I follow international workplace news -- it's fun to travel internationally, even if it's only in my head -- and one thread I've been following lately is the spate of stories in the international media about dealing with workplace psychopaths. Australian psychotherapist John Clarke is telling companies to be on the lookout for them, because they're way more common than we'd like to think. Up to 3% of average employees could have the inability to feel for other people and take enormous enjoyment in seeing them suffer. As Dr. Clarke said at a recent conference:
"The workplace psychopath is somebody who psychologically destroys the people they work with to feed their need for a sense of power and control and domination over other human beings.
"They don't suffer any guilt or remorse, or in fact they enjoy the suffering of other people."
Clarke consults companies that have had psychopaths on staff, and he's watched their co-workers suffer from anxiety and depression or go on to commit suicide.
Workplace psychopaths can be hard to identify, but smoking them out starts with the hiring process because workplace psychopaths tend to lie and exaggerate on resumes and in interviews. So better background checking can help screen them out. The problem is, once hired they can be pretty good at faking a good job except for the I-want-to-mentally-torture-you part. And oddly enough, they can also be well-liked.
Psychopaths, however, do not tend to rise to the top of the corporate structure. Instead, they float around laterally spreading their unique brand of misery. Just hope they don't work directly with you and start to manipulate and isolate you from your peers.
Don't worry, because the Australian breakfast shows have got this one covered. Let's go to the video tape!