IT Employment

Your boss could be a sociopath. No, really.

An author says that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths and many of them are managers.

I have a pretty high tolerance for your basic run-of-the-mill nut. From "High Priest Warlocks" like Charlie Sheen to people who, with the right type of aluminum foil hats, can channel their dead poodles, it's all good.

What scares me are the people who maintain a semblance of normalcy and are out there wreaking subtle havoc on the world.

That's why the premise of The Sociopath Next Door, a book by Martha Stout, gives me the major creeps. Stout claims that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals. Sociopaths (or the more politically correct term, someone with antisocial personality disorder) show a lack of regret in their actions, with a common trait being the violation of the rights of others.

This book was brought to my attention by a friend of mine in response to my telling her about one of my son's friends being bullied at work by her boss. I don't know if Stout's 4% metric is accurate but I know that I hear an awful lot from readers of this blog who are dealing with bosses that I believe could be characterized as sociopaths.

Let's take an absolutely unscientific poll and see how many sociopathic managers there are out there. (Note: If your boss tends to yell but then is sorry afterwards, he or she is probably not, technically, a sociopath.) I realize that I'm being very general here, but, to paraphrase Dave Barry, as is often the case when I do that, I don't care.

Seriously, it might be interesting to get a grass-roots level view of how sociopaths are managing other people. Also, if you are yourself a sociopath (do sociopaths know they're sociopaths?), please do chime in and make your case.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

221 comments
dupednowwiser
dupednowwiser

My former boss is a psychopath. I am fired now. I questioned and shared too much information about myself. I finally figured out why my fellow employees say as little as possible, share no personal information about themselves, do not complain when the boss takes credit for their efforts, and are also making plans to leave. I made the mistake of engaging with this individual, questioning things, and then was put in a no win situation until termination. During pre-termination, my efforts to improve were sabotaged. I took it personally for a long time until I got wise. The cost has been turmoil and months of unemployment, but things are turning around. If you are in a similar situation, the best thing you can do for yourself is to have an exit plan.

george.skalley
george.skalley

If a Company can be classed as Psychopathic... is it any wonder that those who serve at the upper organisational levels (managers, directors, executives etc) adopt, display and ultimately cause many of these characteristics as the company. Ergo... someone who holds views their own pscyopathic company as their very raison d'??tre, is highly likely to exhibit some sociopathic and antisocial behaviours? ___________________________________________________________________ February 27, 2006 - Corporate responsibility researchers have found that many large organizations display the criteria psychiatrists use to classify people as psychopaths. Psychopathic characteristics in organizations The article matches the personality characteristics of psychopaths (shown in bold) with some examples of organisational behaviour: 1. Unconcern for others' feelings - harsh treatment of employees, customers and partners - sudden terminations of employment contracts and business contracts 2. Inability to maintain human relations - transferring business operations from country to country in order to minimize production expenses - constant change of employees and partners 3. Disregard for others' safety - products and production methods endangering human health and the environment - dangerous working conditions 4. Dishonesty and lying to one's own advantage - keeping silent about the risks of hazardous products and production methods, covering them up and denying their existence - deceiving employees, customers and partners 5. Inability to feel guilt - when exposed of wrong-doing, asserting innocence (denial), blaming others (projection) and justifying one's action (rationalisation) 6. Inability to observe the laws and norms of society - breaking human rights, labour, contract and environmental laws and agreements when it is economically more beneficial than observing them

flashtube1
flashtube1

This describes the boss that laid me off last year (thank GOD)! At another time and another company, there was a woman who headed up a centralized department. Pretty much every other department had to depend on her department in one way or another. But she was a double-whammy. Not only was she rude and condescending but she had the added bonus of utter incompetence. It was like she knocked back a fifth of Jack every morning before her breakfast of coffee and nails. So when she screwed up, which was pretty much constantly, and you tried to get things straight, you had to deal with the attitude. It was a serious drain on productivity. And everyone, from the receptionist to the top office, knew this. When you complained about her, you'd hear a chuckle and then "Yeah, she's a tough one to deal with." It was like the Twilight Zone. And this went on for years. So, why was this allowed to happen? Because her boss (company president) was afraid to confront her. I even sent this article called: "How do the mean and incompetent keep their jobs" to the company president and also asked him why was I laid off. You guessed it...I got no reply, which sums it up as "no balls".

