You won’t find the terms “psychopath” or “sociopath” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders since they use the more politically correct term—antisocial personality disorder.
We don’t need a textbook description anyway, as we all know one when we see one. Well, not exactly. Due to their “anti-social behavior” psychopaths and sociopaths are clever and hard to spot.
Experts claim that psychopaths and sociopaths share similar characteristics. They lack a sense of what’s right and wrong and are incapable of truly understanding another person’s feelings. The difference between the two is that the psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. He could lie to you about the job, tell you that you’ll get a promotion and bonus when he knows full well that you won’t. He’ll look you dead in the eyes and say your job is super safe and secure right up until the moment he fires you. A sociopath is the psychopath’s little brother. He has a bit of a conscience and recognizes that he’s lying to you, but does it anyway.
Why the psychological dissertation you may ask? Well for one, I’d like to get my money’s worth of a Psychology degree and prove to my parents that I put it to use. Well, I can’t really do that since they’ve both passed away, and I’m technically an orphan now. Is it possible to be an orphan when you’re over 40 years old?
The corporate world is lousy with psychopaths, sociopaths and antisocial people. Some industries such as Wall Street are said to be overrun with these sorts. There are studies that claim you have to be on the high-end of the psychopathic spectrum to attain the exalted title of CEO at a top corporation.
The challenge for all of us non-psychopaths is that it’s hard to tell if you’ve accepted a job from one or find yourself working for this type of character. You may start working for someone that seems brilliant, articulate, sensitive, caring and supportive. As time goes on you start to realize that he may not be all that he seems.
Here are some signs to watch out for to determine if you’re working for an anti-social—or worse—boss.
These managers may lack empathy and understanding. They don’t have any regard for others. They’ll come across charming and charismatic and mimic real emotions. They’ll pretend that they’re interested in you but they really don’t know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. They’re skilled actors whose feign interest to manipulate you for their own personal gains and corporate advancement.
They yell and scream. Sociopaths tend to be hot-headed and spiral out of control. They’ll call you out in front of your colleagues and dress you down for some minor mistakes. It’s most likely not even your fault and probably his. There is no talking to the boss, he’s right and you’re wrong and dumb.
Supervisors steal the credit. You’ll labor on a difficult project for months. You’ve sacrificed nights, weekends and family functions to deliver for your manager ahead of schedule. Proudly you provide the finished product. Behind closed doors he happily and excitedly tells you how proud he is of you, extols all your virtues, slaps you on the back and talks about a possible promotion and raise.
At the high-level meeting with senior executives to present the work, your manager takes all the credit. He pretends that you weren’t involved at all. The manager barks at you to scurry back to his office and pick up some key documents that he prepared—which you really prepared.
When you return to the board room he says “thanks, you can go back to work now.” As you’re leaving he adds “next time try to help out a little, okay?!” You can see him shaking his head and grimacing as if he had to do everything on his own. The other execs laugh at his over-the-top mocking and glare at you as you sheepishly walk out with your head down.
The micro-manager. Your boss is the king. He dictatorially proclaims where you must sit, when you may take your lunch, how you speak, when you must arrive at the office and what time you could leave work at night. He controls every single aspect of your job and work-life. You are subjected to constant criticism, criticized and corrected.
What’s funny—as if anything can be humorous in this hell-hole—is that after the tenth time he re-edits your work, you hand it back. It’s all his work product at this point in time, but he tells you that you did a poor job and must redo it once more.
Sorry, there will be no bonuses. The official word from your manager is, “according to top management there will be no raises or bonuses this year”. Mysteriously, you later find out that she received a phenomenal raise and much bigger bonus than last year.
Bipolar and two-faced. In the morning your boss is nice, sweet and caring. One small event then turns him into an hysterical yelling monster. After belittling, yelling and embarrassing you, he then says “hey, let’s go out for a drink and watch the game” as if nothing happened.
Me, me, me. She knows everything about everything and will make sure that you and everyone else knows this. Her job, her life, her work, her relationships are the only things that matter. She will spend hours complaining about how difficult it is to be her. Beware: if you accidentally tell her that you broke both your legs and need to leave early to go to a doctor she will rip your head off for bringing up personal matters during working hours.
Divide and conquer. She creates dissent and animosity between coworkers, pitting them against each other for any morsel of credit, raise or promotion.
Teacher’s pet. There is always this one person on the team who is a complete f*up but knows how to butter up the boss to get on his good side. The person is his eyes and ears, and will report that you took an extra two minutes in the bathroom. Usually that person will be thrown under a bus and takes the blame for the mess the supervisor made. The boss will quickly get another pet to train and play with until he’s bored with that person.
Endless meetings and lectures. You are held prisoner in never-ending meetings and closed door conversations. This jail time is an excuse for him to pontificate about how awesome he is and how horribly incompetent you are.
There is almost no way to win if you’re in this situation. My best advice is to recognize that you’re working for a monster and find ways to extricate yourself from this situation. The longer you remain in this toxic relationship, the more your self-esteem and confidence will be eroded. You’ll feel beaten, humiliated and depressed. Treat is as a bad relationship—cut the cord and your losses—and move onto to a place that appreciates all the great things you have to offer.