When A Co-Worker Is A Sociopath

Let’s talk about that special someone at your workplace whose blood runs ice-cold. These people are predators, and you could be a target at any time.

The sociopath waits for opportunities to impose her or his will upon you. They probably have a middle management title; they use that bit of leverage to manipulate you. The problem with these kind of monsters is that they are often very charming. Those who have not tangled with the sociopath will be surprised to hear (from you) that they’re dangerous. Ironic – now you look crazy.

While they know how to turn on the charm in front of the big players in the office, to you they are dismissive and condescending. They will tell you to do things and often cite company policy as a rationale for doing so. They believe they can lord over you, and you will comply. They believe that they are a walking employee handbook – superior to you –  and their title gives them the currency to tell you how to behave.

The sociopath will take every single opportunity presented to manage up, and suck up. They will throw you under the bus without hesitation. Example: you’ve worked with them on a project. Notice how they stay calm and even silent at meetings. This animal waits until the meetings break up, then corner people individually, stabbing your co-workers in the back, pushing you to agree with their take on the issue. They work most effectively one on one. They win by dividing people, then showing bystanders that they are the ones trying to bring factions together. Practically everything they say to you is a lie. They have no remorse over their actions.

The sociopath may very well be extremely bright, even very talented at their position. I would guess that more often than not they are among the smarter people inside your work universe. Their smarts give them the ability to strategize how to get you.

Don’t take it personally. The executive suite is the only territory the sociopath cannot run in. Everyone lateral or below them could get it at any time.

How to deal? It’s not easy. You have a heartbeat and a conscience. It’s harder for you. Some tips:
Give them nothing to work with. Don’t direct any negative attention toward them if possible.
Be pleasant without being overly cheery. The monster cares only about him or herself.

  • Make sure in their presence you are not doing anything that’s “anti-company”…from lunch rules to dress code.
  • Ask for their advice occasionally. Feed the monster’s desire to be superior and all-knowing.
  • When asked to sabotage a team member, express amazement and surprise. Stay neutral. Ask a follow-up to seem interested. Don’t give them a soundbite – they will use it against you.
  • Sometimes the monster is going to win. It’s just the way it is. Try not to let it be a big win.

Stay close to the sociopath, especially if she or he is on your team. Like any enemy, keep them close to you. The late U.S. president Lyndon Johnson once said,“Better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.”

Picture of John ScottJohn Scott is the Career Services Manager and a graduate instructor at the School of Communications + Media Technologies, Academy of Art University, San Francisco. His latest book “You. Employed: why winners get jobs” is in the Amazon book store and his third book is coming in Fall 2017.






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