techrepublic
techrepublic

I'm sure many sociopaths would know that they are sociopaths but the point is that they probably wouldn't care anyway.

wolf_47
wolf_47

I've always had a simple rule for good managers. It's the rule of the 3 F's -- Fair, Firm and Flexible. The comments have dealt mostly with the Firm part which if applied without the others makes for a bad boss. A boss who is only firm in his decisions is autocratic, abusive and inherently sociopathic. However, if at the same time he/she has the character of being fair and flexible they cannot be sociopathic, unreasonable, demanding, or abusive. The ability to be fair and flexible in itself contradicts the sociopathic tendency. Obviously an effective boss has to be firm to move things along because even self motivated employees can drift and lose sight of goals and priorities -- never mind the lazy self centered ones. However, a boss who is also fair treats everyone with respect and without favoritism. A fair boss remembers to be self critical, maybe even apologizes for mistakes, and expects no more from others than he would expect from himself. A fair boss is capable of being empathetic and avoids being a hypocrite. Moreover, a good boss is also at the same time flexible to allow for individual differences so that he can harness the best qualities in his employees. He adapts to the changing situations and is capable of changing his mind when the evidence supports it. He allows his employees to have a voice, really listens to them and adapts himself to the best style of management appropriate for the type of business or labor. He is capable of re-tooling himself and his employees in order to advance the business and stay competitive. Is there really any further essence to add to this trio of personality excellence constituting a respectable boss?

spearson@8herons.com
spearson@8herons.com

Sociopath and psychopath are former diagnostic categories that were used interchangeably by psychologists and psychiatrists. The DSM-IV does not use either one, they are lumped into "Antisocial Personality Disorder" which encompasses a range of behaviors, including people who are criminals who adhere to the group norms and codes of behavior of the group they belong to, and don't engage in destructive actions towards that group, although their behavior towards the larger social milieu may be categorized as "antisocial". They have a sense of responsibility and empathy for the members of their own particular group.

truun
truun

Life is a Standard Distribution, hence assigning labels to people should be done with reference to the specific situation which generated that label. when i was working with people whose main 'work tools' were weapons, the best 'performers' received much praise, rewards, and admiration from their peers. These same people, transferred to an office environment and now expected to use computers, attend meetings, and chat around the water cooler, would likely be fired within weeks for 'behavioural problems' even though they had not changed their way of interacting. Though their previous 'business' associates considered them caring, loyal, trustworthy individuals, their new office-drone workmates would consider them as psycho-sociopaths, amoral, and very scary. Move them to a Republican Party office and they would revert back to their former exalted status, proving that the key to being considered 'normal' is to behave in a manner accepted as appropriate for any given situation. As for geeks, they are great assets to a company when assigned to their appropriate work environment, just as the average office drone / accountant is valued for their performance with mind-numbing, repetitive paper tasks and, if management types are alert to the obvious, the two groups should never mix! This observation means that the best way to handle people who persistently operate 'outside the norms' (i.e., not within three standard deviations) is simply to move them to environments where their traits are suitable to the environment. It is common for such persons by middle age eventually to gravitate to a career or function that is compatible with their personality traits and thus 'blend in' to their surroundings, making it appear to the casual observer that they have 'matured' and have become 'normal', where in fact they are just as 'psycho' as they were when young. This accounts for the original statement that generated this thread, "your boss may actually be a sociopath...", as some people are not blinded by the glorious office, lofty title, and deference given to a boss but see clearly his true (nasty for this situation) personality...

KelleBelle
KelleBelle

yeah, it might be you. I'm also a Criminology grad student at a major Canadian university and the 4% estimate of the population is probably a good statistic. But as with any type of personality traits, there's also the degree or severity of behaviours that an individual is likely to display or engage in. So even if someone registers on a personality inventory as having ASPD/sociopathic tendencies, it's not a predictor of rampant bullying and violence, the occurrence of that severity of behaviour is actually quite low. Then again, your boss just might be an a**hole.

rcpendle
rcpendle

I've seen some comments here about being tough. that's fine. Being relentless or cruel, that is not. I worked for one guy who I could have happily done something very illegal to and never looked back, he was that bad. He would put people in tears for no reason (men too!), he would rail on clients because he could. This guy was a monster who put on a face and then would rip your figurative guts out behind your back...just because he could. I've seen him fabricate complaints against staff member so he could fire them...because they were good staff, knew the program and called him out on his crap. If you stood up to this guy, you were gone. Just like me. I drove away that day and never looked back even though the job itself was one of the best I have ever had.

mmesaros
mmesaros

He's in a federal prison now. Everything normal on the surface, nice home, successful career, two cute kids and a wife, but everyone who worked for him knew he was a monster underneath the facade. With any luck he'll never get out (I believe he got 20 years.)

