Sociopaths in the workplace

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Sociopaths in the workplace. Hollywood likes to present us with horrific sociopath characters serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmar, but also King Joffrey in the Game of Thrones and The Governor in the Walking Dead. Not only were they all sadistic to cross them caused terrible suffering. Another thing, they were all employed, they had co workers and bosses.

When you consider one in twenty five people demonstrate sociopathic traits, it is not so hard to imagine that some of your workforce could be affected. A sociopath in your team will cause mayhem over time. This individual has a total lack of conscience, making them extremely dangerous in a workplace environment. They can be exceedingly charming initially, but the façade will slip. They understand the difference between right and wrong, but do not care. To a sociopath, the only thing that matters is the sociopath, they are often ambitious and found in work fields that have a quick turnover in staff, or are outcome orientated.

When a manager or employer finds a sociopath in the workplace, care must be used to deal with the situation, not merely because they are great manipulators, but they can be vengeful and vindictive.

5 Ways to help you and your employees safeguard against a sociopath in your workplace:

  1. Have each employee read and sign an employee code of conduct, outlining and detailing the kinds of behaviour that won’t be tolerated.
    During your induction process explain in detail the behaviour and conduct that is expected by all employees and behaviour that will not be tolerated, be specific, then have this document signed
    Sociopathic employees have the tendency to be bullies, they will seek out the weaker staff members and they will also seek out anyone they think is a threat to them. Their emotional and psychological bullying will be softer at first, but will become very aggressive often quite quickly.
    Having a good open policy for staff to talk, but managers and team leaders need to be vigilant and know your team well, any signs that any individual is changing is the time to act. Nipping this in the bud early is key to saving a lot of heartache.
  2. Immediately address any problems caused by sociopathic employees. Sociopaths like to bully and they are usually skilled at it. If another staff member is acting up, or is causing problems with other staff members, do not just take it as face value. Look into the matter thoroughly, sociopaths are deviant and they will set one person up against another, to react irrationally, to eliminate a competitor, or just for the fun of it.
  3. Send managers and supervisors to seminars addressing ways to deal with sociopathic employees. Being able to spot sociopaths in the workplace and deal with them quickly is important. Managers and team leaders have a multitude of responsibilities and deadlines, the in depth knowledge of mental health is not always a priority, but some areas in particular should be. A sociopath can break a team, cause a toxic environment, serious health issues for staff members and of course affect productivity, absenteeism and profitability. Sending staff on courses is often inconvenient, time consuming and undervalued, but prevention in this case is hugely preferable to dealing with the aftermath of a sociopath. A specialist consultant is another option.
  4. Be firm when dealing with a sociopathic employee. Sociopaths attack weakness whenever possible. Have a third party witness whenever possible.
    This point needs stressing, they will not hesitate in deflecting blame and they will attack, with complaints, bad management reports, and any other governing body that could cause damage to a career or reputation. Always have another person present when having a meeting, get everything documented and recorded. If they make an allegation, get them to give you evidence other than their verbal account.
    Keep any complaints on a professional keel, as a sociopath will glean information and knowledge that they will keep and use when needed, so be prepared for personal accusations and insults to be rendered when they feel under attack.
    Having this policy for all employees is not a bad option, as it always safeguards the manager.
  5. Terminate any sociopathic employees who refuse to comply with the wishes of management and staff. The process needs to be quick and effective, all dealings/ meetings and warnings must be well documented, dated and signed. As mentioned before sociopaths can be very vindictive, so be prepared for arbitration, compensation boards, or even courts for the validity of the termination.

    As a conclusion a basic understanding of a sociopath is that they are part of the Anti Social Personality Disorders, of course there are many traits and ranges within the traits, but some usual red flags are:

    • Impulsive behaviour
    • Opportunistic
    • Can feel anxious and stress (or do a great impression of it)
    • Engage in risky behaviour
    • Are capable of empathy unlike a psychopath
    • Do not consider the consequences
    • Feel slight guilt but quickly forgets

    They can initially be very charming and gregarious, but there is always an underlying motive for this, they are master manipulators and usually very goal orientated. They know what they want and the quickest route to get it, no matter who stands in their way.
    Taking care of the staff is most assuredly the best way to care for any business, these individuals do not have horns and tails, they blend in well, until it suits them not to. Being aware and not denying the possibility of their existence in any workforce is always a good place to start.

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    Linda Sage
    Baking a cake with murderers, afternoon tea with rapists and thieves, have been part of a non run of the mill life of Linda Sage. Living and working around the world as a criminal psychologist, lecturer, author, podcaster, speaker and broadcaster, didn't save her from burnout through the accumulated pressure of work, caring for elderly parents and a daughter on the Autistic Spectrum. Since 2011 Linda has been passionately empowering individuals to care for themselves. Self-care is not a luxury, mental health should not be taboo and asking for help is not a weakness. Helping organisations cultivate & strengthen the mental health capacity of their staff in order to increase morale, enhance productivity, improve retention, engagement & efficiency. Unmask mental health & hidden disabilities in the workplace to break social stigma to build better relationships and a better business. Unmask mental health to break the social stigma and build better businesses.