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.
Toni Bowers is the former 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.