RealGem
RealGem

But the odds are that there are more non-manager sociopaths out there than manager sociopaths. It's just that they are perceived to have less ability to "wreak" than the managers do. However, this isn't always the case. As a manager, I'm the one that has to deal with those non-management sociopaths. And, they're a challenge. They don't understand why they can't restore production servers in the middle of the day without checking with anybody. They don't understand why re-architecting the entire network just to give one person 10GB more disk space is not an appropriate solution. They don't understand why we should white-list Google. And so on. Don't be one of those guys.

Philogos
Philogos

If my memory of my Psycho 1 course is correct, then sociopaths tend to explain their behaviour by externalising their problem and saying that they only behave the way they do because the rest of the world is like that. "I have to be tough because I live in a tough world." My observation in a work context tends to confirm this. For example, one of my colleagues who was very bad at developing people was the first to complain that his own boss didn't look after him.

Satur9
Satur9

There is already a book about this "Snakes in Suits" by P. Babiak and R. D. Hale (both Ph.D.), published in 2006, about Psychopaths! Sociopath seems just a milder name for this phenomena i.e. those better at disguising their destructive personalities. I'm betting much of authority and not just management is a stronghold for these predators. It has been suggested that a lack of empathy (I'm not that empathic or social myself) and other personality flaws are caused by not getting enough quality TLC as a child, and passed on parental behaviour. Parents prioritising work too much over quality time with their children, probably because of Womens 'liberation' thus them working, causing extra inflation, then having to work to pay for this inflation, and also the frenetic pace of modern life, probably don't help.

Jonno-the-First
Jonno-the-First

If he uses the term: Tell someone who cares.....you know thats true....

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

This is weird that you are taking this up so soon after I ran into an article about this for my own research. Robert Hare in Canada has been working on this for at least 35 years. A lot of the data about it is from him. I have also studied data from other sources which I think is also important. For me, this is THE social problem on this planet. These guys are incorrigible so "no one" knows what to do about them. Actually, there has been work done on how to treat and handle psychopaths, not just detect them. But a lot of it has been suppressed. This is not to made light of. It is a serious problem existing at all levels. And I mean ALL levels. The percentage I learned is 2-1/2%, but 4 is close enough. The thing is, a group or society could go into "witch hunt" mode to try to "weed out" such people, and if that effort were successfully infiltrated by one or more sociopaths, which is something they are pretty good at doing, then you could have genocide on your hands, or at least ruin the lives of a lot of perfectly honest people. The most important thing we can do at this point, without any reliable structure in place for handling such people (and that includes the current "mental health" system), is to just realize that it this is real. Using a full set of criteria from a good article or book on the subject, you can evaluate people close to you to see if any seem to have many of the common characteristics. In the case of a boss, the best handling is often to quit. Targeting managers is a little unfair. Even a great manager can be under tremendous amounts of pressure, or under the influence of a bad apple further up the command chain. Managing people is a tough job and isn't taught that well. So I would give most managers the benefit of the doubt unless the majority of those characteristics (I think there are at least ten) are obvious and chronic.

kdpawson
kdpawson

It's as simple as that :-)

glencharge
glencharge

There is a very interesting article on this subject entitled Corporate Psychopaths. "Catalyst" an Australian TV show had a 10 minute report on it, and its quite revealing.

bkaplanr
bkaplanr

Pardon me for diverging again, but I just remembered a book I read last year, Stalking the Soul by Marie-Louise Hirogen. It's really about domestic abuse of the emotional-verbal kind, but could be adapted to the business realm. It's worth a read. I'd recommend anything you can find on narcissism, too, b/c some really *are* poison to the soul & psyche. Hunt up everything you can find on the Web, hunt up 'malignant narcissist' - that'll probably bring you more info in connection with 'business' or 'government'. I haven't checked these out, but I'll bet they'll bring you a wealth of information.

