A sociopath is an antisocial personality disorder that affects about one in 25 Americans, according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Martha Stout, author of “The Sociopath Next Door.”
Most people believe that sociopaths are dangerous criminals and, while that maybe true, there are many sociopaths that are not. You may not realize this but you probably are working with one. While a licensed professional can truly diagnose this disorder, the following are characteristics of a sociopath at work:
1. Is a Great Charmer
Sociopaths are just like you or I. They blend in and are very friendly, charismatic, and dynamic. They are great communicators and rarely are lost for words. They disguise themselves behind their charm to get what they want. They are great con artists and because of their gift of gab, they get what they want. Be wary of co-workers who like to hear themselves talk and try to use charm to get what they want.
2. Has A Sense of Entitlement
According to my Psychology Today colleague, Dr. Seth Meyers, a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, sociopaths have “a sense of entitlement...that stems from an underlying sense of rage.” It enables them to “act out in whichever way they happen to choose at that time. Everything is up for grabs with sociopaths and nothing is off limits.”
At work, this means that nothing will stop him or her to get what he or she wants. These are individuals that are persistent and when they want an answer to a question that he or she has, he or she will call you, instant message you, or come to your desk just because they feel you owe an immediate answer. So stand back, if you happen to be in their way.
3. Doesn’t Know How to Empathize
Sociopaths find it difficult to understand other people’s emotions because they are incapable of experiencing guilt, shame, or even love. So don’t expect to ever get an apology from this person. If you do get an apology be wary because they are manipulating you. Always remember they only care about themselves. You are a means to an end.
In an interview with NPR, M.E. Thomas, author of “Confessions of a Sociopath” stated that “Probably the biggest characteristic of a sociopath is their lack of empathy. ... They can't really imagine or feel the emotional worlds of other people. It's very foreign to them. And they don't have conscience."
4. Are Manipulative and Compulsive Liars
Sociopaths are excellent liars and lie because they know they can get away with it. They like manipulating people and typically target individuals they believe they can control.
In an interview with Kate Simon from Interview Magazine, Dr. Martha Stout, author of “The Sociopath Next Door” mentioned, “the perfect victim, is …someone who is very, very loyal. Most of us consider loyalty to be a very positive trait—and it is a positive trait. But it also blinds people to some of the traits of the person they’re loyal to.”
So if you find yourself listening to someone at work and doing everything he or she says, you may want to reconsider it.
For the most part sociopaths don’t have many friends and find it difficult to hold down relationships particularly romantic ones. As you look around in your workplace, keep some of these traits in mind to see if you’re working with a sociopath.
In case you were wondering if you were a sociopath, I found the following questions by Jim Edward’s piece “16 Questions That Might Tell You Whether You're A Sociopath” on Business Insider. He pulled it together from Dr. Hervey Cleckley’s 16 behavioral characteristics. Please note this is not scientific but it could be a good indicator.
Bernardo Tirado, PMP @thePMObox
Bernardo covers leadership and technology for PsychologyToday.com. In addition to being an industrial psychologist, he’s certified as a Six Sigma Blackbelt, Project Management Professional, Body Language Expert, and is a Certified Trainer in Analytical Interviewing.