks try to fit in (kind of like aliens) by mimicking others (do you work with an office copycat?), because they truly don’t know how to be social.
But the most obvious sign is a total lack of empathy. For instance, you might hear, “I know your wife just died, Jim, but the funeral was last week and I expect you to be up to speed by now!” Yikes, that’s cold. Another behavior you’ll recognize is that your co-worker/boss NEVER takes responsibility for his mistakes, consistently blaming others or flat-out lying when confronted.
So, you’ve got Sally pegged as a sociopath, how do you protect yourself while getting your job done?
* Recognize that nothing you do is ever going to result in a behavioral change in this person.
* These folks are USERS. If you are repeatedly manipulated into doing things for this person, work on saying “no” and stopping it.
* Strength in numbers – the “normals” need to stick together as the sociopath will use divisive tactics all the time.
* Don’t ever go to them for or expect sympathy or caring – it’s not in their DNA.
* AVOID as much as possible. I realize this is hard, especially if this person is your boss (God forbid!), but the less contact the better. These folks thrive on messing with you.
Now I’m not sure if “Dexter” fires on all sociopathic cylinders; because my friend who watches tells me he does have a kind of twisted moral code (kill only killers)? Maybe if you aren’t a killer, he wouldn’t be such a bad guy to work with!
This is a post by Jobacle team member Nancy LaFever.