psanders
psanders

Antisocials need to attend social events to feel that they are OK. They need to do this to be able to view themselves as superior to everyone else; which they are, just ask them.

bkaplanr
bkaplanr

2 points... First, the definition of being a sociopath is too black/white: either you are one or not, whereas I've thought of it more as a spectrum: on one end you have Hannibal Lecter and on the other, Mother Thereas... and in between, you have the rest of us who display varying levels of empathy towards our fellow man/woman/subordinants. Second, it's easy to blame the odd sociopathic person who's found a place in the management hierarchy, but where true blame ought to be placed is on a corporate culture that would tolerate it, unless that person defines the culture as the head honcho. If the culture doesn't discourage that behaviour but tolerates it, that behaviour will sooner or later come to define the corporate culture. Posted by tim.retford@... Apr 14, 2011 @ 12:58 AM (PDT) I happen to agree with this, but I'll tell you something... If it talks, acts & walks like a a duck, then it's bloody well a duck. Sociopaths *love* the pain of others, they zero in the weaknesses of others as sharks do to the merest trace of blood in water, they have no empathy. I know we're talking about business, but let me digress a moment - if they have kids and one has to go to the hospital and even if that one is the "trash" in the sociopath's view (the one from which s/he can derive no benefit), s/he will probably be seen smarming over him/her (invented word comes from 'smarmy', as in "sickeningly sweet"). I'm sure you get the picture. But in the office, if an employee has to suddenly go to the hospital I'm not sure you'd see any such scene - probably not; the employees are not seen as his/her "property". Also, the sociopath may act buddy-buddy for a while, as if you were offspring, and gradually get you to confide various things you think are completely innocent and then twists your words against you and uses them as weapons. DON'T, for heaven's sake, ever allow yourself to be suckered in by this! Bad enough when your own father does it! It's potentially lethal when a manager or boss does it, esp. someone who's in a position to hold you back in the company, outright blackmail you or give you a bad rep to the next boss if you changing jobs - and I'd certainly suggest you do so if a boss is like this! Frankly, I think the culture invites it - and we won't *cease* to have so many (sociopaths - although I think the number may be far higher now) until the culture *CEASES* to invite it - not excluding the political culture. Because I think it should be obvious now (if it wasn't screamingly obvious then - and it da--ned well should've been!) that George Bush Jr. (aka Dubya) was a prize sociopath - and so are a good many in the GOP, esp. among the Far Right. As to one of the original ?s: do sociopaths *know* they are? I don't know; I rather think they don't, as sociopaths are *not* given to self-reflection any more than they are to empathy. As to sociopaths, I'd also recommend the (rather expensive) e-book on narcissists by Sam Vaknin that I've seen on the 'Net; I think it's sold through Amazon but can also be downloaded and paid for by PayPal or whatever.

Helen Phelan
Helen Phelan

Re the psychopath/sociopath discussion, the only major difference is in organisational skills. Ie a psychopath might plan your death in minute detail - a sociopath would just kill you.....both of them would do it without thinking twice. Thankfully most people with Anti-social Personality Disorders learn from an early age what their community generally finds acceptable behaviour and work towards conforming. It's only rarely that their lack of conscience becomes a community issue. However, we are all aware that on a personal level their day to day behaviour can cause a lot of pain to the people around them. I have now worked with two sociopaths. The first was a boss. I was told very early in our working relationship "she must like you 'cause she used to throw things at the last person that did your job". Not sure I took that as a compliment, but I was definitely grateful. The second is a current colleague, and believe me, I work very hard to ensure that I'm never between him and anything he decides he wants. The things I've learned from this experience: 1 Sociopaths become master manipulators 2 It is all but impossible to convince someone else that a collegue is in fact a sociopath until they have seen the behaviour for themselves 3 And if you are forced to take them on DO IT VERY CAREFULLY

hgeorgescu
hgeorgescu

Thriving to be a boss IS a sociopathy (and a psychopathy, of course)

urkiddinme
urkiddinme

I had a boss who kept asking me if I owned a gun or was going to jump out the window. He kept prodding me and I never understood why he would ask me that. Scary thing is that an employee (before I arrived) committed suicide under that boss' watch.

realvarezm
realvarezm

I think many of them at some point in their lifes lost their human being skills and became sociopahts. U can do a poll and i bet you one month salary; more than the 50% of the interviewed people will say they had a boss with that profile. In my case i think had 2 foreman (thats the social name given in my country to that people) in the 20 years of work exprerience. Probably the 4% number that the title use, are the ones that were born that way. Scary!

Tik-Tok
Tik-Tok

My current boss is fantastic, fortunately -- demanding but not unfair, and funny, cordial, and genuine. I had one boss (at another organization) who'd been fired by his previous employer for embezzling and was under federal indictment when our company hired him. He'd get drunk every day at lunch and call us into his office one by one to chew us out (with half-closed eyes, slurring his speech). He was finally let go not for being abusive, or for doing freelance work on company time, or for being under federal indictment, or for drinking on the job, but for pissing off some of the wrong people. A friend of mine had a boss who was more the classic sociopath type -- charming and effusive (unless you were somebody who couldn't help him gain more power). He picked out my friend for abuse, bearing down on her like a ton of bricks, even though her performance reviews had always exemplary and she continued to be very productive despite a tough work situation. He purposely set up a scenario designed to make her fail (impossible demands, ridiculous schedules, no understanding of how the day-to-day work in his own department was actually done). There were a couple of other individuals he abused, my friend found out later, but she was bearing the brunt of it. And all the while, he was good-old-boying with the brass and chumming around with those he considered useful. Fortunately my friend had enough gumption to put a lengthy, detailed written complaint together and submit it to this jerk's boss's boss. The jerk found himself unemployed a few weeks after that, so the good guys won in this case. One thing that hasn't been talked about much in this thread is just how damaging a sociopathic boss can be to a victim's psyche. It can take months or even years to recover, and some people never do. It's a real tribute to the abused employees who [b]don't[/b] turn around and become sociopaths themselves.

my10cats
my10cats

If you study corporate pyschology it acts, functions and responds as a sociopathic entity. The shareholders expect profits and thee management pursues profit as a means to that end. In doing so the corporations executives must respond to the shareholders demands by acting in a way that leaves the individual as just another resource to use until no longer needed or under utilized..

gwoodford
gwoodford

You have hit the nail on the head here. Not so much at my present job but some of the past fellow employees were defintely across the imaginary line. How one manager of a department could sleep at night with the venom that spewed out her mouth was a mystery to me. While I rarely had a need to interact, our one major interaction had me almost fired for a litany of offensives that were clearly lies since no less than twenty people were present. She called all te witnesses liars. In the aftermath after it was clear I would not be fired, she quietly told me that her husband would like to see me in the parking lot. My crime: telling her no. BTW: I declined her husbands invite to fight in the parking lot ... but not before whispering back that I was doing him a BIG favor.

mikifin
mikifin

I worked at a place that had a no alcohol policy and had hired one of these nuts. I went out, got a bottle of whiskey, sprinkled it in his office and put the bottle in one of his drawers. Someone smelled it, security tossed his office and they fired him the next day. End of problem

my10cats
my10cats

Many people in a position of some responsibilty that carries the weight of law with it find they can hold it over you. They find solice in making you twist at the end of their' bereaucratic rope until you plead for mercy. OR JUST ASK TO SPEAK TO SOMEELSE, LIKE THEIR SUPERVISOR.

mkm576
mkm576

These statements describing a sociopath completely fit a person I know. -Glibness and Superficial Charm (are covertly hostile and domineering) -Manipulative and Conning -Never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They may dominate and humiliate their victims. -Grandiose Sense of Self (I am wonderful and more talented than everyone else) Feels entitled to certain things as "their right." -Pathological Lying - Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests. -Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt: A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way. -Shallow Emotions: When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises. -Incapacity for Love -Need for Stimulation -Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common. -Callousness/Lack of Empathy: Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them. -Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature: Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others. (This is the best description for the sociopath I know. This was done over and over again to me and others. Sociopaths do this in such a subtle way that you begin to think it's YOU that has a problem, that the sociopath is really a nice person and you are crazy to think otherwise.) -Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency: Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet "gets by" by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc. -Irresponsibility/Unreliability: Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed. (However, it's a MAJOR problem when someone wrecks THEIR plans) -Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity: Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts. -Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle: Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively. After several years of enduring this abusive behavior, I came upon this definition and realized that this person clearly was/is a sociopath. This really helped me to break out of the abused role (I also removed myself from contact with this person) and remind myself that they were the ones with the problem. I'm not sure why some people are talking about psychopaths. They are similar, but not exactly the same thing. It's much harder to identify psychopaths, I think, because they work very hard to appear normal...sociopaths don't do that as much.

njhou
njhou

She must get caught in a major lie every 2 or 3 months by some other director or the CFO. At times, you almost want to laugh when she complains that these other people don't understand her. I agree with the book recommendation - 7 habits of .... also meditation and 3 min Focus on breathing helps ! And knowing I only have 8 months left to vest ! ! !

Andy
Andy

Grow up.

MrRich
MrRich

As we have learned in the last few years, the mind is very flexible and can be trained (we exhibit neuroplasticity). My meditation training has helped me to learn more compassion. That is why I don't see this as a surprise. In fact it is easy for us to segment who we have feelings for (i.e. we don't have compassion for immigrants, blacks, muslims, and Wisconsin public employees to name a few communities that we discriminate against in the US). That is exactly what being a sociopath is, just a matter of degree. You may not be concerned with killing flies, mosquitos and ticks --- to me, that is also being a sociopath (though it is very normal). But I am still a Boston driver, so in my case it is other drivers that I am out to get (LOL).

jayohem
jayohem

The reporter is just pointing out an issue that is the subject of another person's book. It certainly deserves looking at. We've all had unpleasant bosses somewhere along the line, and maybe the sociopathic possiblity explains their behavior. I must agree that there are people who fit the bill. Does the name Bernie Madoff ring a bell? He was among other things the chief manager of his company. The thing about the socios is that because they tend to be above average intelligence they are smooth operators and seem to be able to get their way. Sante Kimes for example, conned folks into working for her and actually was imprisoned for slavery; that was, of course before she and her son were tried and convicted of multiple murders. They are out there, folks, and if you read the headlines, you'll see some are quite successful right up until they are unmasked. The take-away here is that though they are sociopathic they aren't all guilty of felonious behavior. That said, if you've had a boss or two who just doesn't seem to care what effect he or she is having on employees, that individual may be displaying anti-social tendencies, but not necessarily to a clinical extent. I've run into a couple through the years. That's when you either keep your head down and hope for the best or find a good opportunity to bail. One other take-away: If 4 percent of the population is sociopathic to some degree, 96% isn't.

simmmich
simmmich

What is the opposite of a Sociopath? Would that make for a good manager?

stevenphx
stevenphx

Even tho you were trying to be facetious, treating yourself in a harmful manner is no different than the behavior of a sociopath; with one big difference: in your case the damage is confined (to yourself, and perhaps your family). It seems that we go by the 'Godfather' mentality; if it's 'business', it's ok to treat others (or yourself) poorly. What a waste! It's been established that other behavioral models are more productive.....not to mention, kinder.

rastr
rastr

First, I must work so haven't had time to read all the comments- 'my apologies. This whole question of "what someone is" is misleading. Every one of us cares about looking good and manipulating people to get rewards. And every one of us has compassion and empathetic neurons. In sociopaths, maybe they have lesser or handicapped or stunted empathy neurons or pathways. With little empathy, they don't naturally care about looking good so must compensate by learning how to fake it. Non-sociopaths care about ourselves, too, we just can't help but care for others. Yet the balance shifts at different times- when we're feeling threatened, we're much more able to shut off the empathy and kill in self-defense. If someone is abused, they also develop ways to fixate on their demons and shut off empathy or logic or go into whatever pattern they learned to survive. The problem is, we don't learn this as kids- we're told to be nice and that people are good and care, and we develop a model out of sync with the world. The truth is that we can trust people to be themselves, and we can't trust them to fit our ideas of them. At age 53, I'm still easily fooled by my ideas of people. If the author's son's friend is being bullied at work, she should call attention to the behavior and tell him to stop, it's unprofessional, unnecessary, unproductive and unpleasant. If the boss is low on empathy, he probably just doesn't know. We should teach kids, and ourselves, about how the brain works and even study how ours works. I've found this to be a very rich and rewarding and enlightening endeavor, with many results in the areas of joy and productivity, including having work be happier and more pleasant. We all tend to think others are like we are- they are. And they're not. And what we think is what we think, not the truth.

pgit
pgit

...and I have absolutely no empathy for myself. I treat myself like crap, deny myself vacations, demand I get work done start to finish no matter how long it takes, force myself into physical exertions that have done sever damage to my back, and I'm underpaid. Is my boss a sociopath? Is there an anonymous tip line where I could blow the bastard in? If my boss goes down will I still have a job?! Please help. :)

Not2Nutz
Not2Nutz

What is even more interesting is that 20% of population of prison inmates are diagnosed sociopaths. The conclusion should be obvious: sociopathic behavior eventually leads to incarceration.

funkyzero
funkyzero

We tend to try categorizing things with defined lines, this is no exception. I believe this is a flawed habit. I was found t be a poor manager for this very reason,I couldn't do things to subordinates without reflecting it back on myself so I simply let them run wild to avoid the guilt. There are the extremes like myself, then everything in-between. A good manager makes balanced decisions, void of feelings. This is the only way to run a profitable organization unfortunately.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

Interesting question... I've seen Managers burn off rows of consultants without blinking. People that have traveled half way around the world to find work and have a 2,500 mile trip home if things just don't work out. Where the same managers seem to have a familial, albeit numb, relation with their full-time employees, without all the warmth and fuzziness of course. I've never considered that before. Does this fit the profile? I bet they sleep like babies on a whiskey bottle after a good firing. That is creepy.

BL PUMPK9
BL PUMPK9

Do your job, and forget about how others treat you. Or, go back to your mommy.

jodym
jodym

I had a boss that enjoyed pitting employees against each other and then sitting back and watching the fur fly. He was also extremely good at looking you straight in the eyes and lying when asked a direct question. I had nightmares for a very long time after I left that job and still have trouble trusting management.

EnrgyMgmt
EnrgyMgmt

comes a point when a person has to stop wondering what's wrong with the other guy and start wondering why you're sticking around for the abuse. If employees of abusive bosses voted with their feet, abusive bosses would be history. Find some backbone already.

mjwebster
mjwebster

Robert Hare, a well known scientist who developed the standard test for psychopathy, warns that it is relatively easy for layman to a) diagnose someone as a psychopath and b) be completely wrong. We all know when somone is using us, or trying to use us. Sometimes, however, we ignore these internal warnings. Not much is added to the efficacy of the internal warning system by saying "X is a psychopath"

pgit
pgit

I know you're right, there are positive behavioral models that yield better results. When I was an aviation department head I practiced a far better model than I now use with myself. The people that worked for me still tell me working foe me was the best job they ever had. So I "know" rationally what's right, but just can't seem to "put it down," lighten up a bit or maybe take on less work. I feel like I can't "justify" treating myself better, to put a word to the thought process. No doubt I was the exact opposite of 'sociopath' in how I treated others, such turning inward of sociopath behavior must have it's own word... "occupational masochism?" It's not like I'm destroying myself, it's more like I pile on just enough to stay on the edge of what's tolerable. It's hard to separate the "this is BS!!" factor from the reality of having to get the work done... I've always assumed, as my chief aircraft mechanic used to say, that every job is like having to take a bite out of a big ol' s#!t sandwich, whether a job is tolerable or not is a matter of the condiments. He'd go on "for instance, would you like peanuts with that? Jalape??os? ..." If you're not biting into that sandwich with gusto, you're not working hard enough. I've just never been able to master the "Mary Tyler Moore" world view model.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

...by being aware that trying to judge another's motives by our own standards is not always productive. Some people do things for reasons that we can't understand, because these people work in ways we can't relate to. And that's useful knowledge, whether one is a sociopath or not (psychopathy isn't the correct term, I believe).

mjwebster
mjwebster

1. Ansu wrote: "(psychopathy isn't the correct term, I believe)." Well, your belief is not correct. Read Hare, a good easy introduction is Snakes in Suits. 2. The rest of your answer is not responsive to the observation - labeling someone a psychopathy, even when correct, doesn't appear to helpful as a warning device.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Why would I take your word for it being worth my time when your response is a dead fish? Nobody talks about psychopathy, it's a hollywood fiction. Sociopath is a diagnosis, psychopath is a derogative. [b]"2. The rest of your answer is not responsive to the observation - labeling someone a psychopathy, even when correct, doesn't appear to helpful as a warning device."[/b] -You didn't, apparently, read what I wrote. Being aware that one may come across people who work in fundamentally different ways psychologically [b]is[/b] helpful. And if you don't think so, you're obviously one of [i][b]THEM![/b][/i]